New Media Paradigm – Aspen Institute

I happened by CSPAN 2 this morning while sipping my first cup of coffee and was treated to one of the best discussions on the New Media Paradigm I’ve heard recently.  The discussion came from their recent conference “FOCAS 2007: Media and Values” which was held on Aug 13-15 and is billed as “Media industry leaders and experts address issues critical to today’s changing digital landscape.” You can view the videos of this in 5 segments here.

The panel (for the discussion I saw) includes:

  • Michael Eisner– The Tornante Company, former Disney CEO
  • Arianna HuffingtonThe Huffington Post
  • Lynda Resnick– Roll International Corporation
  • Jon Diamond– ArtistDirect

Michael Eisner: “My interest is proving, continuing to prove,  that the new media and the  old media  are one media.  That the troglodites, wheelchair bound old studio executives, may in fact be the light, not the dark. That content will still define distribution going forward, in Web 3.0, Web 5.0”

Moderator: “Michael, in the new product of film, television, video content, how much will they be listening to the audience going forward?”

ME: “Like everything, a lot of it is good, a lot of it is not good.  I like the idea of listening.  It’s destructive in a lot of areas as you describe, and in certain ways, and I know this is the opposite point of view, it can be dangerous to creativity.  Research is good and bad.  If you have something that is completed and you show it to an audience and they don’t like it, it’s honest.  If you haven’t produced anything in any form, and you ask the audience what they want, they want yesterday’s success.  If the world is dictated by popular vote, the unique voice of the that individual genetic accident that is out there, either in music, literature, theater, or in movies, whatever, can be overrun and stifled.  There is a cultural I know this is not popular in Web 2.0, there is a cultural anarchy on the horizon.  Is it better to have user generated, uninformed and as we learned before, the audience may not care about the source of the information.  Is Wikipedia better than the New York Times or the Encyclopedia Brittannica?  Is misinformation in the end of the day, where we want the culture to go? Is the distributor making the money and the writers not being paid by Arianna, is that fair?  Should to Todd Freeman, who is at the top probably of all journalists, should he provide Arianna with free blogs about his opinion?  Will a kid in Minnesota want to be the next great journalist, if everything he does, he does in his spare time because the rest of the time he’s on an assembly line, because he can’t get paid for the use of his mind?”

About mid-way through that little bit, I spewed coffee out my nose.  But the sting of hot acidic fluid was nothing like the sting of the realization that Mr. Eisner “gets” the  challenges in front of big media today, and the all out assault on original creativity.  And while I won’t take the time to transcribe Arianna Huffington’s response, which was well reasoned and well made (it’s in the 3rd video, here).

There are so many good points in there worthy of discussion.  For now, let’s think on the issue of the danger to creativity posed by user generated content in media, and by extension, the results of relying overly on customer comment in product marketing (to tie this to the larger audience).

In my years at Atex, as a part of product delivery methodology, we would go through a functional specification process for each system delivery.  These were big newspaper systems, be they advertising or editorial.  Inevitably, we’d come down to the required workflow that the customer wanted.  In that, there were almost without exception, steps were being built in not due to the need of our system, or of the needs of the product, but because “that’s the way we’ve always worked.”  In many cases, it would come down to recreating steps that were part of the way they worked due to the inflexibility of their current system.

For advertising systems, there were the advertising rate cards, and the thousands of rate codes that would be used to calculate how much an ad was worth.  It often seemed as though they simply created a new rate for each customer.  The end product to the paper was needless complexity, both in their process for figuring out a cost, and in the systems which managed their ads, billing, etc.  And that is complexity that costs them daily throughout their organizations…

On some levels, listening too much can actually lead you straight down the rat hole.  Sometimes we need to say “the emperor has no clothes” but such words are often in as short supply as is the desire on the part of organizations to truly change.

In the world of online content, I am continually shocked by how often I hear from potential customers with active content sites that they’re still looking for a way to make the money they know their site should be producing.  “There’s got to be a way to monetize 2 (or 3 or 4) million eyeballs a month.”  But generally they’re lucky to do much more than pay the server bills, domain fees, etc.  I’d love to  tell them there’s a magic bullet out there, but my experience on the web is that the money on a content site will come in small increments from numerous different sources.  It’s the sum total that will make the difference.

Take the time to listen to the entire conference – I won’t even claim to have scratched the surface…

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