Archives for September 2005

Blog readership doubles

Steve Outing at Poynter rightly notes that new Forrester research showing accelerating growth in blog readership is likely due to mainstream media players getting into the blogging world.

As the “old guard” of journalism joins the blogging revolution, it’s no wonder that blogging’s numbers are rising. As for RSS, with non-geeky RSS reading solutions made available by the likes of My Yahoo!, more and more people are utilizing the technology without realizing it.
Steve’s right, and the growth line for blog readership points to continued acceleration. Readership has doubled in less than a year, and as more and more people get comfortable with the realities of unbundled media (that’s what this is all about, folks), new business models and even better aggregation tools will enter the picture.

To those in media companies who aren’t involved in this space yet, I can only say that it’s rapidly becoming too late for you.

TV viewing is up. So what?

With sincere apologies to Jack Wakshlag, television viewing is up, according to a report from Nielsen. An average household now watches eight hours and 11 minutes a day.

But the issue that matters isn’t how much we’re watching but what we’re watching. Exploding options have so fragmented the audience, that the mass market that TV used to deliver is disintegrating. These same households now average over 100 channels of programming, according to the report.

Nielsen said the average individual watched four hours and 32 minutes of TV last season, the highest level in 15 years.

The question, however, is so what? Why does that really matter? It doesn’t, because the industry isn’t sold based on overall viewing anyway. It used to be that a salesperson could walk into a retailer’s shop and say, “Look here: everybody’s watching more TV,” and it would mean something, because the salesperson’s station represented a sizeable slice of the overall pie. It doesn’t anymore, and more and more advertisers are waking up to this reality.

TV is still the best advertising bang for the buck, imo, and it will probably be the one form of mass media that actually survives long term. It will be a shadow of its former self, however, and those who prosper will do so in a multimedia environment.

New Google AdSense/AdWords option

Dave Taylor posts an explanation of Google’s new “Advertise on this site” AdSense/AdWords option. I agree with Dave that this has the potential to be huge, because it allows advertisers to select specific sites for their ads and makes it easy for newcomers to get into the AdWord world. Very smart on Google’s part, methinks.

The view from the top

There is a growing acceptance of bloggers and blogging among mainstream media executives, although there are still lingering questions about the role of blogging as media and as to how it “fits” with culture. This picture emerged from Wednesday’s gathering in New York of media executives, media observers and bloggers at the Museum of Television and Radio.

Several times during the meeting, I noted to myself the extraordinary nature of some of the comments from TV and print execs that would not have been heard even a year ago. Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, noted three areas where his thinking has been changed. From my notes:

  • A breakdown of our formulas. We’re being influenced by bloggers and this idea of conversation
  • The illusion of omniscience is out of date, this idea that everything has an answer and that there’s one truth.
  • The notion that journalism with a point-of-view is an acceptable form.

I thought that was remarkable.

Jay Rosen said something terribly important that (imo) went over the heads of most people in the room. He said the nature of authority is changing in our culture, and that this directly impacts all media. He used the example of a person who goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an ailment. The doctor explains how the medication will work. The patient then proceeds to the drugstore and receives the medicine, along with (perhaps) an explanation from the pharmacist about how the medicine will work. But then the patient goes home and gets on the internet to research the thoughts of others who’ve used the medicine to discover what THEY think about how it works, and this impacts the doctor’s authority. The doctor is still the doctor, but gone is the automatic acceptance of his or her words as gospel. This is new in our world, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the major challenge of all institutional authority, and it’s one of the truly fascinating things about a culture drifting into postmodernism.

Another thing that was obvious at this meeting was the growing enmity between big mainstream media and companies like Yahoo! Bloggers, it would seem, don’t pose nearly the threat that hip, technology-savvy, and cash flush disrupters in the media space bring to the table.

On a personal note, it was great fun to finally meet David Weinberger, Jay Rosen and Tim Porter. It was also great to see Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor again. These are among the most tuned-in people on the planet, and I was honored to be on the same panel with them (thanks, Jeff).

The only thing disquieting about the group was its whiteness. Of the couple dozen people on the panel, all were white and three were women.

Finally, a couple of notes about New York. Status on the streets of the city is determined by the number and size of colorful little bags that one carries. Some of these bags, I swear, are more costly than the goods they conceal. New York IS about shopping.

And then there are the urinals in Terminal Four at Kennedy. Made by American Standard, each has the black image of a fly imbedded in the porcelain. The damned things look very real and serve as a perfect “target,” which, I assume, is the point.

Professional/amateur isn't mass/personal

Can we please bury the term “consumer-generated content” and never let it see the light of day again? It’s being used with increasing frequency, I believe, and it’s foolishly blending two separate events taking place in our culture.

It re-frames the personal media revolution (PMR) into a mass marketing sub-category, and it’s confusing an awful lot of people. Re-framing is a clever marketing tool that’s been around for a long time, but this time all it’s doing is fooling the re-framers. So let’s take a step back this morning, take a deep breath, and THINK about this.

I’m on a panel in New York on Wednesday called “The Intersection of Blogging and the Mainstream Media.” An intersection assumes a crossing of one form or another, but I view mainstream media and the PMR as running along parallel lines. Their relationship is symbiotic, so they do touch each other, but they never really intersect. This is why I don’t think one will ever fully supplant the other.

Whenever mass media speaks of so-called “consumer-generated content,” it does so with an assumption of co-opting such media for its own purposes. In this sense, everybody works to serve the interest of mass media, and in the case of everyday people, that usually means for free. This is why every news organization solicits pictures and accounts from people during major news events. It extends their content reach and it’s cost-effective. Mass media lives in a world of content and consumers of content, so it’s understandable that somebody would stand up in a meeting (with a parenthetical light bulb above his or her head) and say, “I’ve got it! When the audience makes ‘content,’ we’ll call it ‘consumer-generated.'”

This may make them feel good, but it misses the point of the PMR, because the difference here is one of amateur versus professional, and that’s profoundly different than mass versus personal. This is the problem with re-framing the personal media revolution into the meme of consumer-generated content. They’re two different animals. Professional versus amateur. Mass versus personal.

Media 2.0 is personal. That’s what makes it 2.0. Media 1.0 is mass, and it doesn’t play well with the personal. One is top-down; the other is bottom-up. It has nothing to do with amateur versus professional. Are J.D. Lasica, Dan Gillmor, Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Tim Porter and a host of others “amateurs,” because they blog independent of the mainstream? Am I? Is the Nashville blogosphere — as demonstrated via Nashville Is Talking — a bunch of amateur wannabes? I don’t think so.

None of these exist to provide “content” for mass media.

And the personal media revolution goes far beyond bloggers and blogging. MyYahoo, MyMSN, Microsoft’s prototype, Google News and any of the multitude of RSS aggregation systems all allow the individual user to customize their own media bundling. This is the essence of the personal versus the mass, and it’s why it’s so foolish to re-frame it with such a fraudulent and condescending term as “consumer-generated content.”

David Weinberger on Jeff Jarvis

Two of my favorite people spent some time together today. Here’s the way David described it:

…and then had a three-hour conversation with Jeff Jarvis (which at Jarvis speeds equates to 4.5 hours with anyone else) in which we settled all issues, solved all problems, bought a house, raised a family, and then split up because we couldn’t agree on how to respond to terrorism.
Which, if you knew Jeff, is easily understandable. I’ll be with these two next week, and I’m really looking forward to it.