PressThink: The People Formerly Known as the Audience:"
The people formerly known as the audience wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you’ve all heard about.
Think of passengers on your ship who got a boat of their own. The writing readers. The viewers who picked up a camera. The formerly atomized listeners who with modest effort can connect with each other and gain the means to speak— to the world, as it were.
Now we understand that met with ringing statements like these many media people want to cry out in the name of reason herself: If all would speak who shall be left to listen? Can you at least tell us that?
The people formerly known as the audience do not believe this problem—too many speakers!—is our problem. Now for anyone in your circle still wondering who we are, a formal definition might go like this:
The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.
- Once they were your printing presses; now that humble device, the blog, has given the press to us. That’s why blogs have been called little First Amendment machines. They extend freedom of the press to more actors.
- Once it was your radio station, broadcasting on your frequency. Now that brilliant invention, podcasting, gives radio to us. And we have found more uses for it than you did.
- Shooting, editing and distributing video once belonged to you, Big Media. Only you could afford to reach a TV audience built in your own image. Now video is coming into the user’s hands, and audience-building by former members of the audience is alive and well on the Web.
- You were once (exclusively) the editors of the news, choosing what ran on the front page. Now we can edit the news, and our choices send items to our own front pages.
- A highly centralized media system had connected people “up” to big social agencies and centers of power but not “across” to each other. Now the horizontal flow, citizen-to-citizen, is as real and consequential as the vertical one.
There have been a lot of times I thought Jay Rosen was a little off-track --- not least when he linked us the other day and said we were "Neocon's site" --- but by golly, I think he's got it.