More Tech-Driven Threats to Mainstream Media

Posted by: Rob Hof on May 18, 2005

First blogs, now even more challenges to traditional media are on the way. And if panelists at last night’s Churchill Club panel are right, those challenges will be here sooner than later, because the technologies aren’t far off: ubiquitous wireless Internet access and new display technologies.

Phil Wiser, the chief technology officer at Sony Corp. of America, said both of those will likely disrupt media companies that depend on their current lock on branding and distribution. Wireless Internet access, such as WiMax, means people can get personalized content whenever they want—and they don’t care whether it’s the New York Times or their friend’s blog. And new display technologies such as E Ink’s small, flexible sheets, will make it easier for peole to get that content wherever they want, too.

All that, noted Farzad Nazem, Yahoo!’s CTO, means that the future is “not about mass media, it’s about ‘my media.’” Does that mean a lot of traditional media is doomed, as some folks such as Stowe Boyd predict? Some certainly are, but panel moderator Paul Saffo isn’t so sure. “The old media order really is collapsing,” he said, but added: “The media finally get what’s going on,” and they’re likely to shove many pioneering bloggers off to the side.

No doubt about it, it’s going to be ugly for a while. But that’s not a bad thing if it means the “former audience,” as Dan Gillmor calls readers, gets more of a voice.

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Reader Comments

steve baker

May 19, 2005 10:14 AM

Rob, We've had quite a bit of back-and-forth on this subject at blogspotting. I think it's pretty clear that both sides, bloggers and mainstream media, feel challenged. MSM by the new model and all the newcomers. And bloggers feel fret that interlopers like us are going to turn this grand laboratory into an extension of our own world. I think that there's going to be a merging of the two worlds. We'll become much bloggier and more interactive. Leading blogs will settle on news standards and give advertisers a steady product they can bank on. On the fringe there will always be purists who denounce bloggers who go mainsteam. But they shouldn't worry, because given the expanse of the blog world, this mainstream will never dominate news coverage the way it has in the past.

James Ware

May 19, 2005 11:38 AM

The kind of access and ubiquity the Phil Wiser describes will clearly be disruptive to mainstream media. But it also means that each of us will have to do a lot more filtering as we sort out what sources to believe, which ones to pay attention to, and which ones to block out.

I'm worried that this new world of information overload could lead to more splintering of our fragile society - and business world - than we already have. How will we know what's *really* going on? Or who to believe?

I mean, it is indeed pretty nifty that we can all stay so "in touch" with the world, and have our news feeders pulling in the stories we need to know about. As a relative newcomer to the blogging and news aggregator world, I am thoroughly enjoying having the stories I want to know about just showing up on my desktop. But if there's little overlap between what you pay attention to and what I read, what will we talk to each other about?

Sure, there's power and creative potential in having each of us paying attention to different parts of the great big chaotic world out there, but there's also increased risk of confusion, misunderstanding, and just plain different views of "reality."

Rob Hof

May 19, 2005 02:17 PM

Yes, I think bloggers and journalists each have a lot to learn from each other. I don't know that there will be a full merging, since each has distinct qualities that are probably worth keeping distinct. Instead, I think there will be (not to sound too suggestive) an exchange of DNA. I think one of the key things to watch will be what new kinds of filters emerge beyond the ones that mainstream journalists have been. Because already, we're seeing a need for some way to get a handle on the infoglut.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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