It's not a simple question. I offer that new media is a way in which the delivery of news and information follows a many-to-many format. This stands in contrast with the mass media that just preceded this age of conversation. Vin Crosbie wrote a lengthy piece on the use of and definitions around new media on Corante back in April of 2006. Although I like very much where he arrived with his explanation, I found it difficult to follow him in getting there.
"Within the next ten years, most New Medium consumers will be receiving information from each choice of myriad broadcasters and publishers, perhaps too many for any individual consumer to name or even realize. (Early adopters of tag-driven XML, advanced RSS, and 'peer-to-peer' technologies have already begun making such use). Because these many consumers will be sharing content choices and control with all publisher and broadcasters, the New Medium serves not just a 'one-to-one' or 'one-to-many' medium but a 'many-to-many' one.
Publisher and broadcasters who don't make full use of the New Medium will likely be left behind and wither during this new century."
The Economist has a better way to explain the phenomenon and takes a shorter route to a definition in an article published at around the same time titled among the audience and starting with movable type, the technology that changed everything, twice. We now find ourselves immersed in a new culture, that of participation.
Yet, the technology and structures where this new culture is developing in large part are still inadequate for the user. The pipes and networks were built with the old mindset of mass communication in mind -- corporations just assumed this was a new distribution system for them. While it is easy to use these pipes for broadcasting out en masse, it is still quite challenging to use them in uploading content from a
user peer-to-peer model perspective [UPDATE: see BusinessWeek story on mounting peer-to-peer pressure for Comcast] -- desk or airport or wherever we are. This new culture
"... has profound implications for traditional business models in the media industry, which are based on aggregating large passive audiences and holding them captive during advertising interruptions. In the new-media era, audiences will occasionally be large, but often small, and usually tiny. Instead of a few large capital-rich media giants competing with one another for these audiences, it will be small firms and individuals competing or, more often, collaborating. Some will be making money from the content they create; others will not and will not mind, because they have other motives."
I really like the idea of collaboration because it builds on individual resources and expertise and makes the networks aggregated in this fashion much stronger and more committed. When participation is the price of entry, loyalty goes way up. This is the place where conversations come in, an open-ended format in which many-to-many co-create and contribute to evolved content.
The interview series I've been running here in the last several weeks demonstrates that there is still a role for editors of new media. Except for these new editors are increasingly of our own choosing. Inability to perform in this culture of participation is simply a lack of personal involvement plus. We really don't know what that plus may be, or do we? Is it likeability? I'm thinking it's more about the individual as a person -- take Tony Hung at The Blog Herald or Ann Handley at Marketing Profs, they are both editors and members of the community at the same time.
One thing is quite certain -- the old business model may not be sustainable. All the advertising dollars in the world will not help if people just don't want to go there and view the ads. Online publications receive only a very small percentage of ad revenue compared to their print editions -- about 20-30 cents for each dollar. Even if this market is growing rapidly, it is still quite small.
Is the answer going to be moving the ads where the people are? Aren't we still talking about a mass media model? Using personal information that people uploaded on sites like Facebook may seem like a good idea to provide personalized product offerings, yet the move brings up privacy concerns. Deb Schultz sums it up quite nicely with one image of the missing feature.
I questioned a move by AdAge to take over The Power 150 list of marketing bloggers who publish in English. In the weeks that followed that move, we have not really seen any appreciable many-to-many efforts by AdAge to make the list come to life. Mack Collier at The Viral Garden called the publication on its intent when he wrote asking if it in fact hookwinked bloggers. Why hasn't AdAge used the opportunity it had to be a participation leader?
We're more and more in a collaborative story-centric approach of publishing. This is what I call new media and one of the biggest ahas I had in documenting these changes. You are a publisher, what has been your biggest aha with regards to new media?