From IP network to broadcast network: Understanding the new media landscape

No readers like this yet.
What makes a new medium successful?

So, how does an unknown anthropology professor from Kansas make a home movie on a “cheap computer” in his basement that beats out all the $3.6 million Super Bowl ads and transforms him into a Web 2.0 rock star? This story begins and ends with the free and open user-generated media-scape.

Michael Wesch is practically a household name these days--at least for those who explore the impact of emerging technology and media on business and society. His YouTube video The Machine is Us/ing Us has garnered almost 11 million views since its release on January 31, 2007.

I use a follow-up video (see below) in the classes I teach because Dr. Wesch does an excellent job of describing how the various components of this evolving media-scape coalesced around his video to propel it to the top of the YouTube charts during Super Bowl weekend.

In his address Wesch describes how web services such as Digg,, RSS, blogs, Technorati, Facebook, and MySpace have created an open and free user-generated alternative to the traditional broadcast media channels. He further argues that the collective tuning and syncopation of this open and free network by its users is what propelled his oeuvre ahead of the multi-million dollar commercials from the likes of Bud Light and Doritos on Super Bowl Sunday.

In essence, Wesch’s experience with his video allowed him to understand firsthand that the IP Network had become an alternative to the Broadcast Network. YouTube is essentially a platform that provides a user-generated alternative to enterprise studio and broadcast approaches for media access and distribution. Each day about 9,000 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube.

To put this in context, aggregating all the programming of the three primary networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) for the past sixty years would result in a total of 1.5 million hours of video programming. Those 1.5 million hours are equivalent to less than 6 months of the content submitted to YouTube.

With the arrival of Web 2.0 technologies that enable users to share, participate, and collaborate in the co-creation and distribution of their own media, the Media and Entertainment industry is being challenged on multiple fronts as it seeks to redefine its structure and business models to address the threat of user-generated content creation and distribution.

The web may be us/ing us, but there are certainly many of us using Creative Commons licenses to open up the web as a platform for new forms of creative expression and wealth creation.

What opportunities and threats does this new free and open user-generated media-scape present to your industry and your enterprise. And how might it change the way you will live, work, and learn in the future?

User profile image.
Tony O'Driscoll Ed.D. is a Professor of the Practice at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where he also serves as Executive Director of Fuqua’s Center for IT and Media; a research center dedicated to understanding the strategic, structural, operational and business model issues associated with these vibrant and volatile sectors.


I understand the enthusiasm for the latest "new media", but am skeptical of the underlying premise -- at least as far as I'm even sure I understand it. I watched the Wesch us/ing Web 2.0 video and came away thinking that the gentleman is substituting excitement about technology for knowledge of history.

The premise I took from the video is that technologies like XML and their application on the Web are allowing us to separate form and content. If he'd stopped at adding "in new and exciting ways", I'd be with him. The kicker was the text stream at the end underlining all things (love, family, commerce, whatever) that we have to reinterpret.

No kidding, really? Technology and social change are linked? You don't say. I'd submit that the evolution of technology and its impact on communication is not something that XML or HTML or even the printing press initially caused, it's something that these developments have accelerated. Knowledge has been spreading itself outwards, sometimes imperceptibly slowly, since stone tablets and papyrus were battling for mind-share among temple scribes. What's different today is the velocity of the change, not the vector.

I read into the video an underlying assumption that the printed or written word is static and moldy compared to its vastly more flexible digital cousin. This is pretentious, and I think in a long view, it's also wrong because, ironically, it confuses message and medium. The power is still in the idea and what people do with it, not necessarily how it's disseminated.

<cite>To put this in context, aggregating all the programming of the three primary networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) for the past sixty years would result in a total of 1.5 million hours of video programming. Those 1.5 million hours are equivalent to less than 6 months of the content submitted to YouTube. </cite>

OK, so what? Isn't that self-evident? A million people with camcorders can produce way more footage than a few thousand with studios. It's not context, it's a statistic. That figure does represent a democratization of the output and publishing of ideas, but what that really means for us as a society is too early to tell. The printing press was significant not because you got a better Bible, but because of the impact over centuries of the increased literacy that it enabled. Isn't it a bit early to call Web 2.0 its equal?

The real implication here to me is self-worship. "Hey look, I can put an hour of video up as easily as some schmuck from XYZ-TV." Uh, ok. I can too, but that doesn't mean anyone wants to hear what I have to say. The saying that the "media is the message" invites narcissism. I'm enlightening the universe 140 letters at a time! I made a Lolcat poster! I'm blogging, Mom! My ideas are better that yours because I used social websites to put them out in XML! My content and my substance are separate! Great, but what do those things have to offer anyone other than you?

Am I wrong? Am I reading too much/too little into this? Welcome other thoughts.

I think the future for the mass media types (TV, publications, etc.) is to curate the user generated content. With the massive amounts of blogs, wiki content, videos, and everything else, I think the business model will shift from "being the authority" to "being a trusted curator." There is so much potential for user-generated content, but it's on overload. Some of it's poorly written, some of it's audience specific--just for family, just for friends, or just for co-workers. The companies that can tap into their user-generated content and curate it, improve it, and distribute it for their audience are the ones who will change the game.

I believe the new digital technology available to the general non-expert media user, or the little guy, allows for more personal messages and points of view that the more powerful elite and the more politically inclined users can use to their benefit in a more people serving mode, or people destructive mode...that is where the danger lies.

In order to be in politics or maintain a high seat within a large corporation structure, one has to be aware of his adversaries and his beneficiaries, and be able to disable the former and reward the latter. What is unfortunate, it is the little guy that is usually the adversary, and not the beneficiary. So overall, the elite and the politicians who work closely with the elite, will more than likely choose the path of the people destructive mode after viewing the little guys digital messages.

So the new digital medium of expression might be a nice release valve to allow the little guy a way to release steam, but the little guy will always be pressured by the elite and their political counterparts to stay inside his little box world, otherwise the elite will no longer be able to afford the vastness of golf landscapes, a room in the local yacht club marinas for their yacht, if the little guy starts becoming a bigger guy, with more control over his political representation, and if he is allowed to build a bigger box.

So allowing the little guy the technology for self-expression is a two-way sword, and we know how destructive a two sword could be, swinging both directions.

However, let's assume the elite and the politicians choose the people serving mode after watching the little guy's digital messages as it expresses his true human feelings and thoughts generated by his local environment, which would benefit the overall well being of everyone and the world overall...but by judging how little kids love to share their toys, I have a feeling that would be wishful thinking.

First there was the message: A cultural anthropologist's view of Web 2.0.

The message was conveyed via a medium: Digital video. (We won't deconstruct the communication styles used in the video medium.)

The video is made using tools that depend greatly on the Web 2.0 medium and the legal underpinnings of part of it (the GPL and similar licences for the software, and the Creative Commons license for the music).

Next, the video (a message in a medium) is released: Once on YouTube, it becomes part of the Web 2.0 medium.

The Web 2.0 medium (really, the users thereof) "process" the video in the very ways described or illustrated in the video.

The message was the medium was the message.

Is it self-referential, or iterative, or a change of scope (a meta-reference)?

Is it a meta-medium, or a meta-message, or both?

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.