I hear everyone (including myself on occasion) to use phrases such as “in the new digital environment”, or “due to the rise of internet usage”, or even “in the social media landscape”. Everyone recognises that rules, processes, and environments have changed, but there is very little definition to the shift. So, inspired by reading Clay Shirky’s thought-provoking book “Cognitive Surplus”, here are some statements of change that should inform marketing and publishing activity in the new reality.
On the quality argument:
Media is the connective tissue of society. It is not something created by professionals for amateurs.
If you are asking “Why do people spend more time on silly blogs and online games than my quality news site?”, then you are asking the wrong question. Just because people consumed quality broadcast content when they had no other choice, does not mean they valued it for their quality alone, and will continue to do so when a world of interconnected communities is opened up to them.
Your apparent high-brow commentary on the degradation of quality media is about 700 years too late. A reduction in the cost of production does reduce the average quality, but not the maximum quality. That is improved as larger-scale experimentation occurs. And people choose what they want.
The meteoric rise of social media in all its forms shows that humans value personality not professionalism. I am not looking for an shiny-teethed American TV host, but for someone who is like me, and who likes me.
On publishing in general:
If a media channel or format does not listen to me and interact with me, it will not survive my generation.
I want to share and contribute. If you do not allow me to, I will leave and never return.
Content must be able to be time-shifted, and space-shifted. If I see a good TV programme, I want to be able to download it or stream it later that week. If I read an article online, I want to be able to bookmark it to read offline on my mobile phone. Your constraints are no longer my constraints.
Niche is the new mainstream. 2 billion people connected means that any niche hobby suddenly becomes “mainstream”. If I was an avid Myrmecologist (ant keeper – I’m not), I can instantly connect with multiple communities online, each containing tens or hundreds of thousands of posts, and a huge number of other like-minded people which whom I can share my ant-related musings. That might be a trivial example, but if I have a Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma then the ability to connect with a large community of fellow patients is life-changing.
On trying to maintain the status quo:
If the rules do not relate to the reality, they are probably irrelevant, and I will probably ignore them.
If you give me freedom, expect me to use it in ways that you didn’t expect or necessarily want.
When anyone can make and distribute an identical copy are free, it’s pretty sensible to make sure you are selling things that can’t be copied. Your first answer should be about unduplicatable experiences, access, and communities, not DRM. The fundamental needs of humans are autonomy, competence and connectedness. If new tools, technologies, and accompanying transformation of societal behaviours fulfil these needs more effectively, they will be adopted. Regardless of what you do perpetuate the previous equilibrium.
On the battle between private and public:
The default setting is now open. Whether you are a government, a business, a community action group, or a person, I expect you to be open, and for my interactions with you to be public by default.
Data privacy is a massive issue, to you. To me it is normality when my friends, and yes, often the wider world, know where I went, what I saw, what I bought, and how I am feeling. Yes, this might change when more high-profile privacy invasions occur, but (probably unfortunately) only that, and not your whining, will persuade me to reset the public/private boundary.