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Network as Media: Notes on Convergence

Each strand of professional media was originally segregated by virtue of the physical properties of the medium and their particular economics of production. Newspapers, radio, television— each expanded on previous media models without completely replacing its predecessors.

The economics of professional media require that the cheapest delivery channel be utilized. This is why newspapers, for instance, are printed on newsprint. When you put the Network into the equation, it immediately becomes the cheapest delivery channel for the content of every other medium.

When a medium like the newspaper directs its productive output (news reporting, etc) to the Network, instead of to the printing press— it loses many of the qualities that define and differentiate it as a unique form of media. The technical requirements and opportunities of the new media are now in play.

It’s like white light hitting a prism, once a legacy medium is redirected at the Network, it is splintered into a rainbow of colors. Radio becomes print and video—each now has all the capabilities of the others. The physical properties of the media are no longer a limitation. There’s no sense in publishing a newspaper on the Network. The Network is a multiple-media media. In the context of the Network, each individual legacy media type must raid the others to supplement their stable of talent so it can publish text, audio and video into the Network.

The economic difficulty of newspapers and other media that have treated the Network as additional delivery option is that their production methods and costs can never be reduced beyond the requirements of their home physical media. When this kind of media organization competes with an organization structured to produce for the Network first, and anything else second— they will inevitably lose. The only question is whether they’ll able to withstand the wrenching transition of their infrastructure to a Network-first media organization. You can see some of this drama played out with The Daily Beast/Newsweek and the Huffington Post’s hiring of Peter Goodman and Timothy O’Brien from the New York Times. Once a Network-based media organization has established a sufficient economic base, it begins to poach talent from legacy media.

A fairly advanced form of this media reconstitution can be found in the sports news world. Comcast Sports Bay Area covers Bay Area sports. They have a cable station where they broadcast pre- and post-game shows, and in many cases the games themselves. They have former print journalists writing analysis of teams and games for their web site and appearing as guest analysts on their television shows. These analysts also appear on local sports radio. They run regular online chat rooms, and Twitter feeds. All of the “on-air” (read on-Network) talent write a blog. They’ll run both full-dress studio television shows and shows based mostly on ad-hoc video shot with a Flip cam. While they don’t broadcast all of the local professional team live press conferences over their cable station, they do make them available in a live stream on their web site. They blend text, photography, audio and video into in-depth, almost 24-hour, coverage of a set of sports teams. One can easily see this model working for coverage of music, entertainment, politics, business, financial and technology news or green energy.

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