new media

The Human Story

150 150 eriks

I thought of something this morning. Every morning when I walk to the train along University Avenue listening to music I see a few homeless people in the streets. Usually they sit in the sun to warm up. One has always caught my attention as he usually sit and write on a notepad. Sometimes he is numbering the sheets, sometimes he is writing. I am not sure what he is writing and what his story is. It however makes me curious. I want to know more. I also want to know how he ended up where he did.

This is really what media should be all about. For all topics. The human element. The human story. The personal, tangible, relatable touch from another person just as you and I. For all stories. With the context the story lives in presented. It is about presenting that human element of the story… It is about turning the concept of media upside down. Show the individual story with the context around it. Showing the diversity, yet giving it a voice. Giving room for humans, yet using traditional media aspects to provide the context.

Think of concert with Bono. Think of a demonstration on the squares of Minsk, Belarus. Think of the stories from Kenya during elections. Think of the stories from the streets around the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad. Think of the stories from China during the olympics. What really makes a difference is to hear those individual voices. That regular voice. Hearing the whispers on the streets. Feeling it. Think of it as being in the ultimate reality show where you participate, observe and experience it through the eyes of the people there. Only better as this is really real. Now that is cool.

To tell these human stories we will have to turn to multimedia, in particular photography and video. Why? Visual story telling is possible even for illiterates. The main issue with audio is the language barrier. If you do not know the language, the message is lost. Text is not a suitable medium of obvious reasons – langugae, illiteracy and also notoriously hard as most of us are not great writers. Sorry, guys and girls. I know we all want to be, but we are not. There are a few masters out there, but most of us are not. However, I am not saying that photography and video story telling is easy, but it is better media for the common person to tell their stories. The visual language is universal, more relatable and tangible for most people.

The really cool thing is that we have all the pieces – for instance cheap cellphone and digital cameras, 3rd party sites for videos and pictures, cheap and simple editing software and a cascade of publishing platforms. The pieces are there. The opportunity is there. Now let us see who will be the first to capitalize on the opportunity.

The Media Arena of The Future – Key Characteristics and Participants

150 150 eriks

The state of the news industry resembles the music industry when file sharing emerged. The social media sites are creating a disruption that makes the traditional players all fumble when it comes to how to merge the traditional news coverage with citizen coverage and opinion. Undoubtedly we are in a place in time where the media industry is as exciting as ever, yet we will see new players on the market constantly come.

The essential characteristic of media right now is content packaging and promotion, not content distribution or content creation. The trend towards such will only increase as we move forward. The main disruptions here have been the open-source content management systems and blogging platforms. Putting up a website now is as simple as a few clicks. You are up and blogging in no-time and can start to share your opinions. There are an enormous amount of sites providing possibilities for social bookmarking, multimedia upload and integration with your own site which will help you in the promotional part. In all honesty I would have to admit that learning content promotion is the toughest part and the biggest challenge for any blogger, photographer, video maker or any other content creator.

The main issue for user generated content is validation, quality assurance and trust (especially for unknown and alternative voices). I will not here get into too many details here as it is a pretty broad and slightly complex topic, but the main issue are:

  • Digg voting type of solutions leads to group fractioning. I have also seen too many solutions where you give the power to a few selected users, why you still have an issue to get the less strong yet very valid voices heard. The super editors in Wikipedia is another example here of a model that has proven insufficient, as one of their super editors turned out to be a fake. The issue is not that he was a fake but that it has been claimed that all super editors are prominent member of field of expertise they cover there. It creates a distrust of the system which projects over the quality of the content on the long term.
  • PageRank type solutions lead to the survival of the strongest and/or reputable. The hierarchy has been set which makes it very hard for new entrants in the space and for new, unknown voices to be heard. It is perfect for information seeking, but is non-functional for news and opinion.
  • Reputation of the single user is an interesting factor to build trust, but not solely sufficient. We have seen examples in the media industry before. For instance the tampered photos of the bombings of Beirut in Lebanon 2006 of a well-known Reuters photographer and the made up news stories by the New York Times journalist Jason Blair. You need to have a counter force here too.

It is obvious that the right, sustainable solution will be a combination of these three ranking attributes. Such a combination will be much more scalable, much more robust, completely technology based and still adequately resolve the ranking of user generated content than any human based solution. This is especially true for the long tail market where the amount of content is just too big for humans too handle – both practical and consistently. Think of it as a simulation of the traditional newsroom process. That is pretty cool, right?

The media arena today is highly competitive why the shrinking profit margins calls for a technology based solution with community support to cover a bigger piece of the cake and monetize that part. Keeping the cost structure very low, yet keeping the quality high with an increased engagement and entertainment value for the consumers. This tendency we have seen in another parts of the web already – YouTube did it for videos. Flickr did it for images. Facebook did it for social networks. (Ok, MySpace has played some role here too, but I still think Facebook has a better and broader solution here.)

The key skill sets of the participants of the new media arena:

  1. Consumers
    • Information snacking
    • Broad interests
    • Geographical breakdown
    • The question “why” is increasingly becoming more important
    • Engaged, and entertained
    • Relatable and tangible presentations necessary
  2. Creators
    • Multimedia more important
    • Text as a medium is dying, or at least becoming less important as the story telling media type.
    • In-the-field reporting increasingly important
    • Knowing and closely interacting with their readership very important
  3. Producers
    • Fast consumption calls for a fast medium of distribution
    • The globe as a market calls for a web solution
    • Diverse distribution mechanisms
    • Multiple reporting entries (cellphone, web, email)
    • Multiple media types (text, audio, pictures, video)

Google Search Results – A Place for Alternative Voices?

150 150 eriks

I read this post at the OnlineJournalismBlog that covers a post from the It raises a few very interesting questions, but the primary one is whether Google Search Results Pages are really the right place for alternative voices? However do alternative voices have another good outlet is the second question you have to ask yourself?

First of all Google’s business is primarily designed to get revenue from SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and the nature of PageRank is specifically designed to make the most reputable voices (i.e. websites) heard first. Diversity will disappear though per definition. It is kind of intended (somewhat simplified). Originally to make informative, on-point search results. However you get the trust, but will effectively filter out the diversity and weaker voices.

The second issue is that a search result page (and Google’s in particular) is designed to show clear, on-point single entries. It shows you The Answer. Nothing wrong with that but diversity comes from several answers. :-)

Now over the the more interesting question: Is a search engine the “right” place for a diverse media outlet? I would say no. The irony however is that the technology behind a search engine can be used for it, but the purpose of a search engine is not inline with the presentation of alternative, diverse voices. It is a complex topic indeed, but once again brings up the issues we have seen presented in the movie EPIC 2014. I know, I know. It is a very common link in all my blogs, but it is so on-point and highlights the challenges we have right now pretty well.

I guess we have to start asking ourselves what type of media outlet we would like to see in the future and who that actors on this new media arena will be. My bet is not a Google Search Result Page is the right place for it, and probably never will be in the traditional sense. Can Google be an actor? Sure, but I doubt that too. It would be sidestepping their core business.

Topical Content Mashups and Content-Based Networking

150 150 eriks

Traditional media has for a long time been dominated by syndication of content as a revenue stream. The big news agencies Reuters, AP, AFP and so forth have with great success built their businesses’ around syndication of content (or financial data in the case of Reuters) in a walled-garden type of manner. You subscribe to a news wire which feeds you content. This model is outdated as the freedom of distribution together with an ever so improving accessibility of content on the web has forever changed this. This is very much similar to the enormous disruption of file sharing the the music industry has faced since a few some years back, who had a similar walled-garden attitude of their market. Content is just too accessible, completely borderless, cheap and free from any major constraints these days. The news industry is starting to realize this fact and is starting to take few trembling steps but still makes the same mistakes as the music industry made.

A few weeks back I wrote a blog entry in which I stated that syndication is an out-dated model. It might be a bit too bold to claim that fully, but yet news wires are outdated in their traditional sense. They as the music industry have to realize that the scenery has changed. The future of media will be conversational, more free, more interactive, more collaborative, and more diverse of perspectives. The traditional news wire concept does not fit very well here. The future of news wires is topically defined content streams rather than the blunt broadcasting via news wires, and this will be based on the interests of the consumers. (Cf keyword targeted advertising versus billboard advertising.) I am fully aware of the challenges here and that the future laid out in EPIC 2014, is something we all have to be constantly aware of and reflect upon.

News wires as well as other content will compliment and support other content, and mashupped with other content to provide the consumers with insight of how these content pieces are related. Basically it is about showing all the different views and perspectives about the real happening or opinion to shed more light on the multifaceted reality we live in. The cool part is that this becomes something very entertaining and engaging. It makes the news more tangible and relatable, which helps creators, producers, and consumers in all their roles of the media scene. Each can focus on what they are supposed to be focusing on: creators on the creation part, producers on the production and most importantly readers will have the content ready and packaged. Yep, the future is really content packaging.

Now over to the mind blowing component. As you make the news and opinions more tangible and relatable you will make it much easier to have a conversation about it You have all the pieces there, all the angles and hey are are all graspable and human. The conversational aspect of the media together with the content mashup creates room for something as cool as content-based social networking – networking based on your interests, and not necessarily “friendship”. Most people’s content-based network will be bigger than their circle of friends event though it is likely that your friends are part of your content-based network. Why? Well it really is as easy we tend to discuss topics with a much broader group of people than solely our friends. What is different thought is that it is more organic, it is different based on topic, on location and on your mood. It is constantly evolving and growing as you grow. It is an organic creature that constantly shifts and reforms. Basically it is the online dinner table, coffee or pub conversation bringing a human face to any topic around the world – from the local to the global level. Now imagine if you could tie in the cellphone component and you have a very yummy mixture that lets anyone discuss anything with anyone at any time – borderless, raw and human. Did I tell you it is pretty darn entertaining too?

Wow! That’s neat!