The Great Horizontal

NYU journalism professor and new media observer Jay Rosen introduced a new term this morning for an old concept at the media140 Conference in Barcelona. Appearing via Skype, Rosen referred to the disruption caused by the personal media revolution as “The Great Horizontal,” where people are connected to each other as well as “up” to traditional media. I really like this term, because it provides a visual statement of reality for media today.

The Great Horizontal

The Great Horizontal will disrupt any and every hierarchy in our culture, as long as the Internet remains free and open. It alters every paradigm of the Industrial Age, including the fearsome notion of Big Brother or other dystopian enemies. If we can talk — connect — to each other, then hierarchical power is diminished. We no longer have to “take it” anymore; as we’ve seen throughout the Middle East in recent months, revolution is possible with The Great Horizontal.

Media is simply the first to be disrupted, and Rosen believes that “serious” journalism needs to be working with the masses to advance the trade for everyone. Here are eight thoughts that Rosen tweeted as part of his discussion:

  1. The Great Horizontal: when people are connected across to other people as effectively as they are connected “up” to Big Media.
  2. Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and today almost anyone can own one. We’re in a golden age of press freedom.
  3. Anyone can doesn’t mean everyone will. But the fact that anyone can matters to everyone. And if it doesn’t now, wait: it will.
  4. The more people who participate in the press the stronger the press can be. But there are many hard problems to solve first.
  5. What Rusbridger calls “the mutualization of journalism” is a retirement program for bloggers vs. journalists.
  6. When the same network that floods us with too much information works to filter that flood, verification itself begins to scale.
  7. Journalists: Instead of crying about Google stealing your news, steal from Google. Start “organizing the world’s information.”
  8. Instead of the readers, the viewers, the listeners or the audience, call them “the users.” This helps correct the imagination.

The important thing for media companies to note about The Great Horizontal is that we MUST get involved in this at the local level. Let me repeat a great line from my friend Gordon Borrell:

What do you do when the deer have guns? Get into the ammunition business!”

Google is the quintessential ammunition business company, and we need to do what they’ve done: make it easy for The Great Horizontal to get involved with us. Give them tools: teach them how to shoot, write and edit. Hold classes with a certification. Own that space in the community.

That way, this phenomenon can help us. The idea that The Great Horizontal is out to replace us is just silly. That should be the least of our worries. But can they join us? Absolutely, and we’re foolish not to accept their willingness to do so.


  1. […] situations, but one-to-many cannot mimic one-to-one. This is the essence of Jay Rosen’s “Great Horizontal,” and why this case is so fraught with danger for the status quo. You see, it isn’t about my […]

  2. […] four initials (ESPN).” In the next paragraph, however, he describes the truth of Jay Rosen’s The Great Horizontal, which is the newer and greater reality of today and, especially, […]

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