A hallmark of every generational crisis is a conflict between media, with one medium rising while another fights back.
A generation ago TV was the rising medium. Newspapers thought they were serious competitors in terms of political coverage. The decade began with Nixon's loss of the 1960 debate to Kennedy (radio listeners thought he won) and ended with Nixon triumphant, having learned TV stage management from Bob Haldeman.
We're now going through a similar period, only this time TV is on the defensive. And there are many ways in which that medium is fighting back against the Internet onslaught:
- Denial -- Howard Kurtz's new book Reality Show, and the accompanying interview tour, is a great example. He actually claims that people turned against the Iraq War because of the reporting by TV newscasts. Really.
- Advertising -- This is the method favored by incumbent industries, especially the telecom and oil oligarchs. Run a bunch of ads claiming "it's the network" (while seeking a monopoly on the Internet that will let the telecomms close off "selected" sites) or claiming that oil is green (only if it's made from people, Conoco) in such tight rotation that the TV news can't challenge you and people come to believe up is down, right left, and Eurasia has always been at war with Oceania.
- Strangulation -- Cable and telephone networks are deliberately strangling Internet bandwidth, defining "TV" and "voice" as separate services, which they're not, and charging out the wazoo for the few bits that are left. What will happen is people will pay until they realize the depth of the rip-off. And that will be the end of the cable and phone networks. The Internet itself will go blithely on.
- Goons -- From silly strategery to paid goons, corporations continue to treat blogs as something that can be managed and overcome. They can't. You have to deal with them, and accept their values, or you're the enemy.
- Competition -- This has been the most effective tack, turning journalists and columnists into bloggers. The New York Times kept Paul Krugman in a cage for two years, then suddenly unleashed him as a paid blogger. This makes some objective sense, since publishers know how to monetize pages in ways regular people can't (Blogads is dead), but some can make the transition and others can't.
Some thoughts follow
Blogging as a medium is different from any other type of journalism. What I have learned at Open Source is that it has advantages and disadvantages. Topics offering heat do better than those offering light. I really do find myself pushed toward constant references to just a few big vendors, turning Microsoft, Google and Sun Microsystems into the Britney, Lindsay and Anna Nicole of the tech beat. This is misleading to readers, but I'm paid based on traffic and talkbacks so what are you going to do?
The great thing about the Internet, of course, is that it throws off what look like individual media, like blogging, then you find it's capable of so much more. (Wikis.) As I have said for 10 years, the Internet is the only medium yet devised that can replicate the entire business cycle -- research, news, purchasing, and support -- and just when you think you've mastered it you haven't. (Also, just when people write you off, as with Amazon.Com, you can come back.)
What everyone is talking about right now is Web 2.0, social networks. They are a different medium from blogs, yet they ride the same infrastructure. The only thing I'm certain of is there is more to come -- more and different media to be thrown off by this single medium.
When I talk about the Internet medium overthrowing TV, I'm serious as a heart attack. TV will be absorbed into this medium, just as music was, and print was, just as stores were, and there are even more great media to come, each one richer than what came before, each of which is left behind just as you master it.
The new era, coming on fast, is going to be much deeper, richer, and more consuming than any other medium which has come before. Resistance to it is futile.