On the flight back from London on Sunday I finally had a chance to answer a Q&A email interview with Terry Heaton, a longtime friend who, as co-founder of AR&D, is one of the most forward-thinking people in the world of broadcast media.
For the full interview, see see the AR&D Media 2.0 Intel Report. Here’s an excerpt from our interview:
You were the person who coined the phrase “personal media revolution.” What does that really mean? Who are people revolting against? How widespread is the revolution?
The people are revolting — that’s from the Marx Bros. movie Duck Soup, no?
It’s hard to recognize tectonic shifts when you’re still in its beginning phases. Almost any intelligent discussion of our media culture today needs to address the rise of personal media. By the early 2000s, consumer gadgets and computer applications had come down far enough in price and were becoming simple enough to use that millions of us began creating personal media. Low price, simplicity and the fluidity of digital media combined to allow us to do more than just snap photos (which has been around for decades) but also to become amateur filmmakers, create digital stories and mashups, record audio interviews and the like.
The real revolution came when these works weren’t merely stored on our personal devices but released into the wild, unleashing an anarchic, democratic cacophony of voices and viewpoints. By sharing and connecting on sites like Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, we turned our personal media into social media.
Like Dan Gillmor’s “We, the Media,” Darknet was one of the seminal works about the rise of personal media. Given all that’s taken place since, do you feel your vision has been validated?
I wrote the book as warning call in anticipation of escalating clashes between media titans against grassroots media publishers in the areas of copyright law, remix culture and innovation when it was becoming plain that we were entering an era of media that was becoming more decentralized, fragmented and personalized.
So, yes, everyone is still sticking to their scripts. By and large, traditional media have not embraced the ethos of community and sharing that underlie this emerging new bottom-up media culture. But my view of the fundamental shifts in the mediasphere has evolved since “Darknet” was written.
One of the things about the personal media revolution that I find most intriguing is that the people formerly known as the advertisers are also among those “playing media.” They have their own revolt, it seems. Do you see that as well?
Keep in mind that “media” can refer to content creators (production houses) or distribution channels (networks). While most brands still haven’t found sufficient payout in playing media, we’ve certainly seen campaigns like Dove Evolution become online sensations.
I think the smart play is for brands not to try to create the next “viral hit” on YouTube but to work with content partners to create useful community platforms that foster dialogue and discovery. If local TV news goes away, this is where the stations’ talent will migrate to. In fact, I suspect we’ll increasingly see former broadcast news people set up their own sites that compete with old-guard stations still stuck in Web 1.0. With the advent of cloud computing, startup costs are approaching zero, so there’s no question that a handful of talented video producers and journalists can do a better job than 95 percent of the TV station websites out there today.