The Dwindling Power of Media Gatekeepers

Harry Potter Says: Goodbye Media!Time magazine profiles J.K. Rowling, and illustrates another way that the “media middleman” has been removed, allowing the author to connect directly with her fans:

“She doesn’t actually need to talk to Barbara Walters (who named her the most fascinating person of the year), because her fans know where to find her: her website, which includes news, a diary, a rubbish bin for addressing the more idiotic rumors, and answers to both the frequently and the never asked questions.”

This, of course, does not mean “the death of media,” but it certainly indicates the shrinking power and need for traditional media channels. In the example above, there is value in J.K. speaking to Time or Barbara Walters for marketing value. But for someone like J.K. who may not be looking to expand her audience, and who closely guards her Harry Potter secrets – there are now many other options to share information and connect with her audience.

This is really a microcosm of the larger social networking trend. Someone like blogger Robert Scoble is asking for ways to remove himself as a barrier for having his friends link up with each other:

“I’ve brought together a unique group of friends. I’d love it if you could get to know them… But I can’t. The only way I can help you get to know them is to manually share their stuff out… I guess I’m a gatekeeper.”

Even the Queen of England is leveraging new media to connect directly with her community. Am I foolish enough to believe that she will be responding to comments herself, no. However, there is nothing stopping her or other members of the royal family to begin speaking with anyone via social networking tools.

Newspapers like The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today have added the ability for readers to comment on stories.

As the world embraces these online tools, the media themselves are struggling to redefine their role, while salvaging their power and business model.

Darren Rowse shares 5 reasons why traditional media is no longer serving the needs of their audience:

  • Participation – many are no longer satisfied to just consume the thoughts and opinions of professional experts – but want to be involved in the process of discussing and interacting with the news. Beyond this we’re seeing more and more focus upon citizen journalism where millions of people have the means to engage in the reporting of news – simply by getting their mobile phone out.
  • Relationality – many of the new forms of media that are emerging not only involve readers in the reporting and interpretation of news – but they create spaces where community springs up around the news and information being shared. People are no longer finding meaning in news alone – but together in social networks.
  • Suspicion of Institution – Government, Church, Big Business and other ‘institutions’ are increasingly being viewed with suspicion. I’m finding in my own daily interactions that more and more people have a growing sense of disillusionment and suspicion of mainstream media outlets and are looking for alternative sources of information.
  • Customization – we live in an age where we have almost unlimited choice in many areas of our lives. New media allows people to customize the information and news that they want to consume. Using tools like news aggregation they can now choose specific topics that they wish to follow and control when and how they consume it.
  • Immediacy – no longer satisfied to wait for tomorrows paper or tonight’s news broadcast – people are increasingly following events in real time online. While TV and Radio have live coverage of some big events with broad appeal – New Media is light footed, nimble, highly targeted to special interests and quick. Whether it be watching Apple release it’s new iPod live via a blogger at the press event or getting reports and pictures of a natural disaster from a blogger caught up in the middle of the action – new media is increasingly ahead of the rest in getting information out.