What’s “Media?” Time to Update Default Assumptions

Yesterday it occurred to me — as I heard about yet another “multimedia workshop” for journalists — how dated and useless the term “multimedia” has become. It’s now normal for media content types to be mixed. It’s also normal for anyone working in media to be expected to create and integrate various types of content (text, audio, photos, video, mapping/locative) as well as delivery channels (print, Web, radio, TV, podcast, social media, e-mail, SMS, embeddable, mobile applications, widgets, e-readers, etc.).

Ditto for the terms “new media” and even “online media”, which imply that channels other than print and broadcast are somehow separate or niche.

The best take on why it’s important to update and integrate assumptions about the nature of media (and how that affects news) is shown in this hilarious skit from Landline.TV:

Here’s where media is at today: In the current integrated media ecosystem, every print and broadcast organization has an Internet and mobile presence — and most of these now go beyond bare “shovelware”. Also, more and more of these organizations are distributing their content online first, making print and broadcast secondary channels (if not secondary markets). In contrast, most media outlets and public discussion venues that began life on the Internet do not have a print or broadcast presence. These vastly outnumber print and broadcast media outlets.

Consequently, when you consider the number and diversity of media outlets, print and broadcast media have become the exception — not the rule…

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The Stereogram Approach to Finding the Meaning of Life

Gary W. Priester (Click image to enlarge.)
Often, the first challenge in life is simply to see the target.

I really used to hate stereograms.

When they became popular in the early 1990s, they often reduced me to serious frustration and headaches. I would stare at them — glare at them, really — trying to will their embedded 3D images to leap out. Everyone else seemed to enjoy these hidden illusions with ease. But my eyes and brain stubbornly refused to do the trick.

Then one day, I realized that I was looking at a dolphin. I just glanced at the cover of a book of stereogram art, and there it was. I was delighted to discover that the image wasn’t “leaping out” at me — rather, I was “seeing into” it. I wasn’t even sure how I’d started to see the hidden picture. All of the sudden, and quietly, it just worked.

Years later, I’ve come to realize that whenever I’ve identified a key mission or purpose I should pursue, it’s emerged (very much like that dolphin) from the background of the world around me. I get a sense that some vision is waiting to be seen, and I prepare my mind to be open to it. Then eventually I see it, and it feels like I always should have seen it.

In contrast, whenever I’ve tried the top-down, primarily rational (rather than intuitive) approach to choosing a course in life, I usually end up not really wanting what I’ve been working for, or liking what I’ve done — which is frustrating and demoralizing on many levels.

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending more time conversing, research, reading, and journaling. To be honest, I’ve been searching for purpose. For a couple of years now — although I’ve been doing a lot of interesting work, meeting a lot of interesting people, and learning a lot of interesting things — privately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been flailing around, seeking direction and purpose.

Finally, I feel like the picture is starting to emerge. Here is the outline so far…
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Overhauling J-School Completely

Sscornelius, via Flickr (CC license)
Maybe what journalism education really needs is to start over from a new foundation.

Well, there’s been a ton of great discussion lately on the theme of what kind of education and preparation today’s journalists really need, given the changing landscape of opportunities they’re facing. (Thanks to Mindy McAdams, James Ball, Paul Canning, Andy Dickinson, eGrommet, the Ethical Martini, Innovate This, Monitorando, and José Renato Salatiel for their contributions, to the many commenters on all these posts, and to Elana Centor who started it all. Here are my recent posts on this theme.)

I’ve heard from some journalism educators that the kind of preparation I’ve proposed is far beyond what most existing j-schools could offer. I understand that.

Really, I think what may be needed is to completely re-envision and rebuild j-school with today’s realities and tomorrow’s likelihoods in mind.

Here’s what that might look like…

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It’s Not About Your Site Anymore

Amy Gahran
In your own home, you get to put the couch where YOU want it. Who cares if that’s not the living room?

Here’s another reason why learning to use a feed reader is a cornerstone skill for truly succeeding in online media today:

It’s not about your site anymore.In fact, it hasn’t been for at least a couple of years now.

In other words: The way online media works today, you’ll probably succeed more through participation and off-site distribution (syndication) than through publishing alone.

More and more people — especially, but not exclusively, younger folk (you know, the people you hope will become your community or customers someday) — prefer to craft their own custom hubs for information and interaction. That’s what’s driving the popularity of feed-supported, syndication-oriented social media experiences like Facebook, MySpace, MyYahoo, iGoogle, Digg, del.icio.us, YouTube, co.mments, Twitter, and podcasting. (And, on the bleeding edge, Zude, CoComment, and Pageflakes.)

It’s kind of like furnishing your home…

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I want one place for all my content: Pipe dream?

I keep having this vision. I hope it will come about someday. There’s no way I’m the only person who’d want this. (UPDATE July 31: Nope, I’m not — Jack Vinson chimed in on this theme.)

The problem: Most of the content I’ve created does not live on my computer. It’s all over the web — my own blogs, comments to others’ blogs, my clients’ blogs, forums, e-mail lists, social media sites, media-sharing services, podcasts, wikis…. You get the picture. Consequently, I run the risk of “losing” much of the fruit of my hard work. In fact, that’s already happened. Sites or forums I contributed to years ago no longer exist. Blog comments don’t get indexed well by search engines and vanish into the ether.

Imagine this solution: A web-based service where I could archive all my content similar to Furl, only I could choose to make all or part of my archive public and shareable because it’s my content, not violating others’ copyright. Every piece of my content would get a unique, permanent URL, so I don’t have to worry if a site dies or changes. Any post I make to a forum or e-mail list would also get stored there (not the whole thread with others’ work, just my contribution).

And I could tag it all, share it selectively, generate feeds, and apply analysis tools to it. Plus incorporate whatever new cools tools come down the pike.

I want it. I want it bad. Do you, too? Does it already exist somewhere and I don’t know about it? Please comment below.

Weblogs, Date/Timestamps, and Time Travel

A couple of weeks ago, when we both spoke at the Da Vinci Institute’s Blogging Bootcamp seminar, my colleague Dave Taylor made many good points (as he often does).

Of course, I disagree slightly with something he said there (as I often do).

In a nutshell, Dave explained that he doesn’t like to feature a date/timestamp prominently on his weblog postings. He thinks that tends to diminish the perceived long-term value of the content. He encouraged business bloggers to generally follow suit: to focus on providing “evergreen” content, and to play down or possibly even omit the date/timestamp on their blogs.

Personally, I think Dave’s approach puts the blogger’s desires ahead of the needs and reality of the weblog audience – in a way that could be a problem for many blogs, and their readers. Here’s why…

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Catching Up on Technorati Tags

I’ll admit… thanks to my chronic state of learning overload, I haven’t yet gotten around to fully exploring and implementing a much-touted tool called Technorati tags. I know, I know, I should have been all over this one months ago… but life and paying work intervened.

Anyway, today I was gratified to learn that in a recent Social Customer Manifesto blog posting and podcast entitled The “newvoices” Tag: Throwing On The Floodlights, PR/communications guru Christopher Carfi highlighted and graciously complimented my weblog CONTENTIOUS. (Thanks, Chris!)

I think this “newvoices” tag strategy is intriguing and worth a shot. So I’ll bite the bullet, learn more about Technorati tags, and give it a try. However, I have a couple of reservations and questions about Technorati tags in general…

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What Is Content, and What Can It Do? (content strategy, part 3)

(NOTE: This posting is part of a series on content strategy. You may want to start reading from the introduction.)

“Content” is what you have to say, however you say it: text, pictures, audio, video, spoken word, math, sign language, smoke signals, Morse code, cuneiform, music, body language, etc.

Whenever we communicate – whether with the whole world, a specific audience, a closed group, or just with ourselves – we rely on content to convey our message. It’s how we package our thoughts and observations.

In turn, content is wrapped in context – which is only partly determined by your intention behind the message you’re sending. This means that ultimately you have surprisingly limited influence over the meaning someone receives from your content.

This makes trying to accomplish goals, connect with others, and express yourself a tricky business…

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Book Meme 123.5: My Contribution

Over at Small Business Branding Michael Pollock has suggested a fun way to overcome “blogger’s block” (writer’s block occuring in webloggers). This happens to me rarely, and not today. But this sounds like fun (my friends Tris and Toby certainly enjoyed it), so I’ll give it a quick whirl anyway.

Here are the steps in Pollock’s Book Meme 123.5 method:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest� book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

OK, here goes my attempt…

(UPDATE: According to Alex Barnett, this technique isn’t new. Big deal. It’s still fun.)
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