Back in October I wrote a letter to the Irish language weekly paper Foinse. It never got to them, because their email was down for weeks, and so was my printer! I was too busy (and stubborn) to go out of my way to get it printed and mailed, and, although they eventually gave me an alternative email address over the phone, I never saw the letter in print.
I wasn’t bothered. You see, the letter was already published. I had blogged and podcast it as soon as I wrote it. In fact, if it had been published only in Foinse, could you still read it now?
In itself this story is an illustration of how the traditional model of media is being fundamentally disrupted. Anyone – reviewer, customer, competitor – can publish anything they like and have it receive equal or greater prominence in Google or Memeorandum than the “official” message. Editors and PR professionals no longer control the conversation.* The best they can hope for is to join in.
International public relations chief Richard Edelman says the old model is dead:
This morning’s announcement by Dow Jones that it will merge its online and print divisions is further evidence of the end of a media model which used geography, time and platform as means of generating discrete revenue streams.
The story surrounding my letter to the editor is relevant to this post, but even more so is the content of the letter itself. I had cause to review it again recently for the retrospective 100th podcast of An tImeall, and it struck me that it’s actually a manifesto.
My intention was to explain that podcasting isn’t just another distribution channel for the traditional media, but rather that it is a revolution for consumers as well as for producers of media – most fundamentally so in that it removes the absolute distinction between the two.
Nobody is seriously suggesting that this means the end of professional media. Most agree that it is a huge opportunity. In my letter I’ve argued that, while podcasting is a grassroots movement which has sprung from the community, there’s only so far and so fast it can go without the production and marketing skills of professional media, not to mention their investment in technology and infrastructure. I believe that there will always be space for the independent or amateur podcaster, and that this sector will flourish in the ecosystem provided by commercial investment. Already, independent podcasters benefit from the resource provided by Adam Curry‘s Podsafe Music Network. Yahoo and others are building podcasting businesses. The most successful of these will leverage professional media expertise with user-generated content and treat their audience as a resource instead of just a market.
Here’s an example of how a content producer can leverage the network. I plan to translate the “manifesto” to English and publish it here, but I don’t know when I’ll get the time. If you speak Irish, and if you feel it’s worth translating**, feel free to do so. Consider it licensed under “Creative Commons: Attribution”. You are entitled to make a derivative work (translation) and publish it on your own blog*** provided you give credit and a link to the original. Ideally I’d like if you give me a chance to look over the translation, but that’s not even required. Just let me know via trackback or email to email@example.com. If I think there’s something I’d like changed I can add a comment to your post, and you can update it if you choose.
* I’m grateful to Jon Ihle of The Irish Times for helping me to understand this distinction between the old and new models of media, when we spoke last week at the Irish Blog Awards. He said: “Blogging shifts the responsibility of deciding what you read, from an editor on to you, the reader.”
** Of course, if nobody feels it’s worth translating, then we have an excellent example of how the “network” makes “editorial decisions”!
*** If you don’t have a blog to publish it on, just mail it to me, and I’ll publish it here and credit you. Better still – start a blog now and make it your first post!