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Amplification & the changing role of media

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For the past few days, I have been thinking about the evolution of what media is and its expanded role in the information ecosystem. What got me thinking was Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey’s decision to blog his side of the story about his reduced role at Twitter. A few months ago, when Facebook was buying Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg also chose to go direct by putting up a note on his Facebook page. And Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is also not shy when it comes to sharing his views via his Facebook page.

Seconds after Dorsey and Zuckerberg put up their news, it was picked up by casual readers who shared it and tweeted it. Technology media (including blogs) also picked up the news and published it as classic news posts. Some of us added analysis, but in the end both casual observers and publications were doing the same job — they were amplifying the news, spreading it across various mediums. There is a blurring of the line between what is news and what is a tweet, photo or a blog post. In other words, it is a kind of mosh pit of data and information — and that means the role of media is changing.

A reporter’s job for the longest time has been to find information and report it. This is what we have called news. Sitting in the media box at the baseball stadium and reporting scores and providing updates for a wire service was as much “news” as reporting on the Watergate scandal. And up until the end of the 20th century, the sources of distribution were pretty limited — radio, newspapers, magazines and television.

That in turn meant that newsmakers had to go to media outlets in order to share their message and get it amplified and reach those they wanted to reach — call them constituents or the target audience. With the rise of the social web, that has changed. Blogs, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other such platforms have made it easy for news makers to go direct to their constituents. So what is the role of today’s media person? In addition to reporting news, I think picking things to amplify is also important. Back in the day, news people made choice by deciding which stories to write. Today, we have to adopt a similar rigor about what we choose to share and amplify. In sharing (on Twitter or even re-blogging) we are sending the same message as doing an original news report. The easy thing is to share or reblog everything, but by being deliberate about it, we are essentially “editing” and telling the world: “this is how I see the world/this particular beat.”

One of the few people who has it figured out is John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who essentially has a very Gruberesque-view of the Apple economy. Similarly Jason Hirschhorn (formerly of SlingBox, MySpace and MTV), who operates the MediaReDefined email newsletter and a Flipboard channel, presents a very nuanced view of media industry by sharing what he thinks is relevant. They are not classical media people, but they are probably more prototypical of the “future media.”

Andrew Sullivan, a career journalist, is one media person whose link sharing, blogging and actual writings are pretty consistent with his world view and what he considers is important news. When Sullivan writes a longer report or a deeper analysis, you know it is important and worth paying attention. When Gruber has gone deeper, it has more than likely been worth paying attention to, whether you agree or disagree with them.

I am not saying we all have to be like them, but it is important to remember that in the future when Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Hastings are no longer an anomaly, the media person’s role is no longer just reporting news. Reporting through sharing and curation are going to be vital roles for us to play in the future.

9 Responses to “Amplification & the changing role of media”

  1. I agree that in today’s world, with all the advancing technology, that the media person’s role is no longer just reporting news. Because of the advancing technology, media persons can do so much more than just report the news. I think the advances in social media sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter have made it easier for information and news to be delivered directly from the source to the source. Social media sites such as these have made it easier for media persons to send the same message as in the original report. With options such as “retweet” or “reblog”, news is able to travel faster and to more people.

  2. Lorenzo Simoncelli

    Seing this leval of debate make me envious, in a good way. Congrats Om Malik, I have been listening conversations about the future of journalism for years in Italy, rarely the speakers sayd something new or interesting that can change the trend. If you can, one day, bring your fresh air also in our stinky country. @leonereporter

  3. Mujdat Ayoguz

    Om, there is no proper way of making this comment making it not sound like a woisio commercial but your thought process completely resonates with our viewpoint and the fundamental problem that rises as an implication of what you have laid out is the challenge we had in mind when coming up with woisio.

    As the whole media ecosystem is going through an evolution to find a new power balance with the current decentralization, the biggest challenge is the resulting mismatch between the number of sources and the human attention span.

    The whole system had an equilibrium during the age of mass media and we all know how that operates. We wanted to build something where the selection process is driven by people’s collective choice to establish that balance required between “the human attention span” and the flourishing new media jungle.

    Please have a look at on our proposed solution.

    Mujdat Ayoguz

  4. Great piece Om and thanks for the inclusion. What I find interesting is that journalists with traditional outlets like newspapers have really begun or have been amplifying other’s work on platforms like Twitter while their publications still don’t see or understand the value in curation. Even though by definition what they choose to cover is a form of curation. Pointing elsewhere is a reflection of your brand and POV. It doesn’t devalue it.

    • Jason

      Thanks for the comment — I think you are right though I think there is this “curate/share” on Twitter/Facebook mentality that needs to be replaced by a holistic approach to the subjects that are chosen.

      Keep up the good work!

  5. I think what should happen is that the role of the journalist should become twofold. One place should contain nothing but the news, but the a separate place should contain the opinion. The lines are growing way too blurry for the proper dissemination of facts and what is obviously one person’s opinion or a “crowd-sourced” opinion. Journalists should come to a point of integrity and try to realize that it benefits the provider of the actual facts and that a reputation of objectivity is actually highly sought for. I, for one, would pay for a service that would be less opinionated and more objective. Even the fact checkers, now, are spinning the fact checking…which is just nauseating beyond belief.

  6. Reblogged this on Censemaking and commented:
    Om Malik from Giga OM writes today about the changing role of media and how the new media is transforming the way the reporting is done in the old media around story selection and amplification. Direct-to-the-world communication is replacing the direct-to-the-media-and-then-to-the-world model of journalism we had. What might this mean for knowledge translation in areas beyond tech to areas like policy, politics, science and health?