It seems to me a that significant divide has opened up due to the digitisation of media.
You see new media is more than just about electronic distribution and speed of production. Its more than pixels verses print (or radio waves or TV signals). New media has thrown the game wide open. Its hard to regulate and won’t be controlled by a handful of powerful owners.
New media involves an entirely new approach. It is challenging and mocking old media business models and embracing social media philosophies.
Content can, and is, being created by more people than anytime in history. Its no longer the sole domain of powerful publishers. But even more dynamically, the same content is being distributed by everyone rather than by the few.
The click of a button will send this post into cyberspace. It will be read initially by several hundred people. A percentage of those will then pass it on to their extended network via a Tweet, Digg, Facebook feed or Delicious bookmark. Some of their audience will pick it up and run even further. Some will copy the post onto their own site (hopefully with a link and attribution) to start a whole new cycle of activity.
Within minutes this post, written by a guy on a laptop in his lounge room, can be read around the world. It could also be attracting new readers for several years.
The payoff for this free content I have produced isn’t immediately obvious. You don’t pay to read it (except your time) and there are no advertisements on the site competing for your attention. Nonetheless, if enough people read my posts, poke around the rest of this site and visit some of my other business-focused sites, I will benefit (perhaps I will elaborate another time).
And for every Rupert Murdoch who is planning to lock up his precious content, there are thousands of content creators who are willing to send it out for free. Not just bloggers, professional news rooms and publishers too.
Its why in the same week we can read about Conde Nast closing four of their famous titles, then hear that a venerable newspaper in London is going to scrap their cover price and begin distributing for free, while boosting their print run from 250,000 to 600,000 per day. If the gamble works, the paper will have more readers and will able to attract more advertising revenue.
That’s not to say that free is the only answer. Quality and niche content can thrive within both old and new media. Many specialist publications are surviving and even thriving in the digital era. Likewise, the 21st century consumer is still willing to pay for, join or download the application in large numbers if the product, information or offering is worth it, provides some benefits or is relatively exclusive.
The problem for many traditional content publishers though, is that their material is not exclusive. News is news. Cheap, mindless entertainment is in abundant supply. It can be accessed quickly, easily and freely from thousands of potential sources. If I can get it anywhere, good luck charging me for it.
Traditional media are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have had extremely lucrative business models and formidable power for decades, and suddenly those models are under threat. Instinct tells them to defend the original model and squeeze the last juicy profits out while they can, and some are doing that.
Most have been trying to straddle the digital divide by having a foot in each camp, producing their original content under the old model whilst producing an online version.
Many are trying to impose the old model on the new media…and it just won’t work.
Finally there are those who have embraced the new media philosophy, who understand its fluidity and speed and harness its power. They have either decided to leap across the digital divide or sprouted new businesses on the other side.