The City of Media: A metaphor of old and new buildings

When you enter any city for the first time, and see it with fresh eyes, you notice there is a mixture of old buildings and new buildings. The older buildings expose the heritage of a city, and the newer additions give one a sense of direction for the future skyline.

The same is true of the media cityscape. Some of the oldest buildings in the media landscape are book publishers, television, and newspapers, each wiring their old buildings for speed and flexibility in the digital age, but still – old buildings in their assumptions and business models. In the new media landscape we have websites, social media sites, information products, application tools, online coaching…things like that pointing the way to the future media skyline and operating with very different assumptions.

I hear a lot of new media people dismissing the old media, a lot of the old media badmouthing the new media, It’s like a city such as New York dividing itself between the pre-war buildings and the post war buildings. Ridiculous when you think of it. Yes, some of the pre-war buildings clean up nicely when modernized, and quite a few modern buildings won’t have the staying power and gravitas the old have demonstrated. Some old buildings will fall down. New ones will get erected and criticized. All in all it’s a teaming landscape with all sorts of communication going on. The old buildings maintain prestige by having large doormen, high barriers to entry. The new buildings let almost anybody in and can be a cachophany of noise and chaos.

Take the book for instance. Prestige and credibility comes with having a book, even a bad book. Not only does it take months/years to write, (in internet years, an eternity) it is approved, edited and vetted by a host of doormen; agents, publishers, editors, proofers, legal, etc. So even though that building is old and decrepit, still it argues for the bonafides of one who’s successfully run the gauntlet, as does a television interview, or a radio interview.

I write and publish this blog without a filter. No doorman. Always a green light. The presses stop when I want them to. And distribution is based on other’s desire to find my content. Truly a new building, as is a podcast, a vlog, etc.

The one thing all these buildings have in common, and the reason the city should work together and play nicely is: their success depends on traffic.

New or old media, it still comes down to traffic. Or put more concisely, attention. The city of media traffics in attention. Attention for advertisers. Attention traffic for influencers, politicians, fashonistas, commercial enterprises, and for stay at home moms.

Sometimes I think one should just pick a building and live in it. Other times I want to sample all the buidings. Peek in all the lobbies. No wonder our attention spans are getting so short. Our attention is being competed for by the slow and the fast, the old and the new, the rusty and the shiny.

The older buildings in the media landscape, unlike the older buildings in a city, tend to be larger. The newer buildings smaller. Which is fine. This small building only needs to influence the attention of a small crowd. The big old media structures are still tasked with housing millions.

I like this little sleek hut of a blog.


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