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:
- Information snacking
- Broad interests
- Geographical breakdown
- The question â€œwhyâ€ is increasingly becoming more important
- Engaged, and entertained
- Relatable and tangible presentations necessary
- 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
- 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)