The present and future of post production business and technology

Back to the future: Is media returning to the 19th Century?

Back to the future: Is media returning to the 19th century? Mass media is going to become a historic anomaly.

analyzes a series of articles looking at the evolution of media in a digital age from The Economist. The premise is that mass media is a byproduct of its era. Before mass media there were hundreds of small media voices, often opinionated (just like blogs) and ultimately that’s where we’re returning with hyperlocal news and altered nature of “news”.

You should read the whole article, because it’s a good summary of The Economist articles:

As The Economist notes, up until the early 19th century there was no “mass media” in the sense that we think of the term now. Newspapers had not really been invented yet, and news still travelled via word-of-mouth, or via hand-printed pamphlets written by people likepolitical theorists Thomas Paine and John Locke. And even when newspapers as we know them started to be published and distributed, they were opinionated — and often gossip-filled — publications that catered to a tiny audience, much like blogs did when they first appeared. Says The Economist:

In many ways news is going back to its pre-industrial form, but supercharged by the internet. Camera-phones and social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter may seem entirely new, but they echo the ways in which people used to collect, share and exchange information in the past. “Social media is nothing new, it’s just more widespread now,” says Craig Newmark.

Although we think of “mass media” such as television, radio and newspapers as fixtures in our lives and in the media economy, says The Economist, “the mass-media era now looks like a relatively brief and anomalous period that is coming to an end.” As media and publishing become something anyone can do, whether on their blog or via other social tools such as Twitter or Tumblr, media companies are having to reinvent themselves to take advantage of this phenomenon — and to survive.

A new generation that has grown up with digital tools is already devising extraordinary new things to do with them, rather than simply using them to preserve the old models. Some existing media organisations will survive the transition; many will not.

He also talks about the risks of having only opinionated news but seems to think it’s OK if it is revealed.

Of course, the implications for the mass market media producers would, by inference not be that great. If mass markets (ultimately – not next week or anything) disappear, then the production workflows and support technologies will change as well.

The only thing we really know about the future is that it will NOT be like today.



2 responses to “Back to the future: Is media returning to the 19th Century?”

  1. Peter Wiley

    This is an interesting and important set of articles that I didn’t know about. Thanks for posting this.

    I’ve often wondered wether YouTube has, in a way, returned us to the very early days of motion pictures viewed in Kinetoscopes ( A lot of the YouTube content is like the one-gag films shown on the machines, such as “Blacksmith Scene” (1893 Edison probably would have done kittens if he thought of it.

    Another interesting take on the end of mass media is Bob Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario”. Garfield was for many years the TV ad critic at Advertising Age.

    1. Thanks for the extra links Peter. Will check them out ASAP.