Links are connections. If I had to explain new media to someone who is not familiar with it, I would say that new media is about linking. Writing online is much easier than producing an article for a magazine, or for a newspaper.
The production piece is fairly easy. If you self publish, you write a post, spell check it, check your thought process, then hit publish, and there you are. New media includes many other tools, of course. The concept still applies.
The whole online media model is not about polish and presentation, although they both matter. It's about connections.
Linking is easier seen at work in the content. Even when we write original posts - yes, main stream media, too - we tend to link to sources and resources. I cannot tell you how weird it is to read a book written today, where the author includes links to sites and, more frequently, blog posts, and I cannot click on the link. OK, maybe with the Kindle you can.
In the content, links provide depth, support, resources, poetic licenses with digressions that do not quite fit the piece but matter, and much more. After all, we call it "link love." In new media, what goes around, comes around. Ben Fry created an Infographic for The New Yorker last year, Linkology, where he showed the top-linked-50 blogs on Technorati. Links are a way to visualize connections, where incremental thinking takes place.
Participation is what makes new media tick. Through comments, trackbacks, and increasingly sharing in other places, what is published online has a good chance of getting discussed, repurposed, built upon, quoted, referred to, in other words, linked.
The conversation happens at its own pace. It may tip right away on Digg or through Stumble, or it may take months to bubble up when say BusinessWeek or an authoritative blogger like Marc Andreessen links to your post. When you comment on the posts written by others, you leave a link that will take the participants in that conversation back to your blog.
What content and participation result in, the outcome of all this linking, is connections with people, community. In a way, online lists represent communities. That is probably the primal reason why we all want to be included on lists like AdAge|Power150, The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing|Social Blogs, The Junta 42 Content.Marketing.Search. blogs, the S.O.B. Hall of Fame blogs, Chris Brogan's Rockstars, and more. I have been thinking about launching a new list, I confess (shhh, don't tell anyone).
We start our conversations and linking online to continue with face-to-face gatherings and connection making. This builds community more than professional associations ever did. It's the link-minded, oops, like-minded nature of how we linked up that facilitates how those relationships start and develop.
Think that linking is about soft stuff? How about the ability to track virtually everything online? With advanced social search functions we will be able to take linking - and connecting - to a whole new level. There is a future of we media, it is bound to be quite different from the present. It will be linked to it.
Seth talked about Linkbait - this is what people do. What happens has unintended consequences: connections of ideas and people. That's where the business piece comes in.