Mark Glaser at PBS Mediashift has two very interesting posts on "oldthink vs newthink", ie how the way of doing things in the media world is changing. It's not a question of technology, or big vs small, or one-to-many vs many-to-many, suggests Glaser: it's first and foremost a question of change of mindset, of opening up the dusty newsrooms and newsminds and let fresh air in. And rather than going for a theoretical essay, Mark lists a series of examples in his first post, to which readers have added their own, generating the second post. Things like:
Oldthink: Relying on mainstream media TV coverage to follow wars and conflicts.
Newthink: Reading bloggers or citizen journalists who are eyewitnesses to wars, or soldier bloggers who are participants and can share their own stories in words or video. Seeing photos from people with cameraphones at the scene.
Oldthink: Stickiness - trying to control the audience by not linking out, not sharing your content with third-party distribution channels (RSS, MySpace, Yahoo!, YouTube), trying to be everything to everybody while being nothing to nobody (and if you have RSS, using only summarized feeds hoping to trick people into clicking a link to your site).
Newthink: Linking to all sorts of sites with content relevant to your audience - even competitors’ sites - and uploading your video to YouTube and your classifieds to Google Base, etc. and making your content open enough so that users can do, and are encouraged to do, what they want with it.
Oldthink: We create the content on our websites.
Interimthink: Everyone contribute to the site.
Newthink: Everyone can contribute to a site with "some slight editing". This “slight editing” can be done either by the community or by a selected group of editors [chosen] from the contributors. Many forms are available but still the editing part is crucial for most websites.
This last one was submitted by Erik Sundelof from In The Field Online and offers a crucial insight in the way media are/will develop. Despite the rethoric of participation, most of the successful blogs or sites that have leveraged the participative model have done so by introducing some soft structure (the same is true, by the way, for all successful open-source projects). "Just getting a lot of people posting is in itself not the solution", writes Erik. It just increases the level of noise. So my feeling (I'm open to contradiction) is that we're heading towards different forms of hybrid media, where a thin layer of structure is put on an expanding boiling pot of ideas, opinions, analysis, fact-gathering, fact-checking, reporting and creativity. That framework, be it generated by tech filters (RSS aggregators), collectively (Digg, Technorati or Flickr tags) or by a smallish group (Slashdot, BoingBoing) or even by professional editors (with the right, open mindset) is what helps make sense of the whole. The challenge is to create that necessary structure ("slight editing" in Erik's words) without choking the energy and the creativity in the boiling pot. I remember Dan Gillmor's lessons learned post when he ended the Bayosphere experiment (I blogged about it in January): “Citizen journalists need and deserve active collaboration and assistance. They want some direction and a framework, including a clear understanding of what the site’s purpose is and what tasks are required". There is room for disagreement here, since (contrary to what most of us old media guys tend to believe) most bloggers and "citizens" don't see themselves as journalists and don't aspire to become one, but that doesn't invalidate the point.