This is a post that has been long in the making, but it was Jason Pontin's Manifesto for saving media that finally compelled me to publish it. Jason's manifesto itself deserves a post on its own and we will tackle it later, but, before that we will tackle a common misconception, that media somehow has to be in one of the formats: printed, televised, published on the internet or published on radio.
The fact is that those four are just examples of one component of the larger puzzle. The larger picture of what we call media is made up of the following four parts:
Creators: Anyone who produces content, be it a story, a blog post, a comment, or anything that did not exist before, be it of any length or quality is a creator. Seasoned journalists and old media hands would have a hard time coming to terms being lumped with talking cats and the roflcopter crowd, but it is a fact that you are competing with them and the earlier you get used to it, the better it will be for you.
Curators: Anyone who has a say in deciding what content gets published and how it gets published is the curator in the equation. Everyone from editors to content managers and people who vote on stories on sites like Digg, Google (with their search results, even if it is automated) are curators of the content in various conduits that carry the content produced by the creators.
Conduits: Easiest way to explain conduit is to essentially think of it as the transport layer. Examples: radio, television, print, internet, mobile.
Consumers: Consumers are the destination or termination points in the content lifecycle where you can add value to it or repurpose it and send it back into the cycle. These include readers at a news site, people who subscribe to blogs, people who watch television, listen to radio etc.
The future of media is going to be defined through this CCCC formulation. If traditional media wants to be a part of the future, they should then quit whining about Google, Craigslist and the recession and learn to embrace the formulation. The existing mentality is to live in silos (sales v/s editorial, journalists v/s bloggers, us v/s them), which needs to come to an end. If they can bring themselves to embrace the formulation, it will open up new avenues of revenue and growth.
Of course, this is not an easy thinking to and it will require unlearning of beliefs, habits and outlook formed over many decades.