Communal, Specialized, and Personalized Experience in Media

by Dan Blank on January 17, 2007

Scott Karp askes, “Is News A Fundamentally Shared, Social Experience?” His theory:

“Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different? Perhaps the good old fashioned niche is as personalized as we need to get.”

He makes an excellent point. Human limits and technical limits are two separate things. We are inherently social creatures, and even how niches have exploded online underscore this. When trying to match the perfect level of news functionality, with a business model – we are still in the testing phases.

That said, there have certainly been more than enough examples that argue against this theory. The rise of personal media, starting with the television itself half a century ago, proves that “communal” events can be segmented.

Gone are the days where people need to watch a movie together to have communal experience. Millions can watch American Idol separately, yet still feel connected. Likewise, I think people have some need for communal experience, some need for more specialized experience, and some need for personal experience.

Examples of this in media could range from:

  • Communal: reading the newspaper.
  • Specialized: reading a trade magazine.
  • Personal: reading a self-help book, sketching, or simply having a daydream.

Now that is something I have not yet seen online – the aggregation of daydreams. Perfect for user-generated content, as well.

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