Back in the late 1990’s, I was working for a gigantic telecommunications company in Canada. “Convergence” was the buzzword of the moment, and the company was on the bleeding edge of converging cable, Internet and telephony into one big pipe. At the time, the average person didn’t really understand what this meant. Now, 12 years later, convergence is here. There are still many regulatory issues to work out, but the technical challenges have pretty much been addressed. The pipe is now big enough to carry all the information we could ever need, in whatever format we need it.
However, it’s one thing to jam everything in the pipe. It’s entirely another to get people to figure out how to work with all of it.
There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately about the line where citizen journalism ends and traditional media begins. Christopher Penn is talking about it. Mizz Information is talking about it. I’m not really talking about citizen journalism here, though. (Or am I?)
It used to be that mainstream media (radio and television) largely ignored what was going on in cyberspace. Though they might have been searching through other mass media web sites to find information, they were not really spending much time, or putting much effort into what was happening in the blog or social media space. However, I’ve noticed a shift in this lately. The most popular example of this is CNN’s use of Twitter. Rick Sanchez and a whole host of other journalists are using it as a source of information now. Susan Ormiston of the CBC has “Ormiston Online” where she is “trolling the blogs, Twitter and YouTube” for information about the Canadian elections.
Additionally, if a radio or TV show producer wants to have an expert on to talk about Square Dancing in Orleans, Ontario, they are more likely to find that expert by doing a Google Blog Search than anything else.
What is happening here is really another form of convergence. It’s convergence of content. The lines are quickly becoming blurred as to who is creating content. If my Dad (see Square Dancing above) can create a blog with quality content that appeals to a certain audience, then isn’t he ulitmately doing what mainstream television and radio has been doing for years? More and more often these days, mainstream media is going to the Web to get their information. They are still creating their own content, but the foundation seems to more and more be coming from the online creators.
Much like the regulatory mess that technological convergence created, this convergence of content is creating some other interesting debates. Where does citizen journalism end and mainstream journalism begin? What are the risks of “everyman” now being the “man on the street”? And, if the media is using my content ( e.g. when Rick Sanchez or Susan Ormiston uses my Tweets on air), should I be compensated?