Spelling Out the Media Shift

    by Mark Glaser
    August 10, 2006

    i-49d67bb17642d06bcc858ad3b7377229-Reflections photo.jpg
    The media world is going through a time of wrenching change brought on by new technology, the rise of the Internet and folks getting fed up with the corporate mass media losing touch with their reality. How can a mega-chain of newspapers, a TV broadcast conglomerate, or a cookie-cutter radio system interpret what’s going on in your neighborhood? And in the world of entertainment, the big companies are more concerned with prosecuting file-traders than helping create easy digital avenues for customers to get what they want when they want it.

    But the media shift isn’t just about small vs. big. It’s also about a new way of thinking, or perhaps bringing back an old way of thinking that’s been lost in the era of big media mergers and the bottom-line focus on profits over serving people. The democratization of media is about letting a billion flowers bloom, and turning the power of news analysis, commentary, punditry and spoofery over to the people, now that they have the cheap technology of blogs, digital video cameras and broadband Internet access.

    And with this change comes a lot of trial and error, experiments that really cut through the hype and those that fall short. Sometimes these new intiatives are just old ideas dressed up in new media clothes. So I’ve decided to try to spell out how the media is shifting, both in mindset and in practical, real world ways.


    Oldthink: Using focus groups and customer surveys to learn what people want.
    Newthink: Employing real-time feedback loops such as online forums, blog comments, and wikis to capture the input of people.

    Oldthink: Big brands such as Wal-Mart trying to look cool with limited social networking sites.
    Newthink: A social networking site such as Xanga that spells out the dangers without filtering in advance.

    Oldthink: Video services such as MTV Overdrive that limit the user base by requiring Windows PCs with the Internet Explorer browser.
    Newthink: Video services such as YouTube that use technology such as Flash that doesn’t shut out Macs and Firefox web browsers.


    Oldthink: Building a digital video recorder that doesn’t allow people to fast-forward through commercials.
    Newthink: TiVo launches “Product Watch,” where subscribers can request information on products or services that interest them.

    Oldthink: Making people watch TV advertising in public spaces such as grocery lines and elevators.
    Newthink: Opening up the creative process by letting people create their own TV ads, such as what Chevy did for the Tahoe SUV.

    Oldthink: Forcing people to register in order to read a news site or watch a video service, and then inundate them with targeted advertising.
    Newthink: Letting people view a site without registering, and serve up targeted ads based on the interests of that person — a.k.a. behavioral advertising.

    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: Reading, listening or watching media on the schedules set by executives and programmers.
    Newthink: Getting the information, news and entertainment we want, when we want it, on the device we want it, with or without commercials.

    Oldthink: Turning on car radios to hear the music or radio shows we enjoy.
    Newthink: Getting satellite radio or plugging in portable MP3 players to our car stereos so we can listen to hundreds of commercial-free stations on satellite or thousands of podcasts downloaded from the Internet.

    Oldthink: Believing the major news organizations will always get big stories right, and not make any mistakes along the way.
    Newthink: Following credible bloggers who can unearth Photoshopped photos from a war zone, mistakes in coverage or bias, and faked sources for stories in mainstream media articles.

    Oldthink: Thinking professional editors are the only ones who can decide what the important stories are each day.
    Newthink: Realizing we have the power to choose what’s important, whether through aggregation services such as Google News or people-powered news sites such as Digg or personalized sites such as My Yahoo.

    I invite you to add your own Oldthink vs. Newthink views on changes in the media world in the comments below. If enough people contribute, I’ll come back to this and update it with your ideas and thoughts.

    [Photo by Eugene Zhukovsky.]

    Tagged: new media newsroom
    • Old Think: Relying upon film festivals, commissioning editors and distributors to tell us which films are worth seeing and which are not based on a limited amount of airtime and shelf-space that only reward the few.

      New Think: Uploading a film to Google Video or MySpace in order to reach a niche audience directly – a platform that can allow interactive reactions to the film, viral promotion and watching the film anytime – like passing along a good book.

    • Great article Mark, I think it does a good job of summarizing the current culture war between the new media and the old. I would add placeshifting to the list as well. New think: Being able to watch content that you’ve purchased anywhere you’d like, whether or not you happen to be at home. Old think: Not allowing someone to see a baseball game just because they happen to be travelling out of their own zip code.

    • I’m not really such a pessimist, but I play one on the web.

      Oldthink: The forces of openness and decentralization will ultimately win

      Newthink: Verizon, Comcast, ClearChannel, etc have the resources to compel governments to restore thier birthright– false scarcity and easy money.



    • This new design and new section of PBS is great. You guys are on the cutting edge and welcome to the blogosphere.

      I’ve added you to my bookmarks.


    • diane

      Reminds me of the WIRED/TIRED lists that WIRED ran back in the ’90s. It seems to me, though, that WIRED ended up in an Old Media stable with pages one could actually read instead of gape at.

    • Lisa

      Old Think: Setting up false dilemmas to make one’s specific predictions look truly egalitarian and cutting-edge.

      New Think: Recognizing that “the media” is not a monolithic entity/enemy and concentrating how to bring the best of successful media — immediacy, credibility, editing and curating raw data into a coherent narrative thanks to a conbination of knowledge and story-telling fundamentals — into increasing communication channels. All without attributing one or two outlet practices to an ENTIRE FIELD.

    • Oldthink: Go to the public library to sign out a children’s book.

      Newthink: Compose an original children’s story and with the help of others in your community release a rich media, creative commons version of the story in more than 10 languages, including sign language.


    • Oldthink: Use the op-ed page of the newspaper to print the tired old “professional thinkers” point of view year after year with nary a new thought or idea ever surfacing.

      Newthink: Use the op-ed page to quote excerpts from the best of bloggers writing about issues of the day, using a digg-style system to have the public identify some of the most cogent comments.

    • Oldthink: Restrain the education reporter of the newspaper to only write articles about schools.

      Newthink: Unleash the education reporter of the newspaper to write about learning wherever it happens — in schools, afterschool programs, community technology centers, public libraries, at home, on the Internet and in whatever other physical or virtual locations that youth and adults engage in learning.

    • Oldthink: Get a reporter to work really hard on an article and then because of space constraints print just one third of what he or she wrote.

      Newthink: Print the shorter version of the article in the print edition, while preserving the full article on the web for those who might be interested in reading it. (With an alert at the end of the print version that a more complete version of the article can be found online.)

    • Oldthink: Make no use of volunteer citizen journalists to do legwork that will help professional journalists write better articles.

      Newthink: When appropriate, tap into the energy of volunteer (or paid) citizen journalists to do legwork that could assist professional journalists to write better articles.

    • 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: Competitors

      Newthink: Partners

      Oldthink: Only we know best.

      Newthink: Our audience knows best.

      Oldthink: Only we publish content on our site.

      Newthink: Anybody can publish content on our site.

    • Oldthink: Briefly mention the article’s sources (if at all) within an article.

      Newthink: Linking to the source’s web site or blog, letting the reading public judge the validity of their ideas.

    • Oldthink: Giving newspapers subscribers a take-it-or-leave it subscription price.

      Newthink: Allowing subscribers to name their own subscription price, Priceline-style.

      Newspapers, eager for subscribers, can either choose to accept or not-accept these subscription offers.

    • Oldthink: Congratulating yourself on a job well done while fighting to keep things the way the are.

      Newthink: Stopping only for a second to admire the work done while continuously fighting to make things better.

      In the time we spend admiring YouTube and MySpace we could be brainstorming and implementing ways to make culture better.

    • Mitch

      It is so absurd to hear this ‘news’ from one of the extreme far left media sources. You are so immersed in your leftist world you are blind to it. Your quoting Mao’s flower line in complete ignorance of it’s real meaning, as if it was to promote openness, truth, and freedom. LOL.
      The whole reason the liberals got and held power for so long was due to the liberal media control. Now the people are getting it and most of us want the truth. Not your ‘truth’, THE truth. And if you look around Dan Rather was not the 1st to go and won’t be the last. You guys had better drop your agendas and get real or we are going to watch you go.

    • zip

      Good article. I think you should look into the whole concept of paying users for contributing content. I just listened to a podcast that I found off Digg where Jason Calacanis speaks about social media’s future, digg and social bookmarking..


    • As usual, outstanding post, Mark. This often reminds me of that great book from Clayton Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. While all the media companies are off protecting their own interests and clinging to the eyeballs they still attract, the door is left wide open for the upstarts to come in and offer a new, disruptive alternative. I struggle with it in my own business, so I’m not immune either!

      I have a few other thoughts on this as well — too much to go into with a comment. You can find them here on my blog: http://jwikert.typepad.com/the_average_joe/2006/08/mark_glaser_on_.html. Keep up the great work!

    • Best article I’ve read in a while. Well summed up. Adding you to my feed reader. :)

    • Great post, Mark!

      1) As you know, I think it not too wise to rely on only customized news sources such as Yahoo News, Google News. We need the diversity of the news and it is a bit dangerous only being exposed to news which you want to see. A big part in all democracies is to be exposed to things you do not want to see. I am not sure the current setup of those services fulfill that need.

      2) On community driven websites:

      Old think: We create the content on our websites.

      Interim think: Everyone contribute to the site.

      New think: Everyone can contribute to a site with “some slight edition”. This “slight edition” can be done either by the community or by a selected group of editors preferable from the contributors. Many forms are available but still the edition part is crucial for most websites.

      The overuse of community driven websites is a bit surprising. Looking at the successful sites on the web, all of them have a slight touch of hierarchy. This is a well-known phenomena and for the un-believer I recommend to visit http://www.shirky.com The basic conclusion which has been made in sociology studies is that without the some structure the group will get stuck in debate mode and not move forward. In some cases this could be fine, and in some cases not fine.

      What do we learn? We learn that building those sites are far from easy and is a delicate issue. Moreover it takes a lot of time. Just getting a lot of people posting is in itself not the solution. It really takes some effort to build those. The dilemma you are facing is that some structure is needed, but how can you preserve the creative environment and still make it go forward and not get stuck? It is doable, but takes time.

    • Great thoughts, everyone. Glad I could spark even more thinking from you all. I would very much like to include your Oldthink/Newthink items in a future post on MediaShift. It’s important for us to keep thinking about what’s working and what’s not.

    • Oldthink: It was smart to pay to get to the top of a search list or on the front page.

      Newthink: Be where people will want you – they will ignore those who pay extra to be noticed.

      Oldthink: People trust the masthead and all it carries.

      Newthink: People trust people more – now that people have their own voice.

      Oldthink: the price of a classified ad is based on the number of gatekeepers.

      Newthink: the price of a classified ad is based the cost of providing the service.

    • Oldthink: We’ve gotta get everybody to come to our site to view our content.

      Newthink: We’ve gotta get our content out to all the sites at the edge of the web where people want to spend their time.

    • Oldthink: Talent will come to us, they’ll feel lucky to be here and they will put up with whatever we dish out.
      Newthink: We have to aggressively get talent, train and retain them…or they will leave. We have to hire people who are not like ourselves and know we did the right thing.

    • Peter

      Old Think: Reaping incredibly high profit margins with a paid product and carpet-bombing advertising by auto dealerships and grocery stores. Having an unprecedented number of feet on the street to cover a community.

      New Think: Unreliable revenue streams. Hollow critiques of the MSM masquerading as cutting edge. Editors? Who needs stinkin’ editors?

    • ali

      tanks your atricle

    • 慧东 武


  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

    About MediaShift »
    Contact us »
    Sponsor MediaShift »
    MediaShift Newsletters »

    Follow us on Social Media