Archives for September 2004

The unspoken media war

There’s a lot of anger out there among establishment media types about the blogosphere, and it’s a great concern to me. I mean, I don’t care what people think about bloggers, but the extent to which nasty name-calling contributes to a kind of “truth-blindness” about the future of media does not bode well for mainstream news people, many of whom are my friends.

MSMers (blogging acronym for Main Stream Media) have never had warm fuzzies for bloggers. The issues have been credentials, checks and balances, and condescension. I’ve written about the roots of this many times here and argue that the news business is a trade, not the “profession” envisioned by Walter Lippmann. Bloggers are seen as amateurs and wannabes, but the RatherGate/MemoGate/CBSGate incident has put bloggers on the front page, and the resentments are getting ugly.

First, there was the reference by a former CBS News executive that bloggers were just people “in pajamas.” The blogosphere had fun with that one for awhile, considering the comment to be a badge of honor.

Last week, MSNBC/Newsweek columnist Steven Levy called bloggers “a nation of ankle biters,” which has prompted another round of shots from the blogosphere. Being the humorous types that bloggers are, links like this one are popping up. It leads to doggies wearing pajamas, a double reference to the condescension.

Glenn Reynolds felt he was misquoted in the article, adding:

“…as is so often the case with Big Media folks — he came in to the interview with his storyline predetermined, and he put things into that mold whether they fit or not. (It also, as always, makes me wonder where else this is happening without my noticing it.)

And, sadly, that — together with the condescending notion that bloggers are “biting the ankles” of their betters — says it all about what’s wrong with Big Media today. Levy’s disappointed in the blogosphere. But I’m disappointed in Levy, and much of his profession.”

But the most unkind comments of all came this week when Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman wrote:

“Do bloggers have the credentials of real journalists? No. Bloggers are hobby hacks, the Internet version of the sad loners who used to listen to police radios in their bachelor apartments and think they were involved in the world.

Bloggers don’t know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon. Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square — without editors, correction policies or community standards. And so their tripe is often as vicious as it is vacuous.

…Most bloggers are not fit to carry a reporter’s notebook.”

Perhaps this escalating acrimony is healthy. After all, you can’t deal with issues unless they’re on the table, and that’s what’s happening here. While part of me believes this, I feel very sorry for the MSMers who share this attitude and continue to fight for the illusion of self-importance. They will be the ultimate losers here, for I believe in people and in the power of citizen journalism to make a difference. And as these folks cling to a crumbling tower, they’re unable to see the inevitable irrelevance of their institution coming.

And lest you think this only applies to the ivory tower known as “the press,” think again. While television stations and local newspapers are busy protecting their (shrinking) turf, new technologies keep coming down the pike that enable everyday people to do more and more. When these ankle-biting, hobby hacks in their pajamas turn to radio and television, everybody in town will be affected.

The cluetrain is leaving the station. Are you onboard?

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Tina Brown's need for closure

This quote by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown (published first in a month ago) is destined to become a classic, because it continues to show up in articles and commentaries on the media issue of blogs and blogging.

Because of the blogs, there is no final version of the truth and that can become genuinely muddying and muddling, because there’s never any kind of closure on an issue.
I’ve included it here, because it beautifully illustrates the difference between Modernist and Postmodernist thinking. In a world where logic and hierarchy rule, closure is inevitable, because there is always an authority or source through whom one can find resolution. This “truth” is what has governed us throughout Modern times, and all of our institutions are built on its foundation.

In a Postmodern world, however, hierarchy loses its footing amid chaos, educated experts give way to personal experience, and closure is, well, unnecessary, because each occurrence of and in life has its own roots, environment and individuals. Truth isn’t always absolute in the Postmodern mind, so it’s understandable that Tina would be frustrated by what is essentially a Postmodern phenomenon (blogging).

I’m happy to see this kind of statement being bandied about, because it crystalizes the line between these two schools of thought and makes it easier to see what’s coming.

In the words of the immortal Carpenters: “We’ve only just begun.”

Doc Searls on supply and demand

The inimitable Doc chimes in on the online law of supply and demand, and offers some great advice to Web publishers and entrepreneurs searching for workable business models:

Face the fact that the Net isn’t yet another medium for pumping “content” from a few producers to countless consumers. Instead, it’s an environment — a very real marketplace — where the demand side has the power to supply. The consumers of yesterday are now full-power customers, plus something much more important: they are *participants*. They participate in the form of product advice, personal involvement, and by creating new inventions and businesses of their own. You either embrace that participation, or risk being shoved aside by it.
Nobody can say it like Doc.


Here’s a link to an outstanding piece of work on RSS. Make sure you take a look at the video tutorial. Rafe Needleman does a great job, and don’t you wish you were producing this kind of stuff on YOUR Website?

When Supply Exceeds Demand

Here is the latest essay in the ongoing series, TV News in a Postmodern World. It is the 35th essay in the series, and in many ways, I think it’s the most important one, for it examines how information Websites are (wrongly) responding when they discover that the law of supply and demand is working against them online. Money is the issue here. How do you make money in an environment where supply is out of (our) control?

The point of the essay is that most media outlets are viewing the problem with old eyes. New business models are out there, but we won’t discover them until we adjust our perspective to the new reality.

When Supply Exceeds Demand