Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Industry's Reverse Shakeout: Phase 2.0 of Digital Media

In my March 1 entry, Death of a Pastime, I touched on the current demise of print media.

While my sentimental side would love to witness the wholesale survival of newspapers, my entrepreneurial side looks ahead with amazement to the opportunities that are taking shape across today’s media landscape: "Phase 2.0 of Digital Media" is what I am deciding to call it.

Phase 2.0 is a media world so upside-down, turned-around and inside-out. Anybody's game. It is one that changes so fast you can't keep up, not on Facebook and not on Google.

No longer is it a world, where TV, Radio and Print work together to support the Net. That was Phase 1.0, at the commercial inception of the World Wide Web, when then-new companies, like AOL, acquired customers with reckless abandon, creating value by providing Internet access and displaying advertisements.

Phase 2.0 is the now, when the Internet has rapidly seeped into traditional media, strangling it, and taking a hold of its content, often making it free. This has been financially disastrous for traditional media and has destroyed the comfortable lock it once had on our eyes and ears.

The companies that survive in Phase 2.0 of Digital Media are anybody's guess, but mine is that a proliferation of opportunities will fall on several. Surviving media companies will be small, efficient and nimble. The ones that can quickly group people--en masse--around specific content, which they can influence somehow for profit, will earn first place in Phase 2.0.

Will it be Amazon's Kindle or Twitter that defines Phase 2.0? With plenty of funding and thoroughbred-like momentum, each organizes and channels content. Neither produces it. Still, how will they profit from amassing users?

Another question in media fragmentation is that content quality often suffers. Blogs, like FMOC, have surfaced one after the other, with no professional quality standards.

In 6 Reasons Why Twitter is the Future of Search - Google Beware, Gyutae Park notes that today's media landscape can be a trustful place due to the familiarity of a user’s network. Phase 2.0 is rife with opportunity to influence people without having to answer to any standard.

Yesterday, in his article, SXSW panel: Don’t worry, kids, the news business isn’t going to die, Nicholas Deleon writes how author Steven Johnson spent his time on SXSW panel trying to "allay the fears of every kid in journalism school." As noted in Death of a Pastime, my hope is that the rigorous standards of quality in traditional media will find their way into Phase 2.0.

The toughest questions facing the pioneers in Phase 2.0 of Digital Media: How do you make money? How do you maintain quality? Neither seems to be connected.

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