We all can see that the media game has changed so why are so many people still trying to play by the same rules? Can we measure how much the game has really changed? Have those massive changes affected everyone equally? By everyone I mean the owners, workers, and consumers.
I was at a photography seminar yesterday watching two of the most amazing photographers alive today tell stories, teach, and do demonstrations and I came away having learned something kind of photo related but more-or-less related to media and information in general. What I leaned came from David Hobby – new media world shaper extraordinaire.
We’ve all been told that newspapers, magazines, and other such printed media are going away and that a brave new world awaits us. It seems to me that much of that change has occurred at the top and middle but what comes out in the end – what the consumer gets is not and will not change much if at all. Sure there will be changes to how they consume, (on phones, computers, and digital paper), but not WHAT they consume.
Personally I think most of it is hype driven by the people who have the most to loose which is why the average consumer has been all by totally silent throughout the past decade as circulations have swirled around the drain.
David Hobby, (aka Strobist), is not listening to the old rules. David has built his Strobist blog into a hugely successful enterprise, (keep in mind that success doesn’t equal money). In the photography community the Strobist brand is as well known and well respected as Nikon or Canon.
While blogging didn’t make him rich it did provide him with a platform that has allowed him to see the world of media from a different viewpoint. No longer confined by the chains of advertising supported, high-overhead, generalistic news world of old media David has started a quiet revolution in the suburbs of greater-Baltimore. Working away David has managed to shift the future of media into what he wants it to be.
How has he shifted the entire world of media? There are already others who are doing similar or slightly different projects, projects that are compatible and comparable. What is it then that he is doing? David has shifted the world of media by making incremental changes, small changes, to the way media is gathered and shared and it looks like this: hoco360.blogspot.com
David is providing a visual documentation of his community with very little overhead, no editorial bias, and a visual focus on his community. Free from the bonds of the old world. He is now working on what he wants to do in a way that can be made profitable. Has he started to monetize it yet? No, but that will come.
The beauty of his method is it’s simplicity. Everyone is talking about the new world of media being so different. Whereas David Hobby, former staff photographer from the Baltimore Sun has walked over, unplugged this part, hot-wired that part and cut off all the parts he doesn’t need. No longer is David working as part of a tank or 18-wheeler. He’s broken off a chunk of that old machine and fashioned himself a bicycle that is nimble, light-weight, and able to do just what he needs it to do.
What is David Hobby Doing?
What is he doing that is so very slightly different?
David is visually recording his very local community of Howard County, MD – just like a newspaper would or at-least just like the non-hard news parts of a paper would. He is talking about arts and culture and business, and uncovering things that are of interest to the locals. He is delivering content to his readers purely online at hoco360.blogspot.com. The content he is sharing is visual. It’s not weighty and wordy, he doesn’t tackle the local school budget, or the council’s plan to allow solid waste dumping on playgrounds – he has loosened the chains.
There still are restrictions sure but they are less and they are different. One big difference in breaking the machine into smaller parts is that the market can now dictate what the consumers can consume. The gatekeeper has been removed.
Free Market Content
I recently read a post, I think if was by Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com), where he talks about the free market and how those that benefit from the free market the most are the ones that want to prevent it from being free most often (through patents, monopolies, and so on). The reason that you can’t choose every article that you get in the paper (or at least every subject) is because the generalism of the paper maintains the ideals of it’s owner. While many readers might not care about a particular subject covered by the paper they still get articles written on that subject because the editor likes to read about it or they like to read about it with the slant that the writer they hired puts on it.
With what David and others are doing they are ultimately creating a pure and free market for news content. If his photos of his community are worth the cost to make them then he will succeed. If there are enough consumers to support someone writing about the flowers and garden clubs and such in and around Howard County then a writer writing about them will succeed (assuming they understand the business end enough).
This is all revolutionary in it’s simplicity. Everyone keeps talking about the new face of media and what a vastly different media world we are driving headlong into but David Hobby has shown that through small tweaks the new world won’t be so new to most people – it will simply be a world free of middle-men.