Paper media has been king for centuries. But it has fundamentally and permanently changed with the advent of the keyboard. Access to the written word, and even writing and disseminating the written word is no longer the privilege of the few and mighty.
The relationship between the written word and the reader, long the nexus of intellectual, economic, political, religious and educational life, is being overcome by the notion of typing and reading digitally. The implications for big media, especially the newspaper network of previously influential business owners, are now increasingly clear. The implications for new media, talent development and recruitment are not so clear. Here in lies the needed awakening. Like the printing press, the keyboard with a little intellect behind it, can now make an incredible difference. Micro publishing and social media are only beginning to show this. There is much more to come. How do we prepare? How do we have this conversation?
Where does one go to school today to become a master blogger, a webpage maven or a social media ace? Literary pundits, internet bloggers and computer geeks have never been seen as part of the same endeavor much less products of the same school. Today’s public relations, marketing, business and public health schools better be taking notes, because literature and communication in general–of the paper and pen kind–are seriously being challenged by the keyboard and the web page relationship. Public relations, marketing and media campaigns of all kinds (public health, political and sports, to name a few) are also being tested as the internet is where consumers, with their keyboards and their internet participation, are increasingly focused. That connectedness of being able to buy, communicate and make decisions in real time is what trumps paper and traditional media.
The long dark night of the printing press and papers has now begun. The paper and magazine media that is not able to awaken to today’s technological realities will disappear into an endless morning of wondering and retooling–sure to deplete investors and formerly interested parties. Those who awaken, diversify and invest in the new brave world of megabytes, html and the cloud will survive and perhaps thrive. The internet of things is not likely to include newspapers and magazines made of pulp and ink. Intelligence, language and knowledge itself is changing. Big data, knowledge management and gorilla marketing have begun to fill the epicenter of the communications spectacle and paper media lays wet and lethargic on the familial driveway as Americans get their news from the passive TV tube and the new digital generation gets it on the computer, tablet, or the smart phone. The internet represents a new layer of the national economy that seems to pervade everything and is still transforming previously stable information when it was a commodity more easily controlled. At last social media seems to be placing the reader in the drivers seat but nobody seems to know who is “driving.” Publishers, advertisers and Madison Avenue seem to be playing catchup only to be perplexed by more change. The world is once again changing. How people think, read and work is being changed as well. Perhaps change does not describe the extent of what is happening. This time the world is transforming; and our ability to read about it is morphing as well. At last, today’s newspaper moguls may be going the way of the paper tiger. The connection with many publics is being weakened and may never be recuperated. Who will win the publics’ ears and minds in the coming digital decades?
Who will generate the content that will be needed to feed the insatiable, 24 hour social media machine? There was a time when the written word was locked on paper as an expensive commodity–only for the eyes of rulers, religious leaders, and the most wealthy. As time passed, and the Magna Carta, industrialization, the printing press, political parties, unionization, and urbanization, all served to create rule by the people and for the people, the written word became as omnipresent and ubiquitous as falling leaves in the American autumn. But media is no longer simply domestic. It is global and instantaneous… It is micro publishing gone wild!
Today the written word has become digital and the mechanization of the reading experience has rendered the delivery of news, and eventually education, instantaneous, inexpensive, and convenient. The top universities are experimenting with free online courses. Gone are the days when people had to wait for the morning paper. The digital word has become as prevalent and fast as the spoken word; yet more effective because an entire warehouse of it can be sent to one million people with a click and it can be stored in perpetuity in the most convenient and inexpensive of gadgets. The economic model of media distribution has changed in profound ways and the implications are not yet fully understood. Today, the paper media is about to go the way of the 8 track and the Philips Tube radio.
New media now defines what is seen, understood and perhaps acted on. It will definitely influence power relationships and governing itself. This also has implications for how the polity gets its news and how nation states are able to control information within its borders. The genie is out of the bottle–turning the populous into today’s version of “literati.” It’s fascinating to see how the written Magna Carta relied on men of power and influence while today’s newspapers struggle to survive pandering to the masses at the alter of populism. At last, more may not be more. What seems most important is the relationship between the written (typed) word and the reader. Take a look at all the notables and institutions mentioned in the Magna Carta:
The Magna Carta (The Great Charter)
“Preamble: John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we have granted as underwritten by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of …”
Access to the written word, and even writing and disseminating the written word is no longer the privilege of the few and mighty. Technology continues to transform how knowledge is developed and shared. This has tremendous implications for an educated populous that can perhaps sustain even a more enlightened and egalitarian Democracy than the one we enjoy today.
“The stunning announcement on Monday of the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos caught many off guard. The Post has been owned by the Graham family for 80 years. But recent years brought steep revenue and circulation declines and as chief executive Donald Graham put it in a letter to the staff, “the newspaper business continued to bring up questions to which we had no answers.” In Bezos, The Post—and a handful of smaller papers owned by the company—get an owner who is considered one of the most successful business and technology entrepreneurs in the country. Bezos is considered to have a strong understanding of audience needs and the financial wherewithal to tolerate sluggish revenue numbers, at least for a while. Still, the challenges are large and not unique to The Post. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, which has been tracking the industry for over a decade, puts the sale in context.”