Jul
07
2009

Old vs. New Media

I figured out how to listen to my favorite podcasts again, even after having the iPhone stolen. My Palm Treo (which was my backup, now my primary phone) has a memory card slot. I go to a net cafe and download the MP3 files of the podcasts from the various websites, save them to an SD card, and insert it into the Treo. Then I had to find an adapter to allow normal headphones to plug into the phone. The whole process is clunky and slow, but I’m thrilled to be connected again.

If you’re interested as I am in the ongoing debate between old and new media, there are two recent podcasts I recommend. Both are from This Week in Tech, a freeform roundtable discussion featuring different guests each week.

TWiT #197 from about 5 minutes (skip the opening banter) to 25 or 30 minutes (things get geeky after that) features a discussion around how internet startups have upended the business model of old media behemoths that have failed to adapt. A couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

“The biggest lesson of Google in creating platforms is that when you lose control of something, when people surprise you and take it over, that’s when you’ve really won; as opposed to the old centralized, big media corporate way of looking at things in that they thought their value was in controlling something.”
“Craig Newmark, when he made Craigslist, didn’t know that it was going to destroy the business model of newspapers as we know them, or that people would use it after Katrina to find each other.”

TWiT #199 from about 17 minutes to 40 minutes features a discussion around the failure of the major news networks, and how they’re no longer the first place to go to for breaking news – instead, Twitter is. Myself, I first found out about the Honduran coup and Michael Jackson dying (which peaked at 15,000 tweets a minute) from Twitter. From the podcast:

“I was watching Twitter live, people saying ‘I am being tear-gassed right now!’ You even can see Moussavi’s tweeting, saying ‘they have got me under house arrest.’ I’m thinking, oh my god, this is huge. The election is being stolen in Iran. Quick, turn on CNN! What?! It’s a Larry King rerun with American Chopper. MSNBC, Fox, all the major networks were running reruns.”
“The Iranian authorities immediately turned off text messaging, they blocked Twitter on the internet, they did everything they could to keep people from getting out but people still had Twitter applications on their phones and tweets were still getting out. And if you were reading those tweets you were watching a revolution in the streets live in real time, and meanwhile CNN was showing you how to build a motorcycle.”
[Interesting aside: Twitter had scheduled an operational downtime during all of this, which the U.S. State Department asked them to postpone since Twitter had become critical to the revolutionaries.]
“The New York Times though did an excellent job – it’s ironic. The newspapers did a brilliant job on their websites, they even had video. So I think this might be a turning point – if you want to see breaking news, you go the web now. You do not turn on the news stations.”
“There’s another irony which is that when the networks did start to catch up, what did they do? They read the Twitter posts on the air!”

Speaking of CNN, I recently witnessed an interesting contrast between developing / 3rd-world presidential press conferences and the same in first-world nations. After Manuel Zelaya (the ousted President of Honduras) tried  to return to Tegucigalpa but was unable to land, he held a press conference in San Salvador which CNN Español broadcast live. Everything about it was ghetto. First, although the other Presidents of most of Latin America were in attendance, it was held in somebody’s rec room at old wooden tables with fluorescent lighting. Really? You couldn’t get everybody to a TV-quality studio? Next, the video was transmitted via Skype from a camera on the floor, degrading the quality even further and providing a strange angle to the speakers. When it finally began, I was expecting a few brief remarks from the president of El Salvador before introducing Zelaya. The “introductory” remarks rambled on for 40 minutes! Then Zelaya, looking every bit the cowboy in his 10-gallon hat, grandstanded for another hour. Although I couldn’t understand most of the specifics, it was clearly a rambling, emotional, off-the-cuff speech. I was impressed, however, that CNN Español broadcast the entire thing.

Contrast all of this with the press conference that President Obama and Russian President Medvedev gave yesterday. As one would expect, the entire enterprise was tightly scripted and controlled, everything from the flags in the background to the podiums carefully planned out.

This isn’t a judgment – there is certainly a case to be made for the more raw but real Latin American press conference – but it’s nonetheless interesting to observe.

Written by in: Ruminations |

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