Corollaries and addenda to the essay : What are Causing the Media Environment to Change?
There are many corollary ‘macro-effects’ of the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws that go far beyond just the media industries. These fall into three broad categories (industrial, societal, and superdynamic) and warrant further study by experts smarter than I.
Among the most remarkable and unanticipated macro-effects of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws interactions is the emergence of Social Media and the related, consumer-energized online services colloquially known as ‘Web 2.0’. These have not only fundamentally and forever changed how media content is created and consumed but have caused an epochal change in the direction by which people expect news, entertainment, and information to flow.
Web ‘1’ and Web ‘2’
To understand the revolutionary changes ‘Web 2.0’ has brought and Social Media are bringing, let’s start by parsing the term ‘Web 2.0’. At the start of the semester, most of my postgraduate students are confused about what the terms ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ (and ‘Web 3.0’) mean, as well they should be, particularly considering how these terms have been coined, marketed, and hyped. (‘Web 2.0’ was actually trademarked in the United States during 2006 by CMP Media, a business media and conference company that did not coin the term. The European Union, however, a year later denied CMP Media the trademark in EU countries.) I teach my students that there are only three things that they need to know about these terms:
First, the decimal points are a meaningless marketing hype. For examples, there are no such things as ‘Web 0.8’ or a ‘Web 1.4’ or a ‘Web 2.3’.
Second, ‘Web 1’ and ‘Web 2’ (and ‘Web 3’) are useful terms when used to denote different eras in Internet history, much like the terms Triassic or Jurassic denote different, albeit immensely longer eras in natural history.
‘Web 1’ denotes the period (1991 to approximately 2000) when the software and hardware needed to publish online or to broadcast online were expensive, complex, and difficult to use. The result was that only large organizations (such as governments, militaries, universities, and corporations) published online. During the ‘Web 1’ era, content was produced and consumed in the traditional way: organizations produced it and people consumed it. The only difference between this and the Industrial Era was the content was offered online to the consumers.
However, as several years progressed, the effects of three laws allowed that to change. Moore’s Law permitted more powerful and less expensive hardware, capable of running complex software. Cooper’s Law and Butters’ laws eliminated the requirement that people utilize home telephone lines to go online and permitted the transmission speeds of people’s online access to be ever faster. The resulting combination — more powerful, less expensive hardware running more complex software that communicated at ever higher speeds — made online publishing or online broadcasting so inexpensive and easy-to-do that by the middle of the first decade of the this millennium anyone could do it. Moreover, turnkey-software system and services (such as YouTube, Moveable Type, WordPress, or Blogger.com) allowed anyone to publish or broadcast without any technical knowledge at all. Hundreds of millions of people (‘the people formerly known as the audience’, in the words of New York University Professor Jay Rosen) were no longer just consumers of media but also creators of it. This is the ‘Web 2’ era.
Third, my students need to know that Web 1 and Web 2 have a stratal relation: one is founded atop another but co-exist and aren’t mutually exclusive; large organizations still publish online and broadcast online, as now do the people themselves.
People’s newfound capabilities to publish or broadcast as readily as traditional publishers or broadcasters creates quite unexpected competition to traditional publishers and broadcasters, extraordinarily complicating and challenging traditional media organizations’ existences. Many traditional media companies still don’t comprehend how much.
Indeed, Social Media are, all too often, still mistaken by practitioners of Mass Media and academicians as merely consumer-generated, computer-mediated forums auxiliary to Mass Media. In actuality, Social Media are manifestations of the opposite of Mass Media: the massive rise of what are becoming known as Individuated Media (about which I’ll explain in detail in the next chapter.) The hallmark of Mass Media vehicles (such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcast programs) is the production and delivery of the same package of content at once to the mass number of people who receive that vehicle. In other words, each reader of a periodical or listener/viewer of program simultaneously receives an identical edition (i.e., ‘common package’) of that respective periodical or program. The reason why that content is the same for all the consumers’ of that vehicle at once is that Industrial Era media production technologies— notably, the analog printing press and an analog radio-frequency transmitter—are each capable of reproducing only the same mix of content at once for all users. Those Industrial Era legacy technologies have no way of producing a unique package of content that matches each individual user’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.
As the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws overcame these inherent limitations of analog technologies, causing people’s access and choices of content and of content providers to change from relative scarcity to surplus, and allowing people themselves to became publishers and broadcasters, thereby vastly increasing the cornucopia of content available to people, a significant plurality of the world’s population has begun using ‘Web 2’ website and Social Media services to self-customize a mix of contents that better matches to his own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes; doing so much better than can any pre-packaged common edition or program from any single Mass Media content provider. This macro-effect, the rise of media Individuation, more fully described in the next chapter of this treatise, is already making most general-interest Mass Media vehicles obsolete and devastating Industrial Era media industries.
Billions of people today are using Social Media and ‘Web 2’ services to customize the mix of contents that an individual receives so that it much better matches his own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes than can any common package from any one Mass Media content provider. Yet far too few Mass Media executives or academicians have noted the rise of Individuated Media, despite its unmistakable popularity.
Facebook is a prime, albeit inchoate, example of Individuated Media’s clear popularity and displacement of Mass Media. Some media traditionalists don’t consider Facebook to be a media company because this company itself doesn’t create content (of course, neither for the most part do traditionalist media companies such as Reader’s Digest or Utne Reader magazines). Yet more than one billion people now use Facebook for news, entertainment, and information about their friends and the world around them. Surveys of people under the age 35 indicate that Facebook has become one of their leading initial sources of news about the world around them. (In Arab-speaking countries, Facebook has become a paramount source of news).
With one-sixth of the world’s population using it, Facebook clearly has mass scale. The only Mass Media company with nearly that scale is China Central Television of the People’s Republic of China, whose once monopolistic signals can be reached by more than a billion people, but whose market share has declined to less than three-quarters during the past decade (and whose most popular show, the once-annually CCTV New Year’s Gala, reached only a 91 percent share of those billion people).
So, with more than a billion users, most of whom use it to obtain news, entertainment, and information, is Facebook a Mass Medium? Not according to the majority of Mass Media theories, because each Facebook user sees different contents simultaneously than every other Facebook user. The contents that Facebook displays to each of its users is based upon that user’s own network of friends and on whatever that user designates what he ‘likes’ (i.e., specifics in musical artists, actors, books, movies, brands, products, periodicals, broadcasts). Each user is readily capable himself of altering that mix of content and content providers as he sees fit. There is no ‘common agenda’ given to all Facebook users. Publishers or broadcasters have no traditional control of the package of contents that the user sees.
A Tidal Change in the Flow of Access
Moreover, rather than each Facebook user going to each of his selected content provider’s websites or buying that provider’s printed periodical, or listening to the provider’s broadcast in hopes that the content provider’s traditional edition will contain any stories that interest that user. He now expects those individual stories from her selection of multiple content providers to come automatically into her Facebook page (i.e., Facebook ‘news feed’). This expectation embodies an epochal change in the direction which content gravitates and is consumed. Rather than consumers flow to content providers’ editions, consumers now expect their individually interesting elements of that edition’s content to flow automatically to them. They’ll now and forever longer hunt and gather it but want their own individually selected diet of it to flow from their newfound cornucopia of content.
Other remarkably popular Social Media and ‘Web 2’ services, such as Renren, Twitter, Вконтакте, Flipboard, etc., are similarly Individual Media, tapping a latent need that Mass Media couldn’t satisfy.
Meanwhile, Individuated audio music media companies, such as Pandora, Last.fm, or Spotify, have also arisen. Pandora now has more than 150 million users, more than seven times that of the most popular Mass Media radio company (Sirius XM Radio).
The individual pieces of content and stories that composed Mass Media editions and program now have greater value than the Mass Media packages in which those are contained. The parts in aggregate are now worth more than the whole, both in editions and the media industries as a whole.
Even in today’s inchoate forms, Individuated Media, all of which arose as a result of the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws, are superseding Mass Media as the predominate media from which billions of people receive news and information (and soon entertainment). These forms already are the predominate media used by people under the age of 35, and this switch to Individuated Media will spread to all age groups. And as Individuate Media replaces Mass Media as peoples’ predominate way of routinely accessing news, entertainment, and information, people will decreasingly visit and use Mass Media and traditional media packages, such as reading editions, staying tuned to any one network channel, or routinely visiting Mass Media companies’ websites.
Much as marketers affixed unnecessary decimal points to the terms Web 1 and Web 2, so too have they begun to misuse the term Web 3.
Web 3 is, as the unadulterated term obviously denotes, a third stratal era in Internet history. Some also call it the Semantic Web. The focus of Web 3 isn’t how media companies or even necessarily people produce, publish, or broadcast content, but how computers themselves process the wealth of information produced, published, and broadcast. People know, or have learned how to, carrying out searches for information. Yet computers themselves don’t. Web 3 is a collaborative effort by the World Wide Web Consortium, led by the inventor of the Web, to markup and program information so that it can be processed in complex and compound ways by computers assisting humans.
For example, if you were traveling to Timbuktu for a day on business during which you wanted to take a client to dinner, plus see if any of your other friends happened to be there that day and fit in some time for sightseeing beforehand, you could probably find the necessary information on the Web and through Social Media and make the arrangements. However, finding the best restaurant, finding who of your friends will be in Timbuktu that day, and finding what sights to see, would require multiple searches and likely different online services. What if instead you could simple speak or type into your computer, “Find the best Taureg restaurant in Timbuktu, make dinner reservations for two people there next Friday night; find who of my other friends is in Timbuktu that day and how to contact them; and find what the top things to see and do there earlier that day,” and your computer would do the rest, ultimately presenting you with an integrated list, schedule, and reservations to your tastes? That would be Web 3.
If Web 2 required more computing power plus easy-to-use software at economical costs, Web 3 will even more so. Yet the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws permit this. Web 3 will occur and soon.