In an article about a new research paper about changing media consumption habits, Neiman Lab columnist Joshua Benton observed:
Before the internet, the consumption of news was profoundly driven by habit and ritual. The internet (and, especially, smartphones) exploded most of these habits and rituals. News suddenly existed everywhere and at all times, packaged into all formats, backed by all ideologies, and aimed at all audiences worth showing a banner ad. This was exhilarating, but it also opened doors to all sorts of bad actors. And when habits disappear, new ones grow to replace them. (Joshua Benton.)
After reading the piece, I wondered: isn’t the media establishment making the same mistake as it always has: reflecting on how we have changed, instead of wondering how we will change in years and decades to come. Instead of wondering about today’s audiences, media (and every industry) has to start imaging the world for tomorrow’s audiences.
The pending change is why I jumped into dot-com writing long before it was fashionable. How always-on network would modify our behaviors was why something like blogging felt like an almost natural transition. Since then, the networks have gotten faster, and information has become omnipresent. As a result, we find ourselves living in the information equivalent of the cereals aisle in a local Safeway.
And it is not just news — it is the entire information ecosystem. Photography, videos, music, and even data-sets have become segmented to fit audiences’ desires that might seem like a niche but can add up to a massive opportunity on a global stage.
In other words, Internet has done what it does best — it always increases addressable markets and, more importantly, allows participation from those usually left out due to traditional gatekeepers. And this allows the good, the bad, and the ugly to compete on the same playing field. It is why a three-person gonzo operation, the New York Times, and some random disinformation group find themselves fighting for the same attention on the platforms.
With so much change, the question is how do we — the ones whose attention is to be monetized and fractionalized are going to change? The future generations are now being trained to default to video (TikTok, Reels, Snap, and YouTube) to get their media, and others are learning to grow up with more spatial spaces, like Roblox and Fortnite. All this means that what we think of media (and information) will transform itself into something new and novel.
What will that be? If you have an answer, get in touch — because that’s an opportunity waiting to be unlocked.
With that said, I have made some crucial changes to my media consumption diet. I have started to put a premium on my attention, how I spend it, and with whom I spend it. As a result, I have stopped visiting the cereal aisles for information, and daily newspapers have become less critical, and so has the daily news itself. Instead, I find myself reading reported books (about topics of interest) and long in-depth pieces saved to my Safari Reading List or in my Pocket app.
Most of these mind-nourishing pieces come from independent publications (such as The New Atlantis, Logic Mag, the Lapham’s Quarterly) or established magazines such as The Atlantic, The Economist, Harpers, and The New Yorker. The daily web output of these esteemed publications is of little interest — after all like I said: news is of marginal value at present.
Other articles from around the web come to my attention via specialist curation services such as Longreads and a handful of specialized newsletters from folks who have excellent taste. I find myself spending time on documentaries. All of this has given me a kernel of a new business idea — though I am not sure I am ready to commit to it.
February 27, 2022. San Francisco
- Why Moore’s law is not enough? Four other laws that are important to learn and understand for our increasingly complex today and tomorrow. IEEE Spectrum
- Old Music dominates streaming music? Why? And what is the long term impact of this over-dependence on catalog music. SynchTank
- Jobfished: the con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency. BBC