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April 19, 2007

The Death of Old Media Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Sitting in the salon at the 109-year old Claridge’s hotel in London’s Mayfair district, in a room full of deep dive participants debating the declining health of old media, I couldn’t help thinking about Mark Twain, while residing in London, informing an American newsman that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. More than 100 years later, I’m here to send a similar missive to the world: old media is alive and well.

Okay, that may be a bit of exaggeration as well. But among the many solid themes coming out of the London deep dive on media and content was the idea that content, though shared and distributed in myriad new ways, has not substantially changed in hundreds of years.

“At a base level, it’s all storytelling,” said David Wells, deputy world news editor at the Financial Times. “The actual content has never changed. People tell stories. What are they going to be doing 80 years from now? They’ll be telling stories. I don’t find all of this new media to be a threat. I see it as an opportunity.”

There was a fair amount of agreement on this point, which was interesting considering the wide variety of participants in the dive. Along with Financial Times, the dive had representatives from Virgin Media, Ogilvy Group UK, Scottish Media Group, Sony Corp., venture capital companies Sofinnova and Target Partners, the European Commission, Ofcom, Oxford University, Manchester University, Vodafone, and a promising little startup that piqued everyone’s interest called Grapeshot.

Once the group concluded that the basis of content would remain more or less the same, the big question was how to make it into a business that pays, as younger generations grow increasingly comfortable with the idea that all content is free. This brought up a now familiar theme to the GIO: context. Grapeshot director John Snyder has been building technologies that put context around otherwise valueless content, and had a lot of thoughts on the subject. By mining the “DNA” of content, and marrying that DNA to a user’s cookie, Grapeshot can mine patterns of content that make targeted advertising a reality.

“The money is there if you can connect ads with people’s intent,” said Snyder. “Most places are unaware of the intent of their readers. Personalization has to reflect intent and context.” The company is also working on technology that can measure the influence of a piece of content over its lifetime, the “trajectory and velocity of a story,” as Snyder says, and map it globally.

The idea of building context around content is clearly the biggest idea that has emerged consistently in this GIO focus area, and it is one we’ll want to pursue in greater detail when we meet in Los Angeles the first week of May. 

Other themes from the London dive: There was some concern among some of the participants about the consequences of an infinitely fragmented media and content universe, in which micro-communities consumed only content that reinforced their beliefs, thereby leading to a more fragmented society. One participant lamented that while we are breaking down geographic barriers through the use of the Internet, we are simultaneously erecting new barriers of ideology. But in this world of wildly proliferating content markets, noted one deep diver, trusted aggregators of content would be needed. They may even serve as distribution channels for the many, specific views of these disparate communities.

And besides, it’s too late to turn back. “You can’t un-invent choice,” said Alex Blowers, the director of Ofcom, the U.K. regulatory body in charge of the communications industry. “We will not get fewer channels, and you can’t replicate the golden age of scarcity.”

April 19, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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This is really good stuff - I am enjoying reading and following this GIO Blog

Posted by: Freddie Moran | Apr 22, 2007 12:13:08 PM

me. not so much. you seem to have a bias to old media.

Posted by: James Governor | Apr 23, 2007 8:59:57 AM

i agree that there is a danger that people will end up in self imposed content ghettos - however, I think we need to build in "disrupt" mechanisms" to the context machines we are clearly going to build.
By disrupt - i mean something that chalenges the frame peole are in - creating dysjunctions - and new patterns - also, if we allow for new patterns of concept desiplys, then you can see a concept map which shown what " peole like me" are doing elsewhere - i.e. seeing how one flow of context can be disrupted on the markins by other peoples context maps.
Summary - we need to think of tools that map and display context and then think of ways of disrupting the map /topgraphy by introducing other kinds of cntext DNA nto the mix ..

Posted by: paul reynolds | May 6, 2007 9:02:16 PM

agree that there is a danger that people will end up in self imposed content ghettos - however, I think we need to build in "disrupt" mechanisms" to the context machines we are clearly going to build.
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