When information is cheap and abundant to the point of overload, what becomes scace? Time and attention. With this in mind here is a thought about how to reinvigorate the newspaper and other mass media.
The newspaper franchise of the past was based on delivery. Local papers got news to the doorstop. Advertising paid the freight. The Internet makes that business model obsolete on both accounts. Delivery is no longer a barrier to competition. Web sites feed off news gathered by traditional media and then help themselves to advertising revenues.
So what if the newspaper franchise of the future is based on the reverse of delivery — that is, input? What if newspapers use their prestige and reach to create networks of citizen journalists to provide the local news that mass media cannot afford to gather today? If this succeeds, newspapers could leverage these local relationships into new business opportunities starting with hyperlocal advertising and classifieds. Newspapers could become not just the forum for discussion of issues but the hub of their local markets — in far greater depth than now possible.
Citizen media has been thought of as something apart from, even in opposition to, mass media. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Cooperation — even co-optation — might be better for old and new media. Let old media supply the audience and the attention, while new media contributes the edge and the breadth.
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media