Tag Archives: mass

New Media Chromodynamics – Part 1: Human Nature Augmented by Technology

Previous webpage: The Prism and New Media Chromodynamics

The ‘Greens’ — A New Gravity

When people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information switches from relative scarcity to surplus, each person naturally gravitates to whatever mix of items from the entire surplus, no matter what the mix of providers and methods of access, best fits that individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.

Since 2007, most of the New Media Business postgraduate courses I’ve taught at Syracuse University had been scheduled just prior to lunchtime. I thus found that the most compelling pedagogical metaphors and analogies I could use in front of characteristically hungry students involved food. Allow me use two to detail the single-sentence paragraph above.

Imagine that all your life you’ve been fed the same institutional or standardized lunch as every other person. This meal might consist of an entrée, a vegetable, and a beverage. Which entrée, vegetable, and beverage isn’t chosen by you but by a kitchen staff. One some days, this meal might contain some items that interest you, but on some other days little or nothing of it interest to you. However, you now have an alternative—a gargantuan buffet of entrées, vegetables, fruits, salads, breads, deserts, beverages, etc., from which you can select whatever you want, even if that means serving yourself. What would you likely do: continue to consume the institutional meal or use the buffet to select whichever items match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes? If you are like the vast majority of people (who have been known as the mass in the term Mass Media), you’ll likely forego that institutional meal and use the buffet, thereby finding a better mix of items that match your own unique needs, interests, and tastes than any institutional meal can provide. The desire to do so is human nature.

Still hungry before lunch? Imagine now that you and other people are walking into a grocery store.  As you and they enter, the store clerks stop all of you from browsing the shelves of the grocery store and instead hand each of you a bag. Each bag contains the same items that every other person in that store gets in their bag, items that are a selection which the store’s staff thinks are nutritional and might satisfy the greatest number of people. However, across the street is another grocery store that will let you browse its shelves, where you can pick and choose whichever items actually do satisfy your individual needs, interests, and tastes. Shopping at this other grocery store might initially take longer because you’ll initially need to find the shelf locations of the item you seek, although you’ll be able to remember where for future visits. Given the choice of shopping in either of these two grocery stores—one that doesn’t let you select the items you receive versus one which does—which of these two stores would you regularly use? If you’re like almost all people, you’ll choose to use the second grocery store because it lets you select items that much better match your own needs, interests, and tastes. Almost everyone prefers to make their own selections rather than simply accept what is institutional, standardized, or generic. This is what makes us individuals. Or as psychologists say, what individuates us. It is human nature.

Let’s now go to lunch about the effects of individuation on media contents. In the not-too-distant past, when you had no Internet access (how long ago depends upon your country), your only sources of daily-changing news, entertainment, and other information were (1) the daily newspaper (or perhaps you lived in a city where more than one newspaper was available); (2) between one to perhaps approximately 20 AM, FM, or MW radio stations receivable where you lived; and (3) one, two, three, or perhaps four television stations receivable there. Allow me to focus on the newspaper(s), although the effects are the same with broadcasters.

The newspaper was your only text source of international, national, regional, and local information about disasters, wars, fires, accidents, weather, politics, sports, business and finance, feature stories, horoscopes, crossword puzzles, and what products and services were on sale. However, it wasn’t produced specifically for you. When the staff of the newspaper decided which stories to select for publication in the daily edition, they choose those that they thought might either edify or satisfy the largest number of people in the locale where that newspaper is distributed. Depending upon the circulation size of the newspaper, its editors would select between approximately 20 and 100 stories from among the hundreds, or possible more than a thousand, stories that those editors received each day from their own journalists plus from newswire services and news syndicates to which that newspaper subscribed. They made their selection of stories not based upon your own individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes—they’d probably never met or knew you, but upon the general demographics of the community. They’ve produce and serve you a standardized or institutional selection, a bag of news containing items they hoped might edify or otherwise satisfy you. However, if you were like most people who read a newspaper, according to decades of surveys about such readers, you’d likely find only between five to 40 percent of the items that they’ve selected might match your needs, interests, and tastes on that day. That wasn’t a good match, but it was the only choice you had back then.

However, you now have an alternative: you have access to the Internet. Moreover, you probably have broadband access to it, maybe even wirelessly. It thus gives you virtually instant, ‘always-on’ access to the world’s largest buffet of news, entertainment, and other information. It not only gives you electronic access to your local newspaper’s stories but to those of all newspapers’, magazines’, radio and television stations’, and all other news organizations’ stories. The news ‘shelves’. It furthermore gives you access to the websites of corporations, governments, militaries, academia, and scientific and charitable organizations’ websites, plus to the world’s bloggers. You can soon discover that by browsing this informational supermarket or gargantuan buffet, you can find your owns selection of news, entertainment, and other information items that best match your own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.  If you are like the majority of people in developed countries, who now have such access at home, at work, and on the go, then you’ll likely reduce your usage of the standardized or institutionalized (i.e., general-interest) media that you’d previously used for news, entertainment, and other information—newspapers, news magazines, and general-interest broadcast stations—and instead visit many dozens of different websites, gathering a selection of stories and other items that much better match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes. This is human nature augmented by technology.

Moreover, thanks to Social Media applications, you’ll also be aided by your friends and acquaintances, people whose needs, interests, and tastes are likely more similar to your own than those of a stranger or a newspaper editor who you’ve never met. Your friends and acquaintances will too be hunting these information ‘shelves’ or ‘buffet’ and gathering items which might interest you just as its interest them, items you yourself might not have found stories.

Because you have these new alternatives for satisfying your needs, interests, and tastes, how you gravitate to news, entertainment, and other information changes. As billions of people now have such access and choices, this new gravitations is reshaping the media environment as resolutely as if changes physical gravity itself was. The ramifications of this new gravitation for media companies, their business models, products, and practices, and the ramifications of this new gravitation for academic theories and doctrines of media, are profound and permanent.

The media environment is transforming from a shape created by centuries of Mass Media, in which editors or producers made selections about which items might satisfy the masses of people, to a new shape formed by Individuated Media, in which the individuals once known as the masses themselves each their own selections of what satisfies them.

Unfortunately the ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ media industries of newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations operate production practices and business models based upon Mass Media theories and doctrines: selecting items they hope will satisfy large demographic or topical interests. Those production practices and business models are rapidly becoming obsolete, replaced by those of Individuated Media, a transition that is devastating those ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ industries.

People nowadays use the entire Internet (as well as their cable or satellite television systems, aided by digital video recorders) to hunt and gather their own individual daily selections of news, entertainment, and information: their daily ‘edition’, their daily ‘program schedule’, their daily music ‘album’, etc. Each person might visit between a handful to dozens of websites daily, and not necessarily always the same websites each day. The person will visit those on their own impetus or in response to hyperlinks they’ve seen elsewhere, such as on other websites, signage, or posted by their friends on Social Media networks.

Moreover, the average person might jump via hyperlink directly to a story on one website, then jump directly to another website, never actually seeing those websites’ home pages or any other webpages on those websites. Relatively shallow and infrequent usage of those websites results, thwarting ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ media companies’ attempts to motivate those visitors to use the entire website as the electronic equivalent of a printed selection of stories or a broadcast program schedule.

For example, among the nearly 60 million registered users of The New York Times’ website, the average user visits that premiere daily newspaper’s site only four to five times per month—a frequency equivalent to about once per week; and sees fewer than 28 stories in all those visits, rather than the hundreds which that newspaper published online during that time. (The New York Times thus effectively becomes a weekly, rather daily, newspaper to most users of its website.) Less prestigious newspapers receive even less frequent and thin usage online.

Moreover, because most people use such websites only infrequently and thinly, they certainly aren’t willing to pay to do so. After four years of multimillion dollar marketing efforts to get to users of its website to pay for access—no longer permitting non-paying users to access more than ten stories per month, The New York Times has been able to motivate only 990,000 of the websites nearly 60 million registered users to pay at least $15 per month. That’s a conversion rate of less than two percent, no more than what a single direct mail (i.e., ‘junk mail’) marketing campaign elicits in other industries.

Thus, two ways in which people’s new gravitation to media content now that they have surplus, rather than relatively scarce, access to news, entertainment, and other information, are that ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ forms of media—such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and networks, and other forms of Mass Media—are being used much less, even if placed online, and producers and vendors of those forms of media are no longer able to get consumers to pay for those contents. The new gravitation has reshaped the media environment making it hostile to Mass Media but phenomenally lucrative to the companies and industries founded upon Individuated Media.

Next webpage: Part 2 – the Core Limitation of Mass Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Maelstrom as the Media Flow Changes

Previous webpage: Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media.

A spectacularly obvious but remarkably little noticed aspect of the epochal change underway in the media environment is a reversal of the locus where contents are consumed.

By locus or loci, I don’t mean what prosaic place, such as an in an armchair or on a computer screen or at work or home. What I mean is whether the consumer must go to an edition or channel or other package of contents that a producer of contents has assembled or whether instead all the producers must offer their elements of contents to a place where the consumer himself selects and assembles the package of contents he consumes. The latter has begun to supersede the former, and the shock and turbulence of that change is one of several major forces that are sinking the traditional media industries. Those industries failed to predict this change, despite it being a quite predictable effect of people’s access and choices of contents switching from relative scarcity to surplus.

Here is a hallmark example of the reversal of loci, a change indeed in the flow of media. On the day I write this, approximately 936 million people will visit Facebook.com, and each will open his own ‘home’ page there, where he will see a stream of items posted there by friends who also use Facebook. Many, if not most, of those items will consist of hyperlinks to stories or photographs or videos or audio tracks that his friends either created themselves; or else found on the websites of either traditional content companies or third-parties; or else were placed there as a result of the user ‘Like’ing the Facebook ‘home’ page created by a company, organization, restaurant, team, school, government, political candidate, or other entity or person. All of these items on Facebook will consist of a hyperlinked headline, perhaps accompanied by a small graphic or photograph and perhaps prefixed by a comment from the friend who posted it there. If the use of Facebook ‘clicks’ the headline, the full version of that story or photograph or video or audio will appear in a hypertext browser window that pops into view. In other words, he will be on a specific webpage on the website of the company or person who published that story or photograph or video or audio. Once having consumed that story or photograph or video or audio, the user will very likely then close that browser window and continue reading the stream of items on his Facebook ‘home’ page. Most users of Facebook keep their ‘home’ page open for hours or else revisit it multiple times per day. (The only websites that get more frequent usage and traffic are those of search engines.) Moreover, the ‘home’ page stream of items that each of those nearly one billion people (i.e., the average number of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users who visit it daily) see will be entirely different than the ‘home’ page stream that every other users sees not only at that moment but ever.

You will note three things about this example:

First, this ‘home’ webpage becomes the user’s omnibus loci, his own turf in the media environment. Except perhaps from a search engine, it’s where he goes online daily and likely multiple times per day and for long durations. It’s his online place to communicate with his network of friends, see what they are doing and thinking, and share news, entertainment, and other information. It’s their most convenient gathering place online.

Second, this ‘home’ webpage is almost fully individuated. Rather than seeing the same stream of items that every one of the other 936 million daily users of Facebook see, the item stream that each individual sees is uniquely based upon his own selection of friends and ‘Like’d items. This aspect makes this omnibus webpage more attractive to this individual than any Mass Media webpage can ever be; its mix of items far better matches his needs, interests, and tastes. No Mass Media website provides him with so customized, even individuated, a mix of contents from all possible sources. Even the banner ads on this ‘home’ page are based upon his ‘Like’s and own past postings. (What prevents this ‘home’ page from being fully individuated is that the individual cannot alter the basic framework of the page nor explicitly modify the computerized algorithm governing it and its item stream: the degree to which users of a medium can influence the form or content of the computer-mediated environment.) This ‘home’ webpage becomes that individual’s own daily ‘edition’ or ‘channel’ to the Internet.

Third, this ‘home’ webpage thus largely eliminates its user’s needs to visit many, if not most, traditional media companies’ or other organizations’ websites and to search for stories there that might interest him. He may still directly visit some or many of those websites. However, he can instead now largely, and perhaps increasingly, rely upon his network of like-minded friends to visit those websites and bring interesting stories to his attention. The direct result is that he visits such other websites much less.

The overall result is that Facebook, Renren (283 million users), VK (formerly known as VKontake, 280 million users), Twitter (236 million users), and other high customized or virtually individuated website have very quickly proven to be the most popular media companies in the world. (It is important for media companies to realize that all these individuate Social Media services, although commercially viable, are still embryonic forms of Social Media and Individuated Media. Such services aren’t going to disappear this century but evolve into much more potent and efficient forms for both media consumers and media producers, primarily the former. And while it is true that the Social Media company itself might be said to control what media its users consumer, which some might construe to mean an intermediary company still controls the consumers, that proprietary role will cease to become tenable later this century as ongoing efforts to develop a viable Open Social Media protocol on the Internet come to fruition — an inevitability.)

This also is why such Individuated Media have begun superseding Mass Media as the predominant means why which people obtain and consumer news, entertainment, and other information. Traditional media executives or other who believe that the greatest change underway in the media environment is merely that people switching media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’  (or the more recent but parallel misconception that the greatest change is ‘desktop’ to ‘mobile’) have proverbially failed to see the forest because of all its trees. Consumers’ switch in consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ is superficial; the switch from Mass Media to Individuated Media is profound.

I ask my postgraduate students of New Media Business to examine two components of this profound switch: packaging and motility.

Who decides which item of media contents the consumer receives?

In Mass Media, the answer is the editor or producer or publisher or broadcaster. He selects items from his available inventory of contents and decides what stories, photos, audio recordings or songs, or videos comprise the edition, program, album, or performance. In other words, he decides what’s in the package. That specific selection is then delivered to everyone who subscribes or purchases or otherwise obtains that edition, program, album, or performance. This is the way that Mass Media has been even before the Industrial Revolution phenomenally extended Mass Media’s reach.  The producer, publisher, or broadcaster (or else their deputies) decides the selection of items, rather than the consumer himself. The one who vends decides for the many who consume. Some pundits call this ‘one-to-many’ media. It’s the Mass Media with which we and our ancestors grew up, before the rise of computerization created any viable alternative to it.

By contrast, Individuated Media allows each consumer to decide for himself what items are in the package of contents that he sees.  Software, either in his computerized device or else on an Internet service he visits, allows him access to an immensely wide inventory of content items from which he—rather than an editor or producer or broadcaster—can select what he wants. This inventory generally is not any one publisher’s or broadcaster’s or producer’s items, but items from many, most often a great many, and potentially all producers, publishers, and broadcasters, spanning all brands.  Plus, within the subcategory of Individuated Media known as Social Media, the consumer will also see items contributed by his friends and acquaintances, most of who will share many of the same needs, interests, and tastes as he. No daily edition or program or album or performance any Mass Medium company or alliance of Mass Media companies will be able to provide him with a selection of contents more focused on his needs, interests, and tastes. That inherent selection (‘packaging’) characteristic gives Individuated Media an overwhelming advantage over Mass Media.

Motility refers to who moves the most over the course of the transaction: the consumer of media or the producer of media. Although media producers obviously produce media contents and today distribute those contents to consumers, the facts are that throughout most of history consumers have needed to go to somewhere to obtain those contents, a need which has given the producers tremendous power of what, when, and how those contents have been consumed. The media producers’ power had once been absolute, but that absolute power began to slip out of their hands when technologies began reducing the motility required of consumers to obtain the contents.  This slippage in media producers’ power over consumers began slowly some 550 years ago, began to accelerate during the 20th Century, and reached a tipping point approximately ten years ago.

Briefly examine the history of media. Prior to the Industrial Age, it was oratory, poetry, music, and drama. Anyone who wanted to experience such had to go when to where it was produced and performed. Access and choices of media contents were scarce, a scarcity that gave its producers great power what, how, and when media contents were available and transacted. In the unlikely event that the consumer was literate and wanted to read a text, he’d have to make a pilgrimage to one of the world’s few libraries where he could read a cuneiform tablet or papyrus scroll or ask a scribe to make a copy for him. Even when books were invented 1,600 (China) to 1,200 (Europe) years ago, books were scarce and had to be copied by hand. Unless an emperor, king, cardinal, or bishop, the consumers had to go to where the media contents were, not vice versa.

However, producers began to lose their nearly absolute control of media when some 550 years ago the moveable-type printing press was invented. That technology could quickly easily produce multiple copies of texts (including musical notations). Choices of textual content stopped being very. Moreover, consumers soon didn’t have to go directly to the printer to purchase a copy, but could begin obtaining texts from booksellers and other intermediaries; plus, libraries became more numerous. As printing technologies advanced, printing different editions daily became possible, leading to development of newspapers and magazines. As those became more numerous and economical to publish, editions could be delivered directly to offices or homes, virtually eliminating the need for their consumers to go anywhere to consume those, thus greatly reducing the motility involved in the transaction.

The invention of audio recording technologies around 140 years ago added the sounds of music, drama, oratory, or instruction to the types of media contents. Consumers no longer had to go to theaters, music halls, or public places to consume audio contents; they could at home consume recordings of such contents. The end of 19th Century saw the invention of cinema, which added moving visual contents (visual recordings of theater, news, and travel from around the globe) which consumers could consume without going any further than their local cinema theater.  The 20th Century brought first the invention of audio broadcasting, which gave consumers the ability to experience live (and later pre-recorded) audio contents without even needing to leave their homes or offices, and then the invention of television technologies, which added visual contents to the convenience of that reduced motility.

All these media technologies of the Industrial Era greatly increased media consumers’ access and choices of contents, shifting the balance of control somewhat towards them and less in the hands of media producers; although the latter group certainly still controlled when media contents became available, how those were packaged, for what prices, etc.  That was also true during the first ten after the Internet was opened to consumer usage (the Web 1 era): consumers still had to go to media producers’ website to obtain the contents there. Using those websites required motility by the consumers.

Yet media producers control over those all those factors wouldn’t last. By the beginning of the new millennium, the ever accelerating pace of technologies brought the balance of power between media producers and media consumers to cross a tipping point.

Thanks to Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws, the majority of consumers in post-industrial countries gained broadband access and began using it ‘always-on’ characteristics, which radically changed how much and how often they utilize the Internet.  Moreover, the advancements of those same technological laws began radically reducing the costs and difficulties of the hardware and software for consumers to create and publish or broadcast their own contents in multimedia online and made all that easy-to-user.  Millions of individuals began publishing their own personal websites. As those laws’ continued advancing, turnkey online publishing software and hosted sites (such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Tumblr.com, etc.) were created, with hundreds of millions of people blogging. Simultaneously, turnkey Social Media services (such Facebook, VKontakte, Renren, Twitter, etc.) were developed for people who didn’t want to operate an entire website or blog but just wanted their own ‘home’ page with which to express themselves, share content with friends, and individuatedly aggregate and ease all their online needs.

Gone are the days when consumers had to visit theaters, scribes, printers, booksellers, newsstands, or kiosks to obtain media content. It not only now comes to them instead of them to it, but they can now get the item of contents from all sources and vendors in one locus, one ‘portal’, their own ‘home’ page on an Individuated Media service.  Consuming media via individuated services requires virtually zero motility, just view your own, almost constantly opened and present, ‘home’ page. Rather than the consumers having to go to every edition, program, album, or performance, whatever items they individually want within those pages come to them. The consumers used to flow to the producer’s package of contents, but now the producers must flow to each consumer’s own unique package of content. The direction has reversed: rather than consumers flowing to the content producers’ edition, programs, albums, or performances, the pertinent items in those packages flow to the consumers.

This reversal in flow, entropic motility, and switch in who assembles the package of contents that each consumers sees are all predictable results of people’s access and supply of contents having shifted from relative scarcity to surplus. Such shifts aren’t unique only to media, but are normal whenever the supply of something consumed shifts from scarcity to surplus.  As people’s access and choices of contents has switched from scarcity to surplus, the balance of power between media producers and media consumers has likewise shifted, giving the consumers more power, which reduces their need to go where each individual media company wants them to go (i.e., a newsstand, kiosk, website, broadcast channel, etc.) to obtain contents that were packaged the way that that company choses.

The swiftness of this reversal in flow is causing massive turbulence throughout the media environment, a maelstrom which the traditional media industries failed to foresee, a catastrophic oversight which will sink most traditional media companies during the next ten years. Those industries’ myopic misperception that the major change underway is simply a change in consumers’ media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ augmented their failure. During the nearly 20 years in which traditional media companies have published on the World Wide Web (plus an earlier ten years in which some published on proprietary online services), the contents they placed online were still the contents of their Mass Media printed editions or broadcast programs. They simply shoveled those traditional packages into online, packages (now called ‘web editions’) in which the publishers, editors, broadcasters, or producers choose which items of content all recipient consumers will simultaneously receive. Those years of producing traditional ‘analog’ packages now in ‘digital’ formats lulled them into believing that such production and packaging practices would continue to be pertinent forever. Thus, now that the technological advancements of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws led to the rise of Individuated Media, those traditional media companies’ production practices and business models are not only ill-suited to the future but the companies are even more flummoxed, having thought that online was merely a ‘digital’ version of their traditional ‘analog’.

In this new world in which billions of consumers have begun receiving each of their own customized or individuated packages of items from many, most, and soon all content producers’ itemized feeds, traditional media companies that each instead produce uncustomized or unindividuated packaged of items in which they, not the consumers, choose the mix of selections, will ever increasingly find themselves left out. Their business practices and business models practices aren’t tooled for the right production, packaging, and transaction in a world in which the content items in aggregate are now worth more than the producer’s package of content items as a whole.

Individuated Media have fundamentally and forever changed how media content is created and consumed, an epochal change in the direction in which people expect their news, entertainment, and information to flow. This flow moreover will be an integral aspect of the Semantic Web (‘Web 3’, the so-called ‘Web 3.0’) during the 2020s.

Next webpage: Why Web 3 will Sink Traditional Media Industries

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media

Previous webpage: Social Media and Early Platforms for Individuation.

Many media executives and media academicians inadvertently conflate the differences between the terms personalization, customization, and individuation. The terms differ in meaning. Here is a primer about correct usage:

Personalization is a form of address or motif. Let’s imagine that your first name is John. You receive an unsolicited commercial postal letter (i.e., ‘junk mail’) that begins with ‘Dear John’ and that tries to entice you to purchase a product or service. Meanwhile, untold thousands of other people also receive the same unsolicited commercial letter, except that theirs begins with ‘Dear Susanne’ if their name is Susan or ‘Dear Mark’ if their name is market or ‘Dear Judy’ if their name is Judy, etc. That is a personalized letter. It’s a mass mailing of nearly identical content to thousands of people, with the only differences between the letters being that salutation in each uses its recipient’s name. Likewise, you might have or could receive a personalized gift such as a key fob embossed with your initials, or cuff links engraved with your initials, or golf balls on which your initials have been printed. Those gifts are basically identical gift that thousands of other people might have received, except for the initials.  These are examples of personalization, the hallmark of which is mass production of otherwise identical products, on each of which a recipient’s name or initials. The practice of personalization began mainly in the final century of the Industrial Era, when Mass Marketers began to realize that personalized (or customized or individuated) products are more attractive than impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price. Online products that use mere personalization aren’t per se innovative but merely online repurposing of marketing practices much older than their online producers. Although some might claim this is New Media, there is nothing new about it.

Customization differs from personalization in that some or much of the substance of what is received, not just its salutation, was specifically designed for that individual’s specific needs, interests, and tastes. This almost always starts with a common product that is then adjusted, generally by adding or removing parts or components, for whomever is to receive it. An off-the-rack dress that then is adjusted by a tailor for the purchaser’s body is an example. A home kitchen that is designed for that home owner, but which uses ready-made cabinets and mass-produced appliances, is another. Or a row of identical new homes, each of which is painted a color which that individual home’s new owner chooses, is another. Degrees of customization span a spectrum bordered on one end by personalization and on the other end by individuation. Customized products have existed for existed throughout the Industrial Era, if not earlier.

Individuation involves products that from the onset were specifically designed, or have immediately evolved to, the recipient individual’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. A bespoke suit or dress. A house designed and built to serve a specific individual. A sculpture fabricated for an individual purpose. Those are individuated, in contrast to merely personalized or customized, products. The term individuation comes from Jungian psychology in which it denotes the process by which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. In media, the term is used to describe the production of a product that is uniquely differentiated from any other according to its recipient’s individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. Individuated products have existed since the beginning of tool-making humanity.

Many, if not most, Mass Media executives and mass marketers nowadays mistakenly use the terms personalization or personalized when they instead mean customization or customized.

Furthermore, the respective lengths of time in which people have been producing personalized, customized, and individualized products are counter-intuitive.  Humans have always had individuated products, starting with the first flint knives during the Neolithic Era. Customized products predate the Industrial Era, perhaps dating from hand-copied books, each of which might have been embellished with calligraphic designs and illustrations designed to fit its individual owners interests and tastes. Yet personalized products do date from the Industrial Era because the underlying basis of those are mass produced.

What has changed now that the Informational Era has begun is that individuated products can now be mass-produced.

Nevertheless, a trichotomy (three-part division) appears when the limitations of media during the Agrarian, Industrial, and Informational eras are examined:

  1. The primary mode of communications that existed during the During the Agrarian Era, (as well as earlier during prehistoric times, was Interpersonal. This is the aboriginal mode of communications, arising were basic animal communications, and predate humans and their technologies. It evolved into human language(s) in the form of human conversation. The Interpersonal mode is still the most basic and common medium of communication. Technologies have increased its speed and reach, via such vehicles as postal letters, telephone calls, electronic mail, text messaging (SMS), etc. The hallmark characteristics of the Interpersonal mode of media are that each participant has equal and reciprocal control of the content conveyed and that the content can be individualized to each participant’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. However, that equal control, as well as individualization of the content, degrades into cacophony as the number of participants increases beyond two. Although some marketers nowadays mistakenly refer to any online media as ‘one-to-one’ media, the only truly one-to-one modes of media are Interpersonal mode, such as those listed in the middle of this paragraph. A website that is communication with many users simultaneously is obviously engaged in ‘one-to-many’ communications.
  2. A second mode of communications also developed during prehistoric times and the Agrarian Era was the Mass I disagree with most media academicians that Mass Media originated during the Industrial Era; I use a much stricter definition of a mass. Mass Media predates mass production and even all technologies. The earliest forms of mass communications were the utterances and speeches of tribal leaders, kings, and priests. They communicated directly with their masses. Like the Interpersonal mode, the Mass mode isn’t necessarily dependent upon technology. For example, an actor or speaker can perform directly before a mass audience without any technologies. What technologies have done is extend the speed and reach of the Mass mode of communications. Forms of the Mass mode include oratory, sermons, edicts, scriptures, theater, books, newspapers, billboards, magazines, cinema, radio, television, bulletin boards, most webpages and streaming media. The Mass mode generally conveys content from a single person’s viewpoint (the orator, the actor, the author, the broadcaster, etc.) to many people simultaneously. Thus, the hallmark characteristics of the Mass mode are that exactly the same content goes to all recipients simultaneously and that the one who sends it has total control over the nature and substance of that content. The disadvantages of the Mass mode is that its communications cannot be individualized to each recipient’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and that the recipients have no control over that content.Note that the Interpersonal and the Mass modes have reciprocal advantages and disadvantages. For millennia until recently, people were limited to only those two modes of media. A person could communicate customized or individualized contents but generally just to one person at any time. Or else the person could communicate to many people simultaneously but not customize or individualize the contents for each individual recipient. There was no way to deliver truly individualized contents to many people simultaneously. That dilemma of media and marketing—customization/individuation versus reach—existed for millennia.
  3. Yet technology has not shattered that dilemma. The rise of computerization has made it possible to produce mass customization or mass individuation. This is the Individuated It combines the advantage of the Interpersonal and Mass modes but without their reciprocal disadvantages. The hallmark characteristics of Individuated mode is that highly customized or truly individualized contents can simultaneously be delivered to a potentially infinite number of people and that the consumer and the producer shares equal and equal or reciprocal control over those contents. Unlike the Interpersonal or Mass modes, the Individuated mode is entirely dependent upon technology, which is why it arose quite recently. It arose only during the Informational Era.[4]

Much as media and marketing companies have learned that personalized contents are more attractive to people than otherwise impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price and that customized products are even more attractive, it becoming obvious that truly individuated products are the most attractive.

Individuation is the true definition of the New Media plus a key to the future of marketing. For too many media executives, marketers, and academicians, the phrase New Media has become conflated and confused. Some use it simply as the combination of an adjective and a plural noun: there are new media. Online media are new media at the turn of the millennium, just as the telegraph and telephone were new media during the 1800’s. In that usage of the phrase, the meaning of New Media simply becomes a matter of chronology and those media to which it refers were be new media and then not new media. This meaning shouldn’t be capitalized: it should merely be new media rather than New Media. The meaning of New Media as capitalize must be more distinct and refer to a mode or a hallmark characteristic or attribute that is distinct from merely the passage of time or any past, present, or future technologies that eventually become historically ephemeral. That is why the definition of New Media mustn’t be tied to semaphore flags or telegraphs or radio or television or digital transmissions or electronic computers or any other technology that could obsolesce and become ephemeral in history.

For those reasons, I state that the definition of New Media is an entirely new mode of communications in which highly customized or even individuated contents can be delivered simultaneously to a potentially infinite number and that these consumers and the producers of the contents share equal or reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of those contents. This differs from Interpersonal Media (conversation, postal letter, telegraph, telephony, text messaging, etc.), in which both parties share equal and reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of the contents but in which the number of people to whom the contents can be communicated without cacophony is limited (normally no more than two and practically no more than a congress), and from Mass Media (oratory, edict, scripture, theater, book, billboard, newspaper, magazine, cinema, radio, television, most webpages, etc.), in which the producers of the contents hold virtually total control over the nature of the contents and preponderant control over the transactions of those contents.

As civilization evolves, it inevitably reaches a technological level at which communication that has mass reach but also simultaneous customization or individuation of that communication becomes possible. That level has been reached, a new era of communications begun.

Next webpage: The Maelstrom as Flow Changes

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Why Web 3 Will Sink Traditional Media

Previous webpage: The Malestrom as Flow Reverses

Much like how marketers affixed unnecessary decimal points to the terms Web 1 and Web 2, they’ve begun to misuse the term Web 3.  Some term Web 3 (or ‘Web 3.0’) to be anything they happen to be doing, attempts to cloak themselves somehow in an aura of cutting-edge trendiness. However, Web 3 does have an actual definition.

Web 3 is a third stratal era in Internet history. Another term for it is the Semantic Web. It is stratal because its technology is built atop the earlier Web 1’s and Web 2’s eras technologies: earlier technologies that provided Web publishing and Web broadcast (Web 1) and then abilities of anybody to publish or broadcast online as easily (Web 2) as could large organizations during the Web 1 era. It is stratal just as Jurrasic geologic era’s stratum lays atop those of the Triassic and Permian geologic era’s strata.

Web 3 will be semantic because its technologies focus on how computers and other machines find, understand, and process information, rather than how humans do those things. For examples, people using Web 1 and Web 2 technologies know how to find, understand, and process information online, but the computers themselves don’t.

The example I teach in class is to imagine that you plan to travel to New York City overnight for 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. You could probably find online all the information necessary make those plans and arrangements. However, you’d need to visit multiple different websites and Social Media services, then coordinate the information you find there. What if instead you could simple speak or type into your computer…

 “Find a convenient and relative inexpensive airfare from here to New York City’s airports. Make an overnight hotel reservation at one of the types of hotels I like. Arrange round-trip transportation between the airport and the hotel. Find the best Italian restaurant in Manhattan and make dinner reservations for two people there at a time convenient for me and my client. See if any of my friends are in Manhattan that day. And find time in my schedule to see the Statue of Liberty.”

…and your computer would find and coordinate all that information (even checking with your client’s and your friends’ computers) and present it to you for your approval? That is Web 3, an era when our computers and computerized devices understand the semantics of what we want them to do. Your computer acts as an intelligent assistant or concierge for you, rather than as a mere information machine.

In 2001, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web’s continued development, wrote a seminal article in Scientific American magazine explaining the concept. Work has been underway ever since and more needs to be done. Semantic Web coding however, already underlies websites on more than 4 million Web domains.

For the Semantic Web to operate, information needs to be accompanied by such underlying code about the information (in other words, data about the data, which is called metadata). Moreover, what information that the Semantic processes isn’t the ‘Web edition’ or other online version of a printed media edition or a broadcast program, but the actual items of contents that make up those traditional packages. When a Semantic Web device proposes a coordinated itinerary for your trip to New York City, it doesn’t say, ‘Here is the airline’s complete schedule, look at it. Here is a list of Italian restaurants, look at it. Etc.’ It is more specific and articulate that than, which is what you really want from it.

There are some minor differences between the exact definitions of Web 3 and the Semantic Web. However, those differences are almost entirely ones of scale. For example, major appliance companies are developing refrigerators that can sense what foods they store. These refrigerators can sense and record highly inexpensive radio frequency identification (RFID) chips printed onto the foodstuffs’ price tags. The refrigerators can then inform the homeowner or cook about what refrigerated foods might be beyond spoil dates, what staple refrigerated foods have been expended, and what recipes can be made from the foodstuffs stored. These Web 3 technologies, aspects of the ‘Internet of Things’, don’t deal with people or understand information as quite intelligently as do full Semantic Web technologies, but nonetheless are built upon the same technological foundations: semantic encoding.

Traditional media companies that aren’t encoding Semantic Web code (more than just Web search keywords) into all of their stories and other items or broadcasts won’t survive the rise of this era. Likewise, those media companies that focus more on the production and the distribution of the editions or programs or albums (or other package of information) rather than on the production and the distribution of the individual elements that comprise those traditional packages. All Semantic Web services are highly-customizable or even individuated for their consumers. The content items in aggregate are now worth more than the producer’s package of content items as a whole. So, any traditional media company that hopes to be distribution items of content in Semantic Web era needs to radically alter its production and distribution systems and business models.

The initial step for such companies is to employ someone who has practical expertise in coding content for the Semantic Web and has theoretical expertise in individuating contents. Web 3 in general and the Semantic Web in particularly depend upon content providers utilizing standard Dublin Core metadata or approved industrial variants, something that only about one percent of media companies today use. Google, most of the international news services (except the Associated Press), and most of the world’s scientific publishers, and most of the world’s consumer electronic device manufacturers and software manufacturers already use Dublin Core extensible Markup Language (XML) to process, distribute, and display information. All media companies that want to survive the next ten years must.

Now, let’s focus specifically on how the all the colossal changes underway that are ultimately caused by Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws are affecting how people use media and the media industries. Go to the next chapter in this.

Next webpage: The Spectrum of Change

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 © 2015

Social Media and Other Early Platforms for Individuation

Previous webpage: The Rise of Search Engines Heralds Individuated Media

Since the new millennium began, billions of people have discovered a more practical way to obtain a customized supply of news, entertainment, and other information than manually using search engines or revisiting numerous favorite or ‘bookmarked’ websites to see if anything there is new. They discovered a 21st Century version of something known since Neolithic times: that hunting and gathering is much more efficient when done by groups of peoples. Find yourself people who have similar—not necessarily identical, but similar enough—needs, interests, and tastes as you do, then hunt and gather those things as a group. You all will cover more ground, make far more discoveries, and obtain a great supply of the things you need or want than if you alone hunted and gathered. That ancient description also describes 21st Century Social Media. It is a description upon which human society and civilization was built.

The rise of Social Media has provided more than 1.5 billion people with a more practical and automatic way to obtain a customized supply of news, entertainment, and other information than constantly using search engines or revisiting numerous websites. Social Media allows them to network with people who have similar — not necessarily identical, but similar enough—needs, interests, and tastes as they do; people who, if this were Neolithic times, might be their hunting and gathering network. (Of course, each Social Media member’s group will have a unique set of members, unlike a unitary tribe of Neolithic hunters/gatherers.) When a member of the group makes a discovery, he shares it with all the others in his group. Social Media involves not just collaborative filtering of information, but collaborative discovery and acquisition of information. For the billions of people who use Social Media, these methods have greatly reduced the labor of themselves searching for much of the contents that interest them. These methods provide them with a much more richly customized mix of contents than any common package (such as a Mass Media edition or program or program schedule) can provide to them. As a result, Social Media have rapidly superseded Mass Media in post-industrial countries as the predominant ways in which people under age 35 obtain news, much other information, and quite a bit of entertainment, a trend that is spreading as people’s access and choices of contents likewise changes from relative scarcity to surplus.

Among the many Social Media that have arisen, Facebook is major example of Individuated Media’s popularity and displacement of Mass Media. Facebook has 1.4 billion monthly users, including more than 980 million use the service daily. Surveys of Facebook users under the age 35 indicate that it has become one of their leading initial sources of news about the world around them. (Among its users of all ages In Arab-speaking countries, Facebook has become a paramount source of news).

Although almost all practitioners of Mass Media and academicians who teach those media now perceive the rise of Social Media, most still tend to mistake Social Media as just consumer-generated, computer-mediated forums which are auxiliary to Mass Media. In other words, they think Social Media are merely online forums in which topics culled from Mass Media are discussed. Moreover, some traditionalists in the media industries don’t consider Facebook, or other Social Media service companies, to be media companies at all because Social Media companies don’t create any of the contents that Social Media users see. (That’s an odd disqualification, because those traditionalists do consider magazines such as Reader’s Digest or the Utne Reader to be media companies, despite those magazines creating little or none of the contents within their pages.)

By any measurement, Facebook is a media company.  With one-fifth of the world’s population using it, this 11-year old company’s service clearly has mass scale. Only two traditional media company approach such massive reach.. In the People’s Republic of China, a nation in which only the national and local governments broadcast television, the 45 television channels of the national government’s China Central Television (CCTV) reaches a population (1.35 billion) almost as large as the total number of Facebook’s monthly users. However, CCTV’s market share has dropped by one-quarter during the past ten years as an increasing number of Chinese consume online videos from other sources. Furthermore, CCTV’s single most popular show, the once-a-year CCTV New Year’s Gala, reached only 91 percent of China’s people last year. The Western media company that closest approaches Facebook’s mass scale is the United Kingdom’s national British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) whose television and radio programs in 28 languages reach approximately 350 million people worldwide. Facebook clearly has more mass reach and scale than any Mass Media company in the world.

Moreover, Facebook’s business model is a media one. It sells advertising space to companies that want to reach large numbers of consumers; it competes directly with traditional Mass Media companies. Moreover, when measured by Facebook users’ consumption of contents, it is certainly a media company. The topics of contents that a plurality, if not a majority, Facebook consumer, are news, entertainment, and other types contents that traditionally only Mass Media companies produced. A crucial difference with Facebook is that its users also consume those topics from each other and from other sources that aren’t Mass Media companies, such as bloggers, uploaded videos, and many other forms of consumer-generated contents both on Facebook and from outside it. Measured by consumption, Facebook is the largest media company in human history.

Yet it isn’t a Mass Media service, despite it reaching a gargantuan mass of people, selling advertising as a media business model, and a having significant portion of the contents is user consumer being what had traditionally have been purveyed by only Mass Media companies, Facebook, like indeed all Social Media companies, is a manifestations Individuated Media, the opposite of Mass Media. Social Media companies are Individuated Media companies.

The characteristic hallmark of Mass Media, besides its eponymous mass reach, is that all users of a Mass Media product simultaneously receive the same package of its contents. However, each of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users sees a different package of contents than every other Facebook user simultaneously sees. This mix of contents unique for every user. What each user of Facebook sees is entirely based upon what he has previously designated to ‘like’ (i.e., specifics in musical artists, actors, books, movies, brands, products, periodicals, broadcasts) and upon what that individual’s own probably unique mix of friends has posted onto Facebook. Even the advertising he sees is individuated to him. Moreover, each user is able at any time to alter that mix of contents as he sees fit. And no publisher or broadcaster has control over that mix of contents. The only things that all Facebook users see simultaneously are the controls they use to make those alterations.

Individuated Media are any forms of communications in which people obtain news, entertainment, and other information, based upon their own individual needs, interests, and tastes, rather than obtaining exactly the same package of news, entertainment, and other information that other individuals receive. The mix of contents that each of them receives is based upon that person as a unique individual and not as a member of a demographic. Although the initial mix of contents might be based a demographic of that individual and might subsequently include as a factor a behavioral analysis of that individual’s ongoing active consumption of contents, the individual always has the capability at any time to alter, partially or completely, the ongoing mix of contents he receives.

In contrast to Mass Media, Individuated Media are interactive. Many practitioners of Mass Media and too many academicians of Mass Media inadvertently conflate the terms digital and interactive, mistakenly believing that any digitally transmitted communications is interactive. Whenever a Mass Media company’s package of contents is placed online, there is very little interactive about it except the allowance by publisher or broadcaster to permit the user to choose which webpage and the options to hear any audio or see any video or animations embedded or linked to that page. Moreover, the Mass Media company staff unilaterally decided the mix of contents in that package that all users see or hear. It is a one-way process: the media company staff packages the same set of contents that all users simultaneously see and the users can choose what parts of that set of contents to see. The publisher or broadcaster otherwise possesses full control over the mix of contents with which the user is presented.

By contrast, Individuated Media companies and the user share equal control over the mix of contents with which the user is presented. No matter whether the Individuated Media company has a finite and closed inventory of contents (such as Facebook) or a virtually infinite one (such as Google or Baidu), the user can at any time alter or completely change the contents with which he is presented, regardless of his demographics or previous behavior.

Indeed, the academically and technologically accepted meaning of interactive was defined by Dr. Jonathan Steuer (later one of the founders of Wired.com) in a 1992 article entitled Defining virtual realities: Dimensions determining telepresence in the Journal of Communications :

Interactivity is the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real time. Interactivity in this sense is distinct from engagement or involvement as these terms are frequently used by communication researchers. [Italicizations from the original.]

Providing a package of contents (i.e., edition or program or program schedule) which the user cannot alter at will is not interactive (moving from one webpage to another isn’t alteration). Many Mass Media executives whose company repurpose online their printed edition’s or broadcasts’ contents might argue that what they provide is interactive because they allow users to choose which webpage to select from within a finite set of webpages that they provide simultaneously to all users. However, that is as interactive as publishing a printed book and claiming that its physical pages are interactive because the reader is able to select which of its pages to read. By contrast, true interactivity has two characteristics.

If the contents are print or still photographs, true interactivity allows the user the capability to exceed any finite selection of contents that a media company might otherwise provide to all users simultaneously. In other words, it can provide all the stories from which a Mass Media company’s editors selected to provide to everyone at that time. For instance, the average daily newspaper in the United States receives at least a dozen, if not dozens of, stories from its own journalist plus hundreds of stories from news services and syndicates, all stories submitted for publication; yet the editor normally select only a subset of all those stories to include in the package they provide to all readers that day. A truly interactive service would allow the readers themselves to select from among all the stories submitted for publication, not just those the editors selected.  Or, in the case of broadcasting (a term which would be a misnomer in Individuated Media), if the contents are video, animation, or other forms of motion story-telling, true interactivity would allow the user the capability to alter the flow or outcome of the story told, within the parameters possible. For examples, a cinematic motion picture is not interactive, but a video game is.

When the Web 2 era began providing consumer-generated contents online, it vastly increased the possible inventory of contents available to Individuated Media. For examples, virtually every Mass Media company limit the contents that its users can see to contents created by that Mass Media company plus contents which the company receives from only other companies (such as wire services and syndicates) which the Mass Media company has licensed or otherwise contracted. By contrast, users of Individuated Media companies generally have access to all available contents online; any individual, blog, organization, company, or other party can freely contribute contents, without prior permission of that Individuated Media company. The only exceptions for that are the nature contents be within the guidelines of the Individuated Media company (such as no pornography, etc.)

Several Individuated Media services that aren’t Social Media have arisen since the turn of the millennium. Most of these provide musical content, but some newer ones provided text stories and photos. Pandora Radio, last.fm, and several others provide customized music services to users. The selections within the musical stream that a user hears are based upon that user’s own preferences of musical genres and artists. Moreover, those services use a form of collaborative filtering to play other selections that the user might not have pre-selected or expected but that the user might enjoy based upon his preferences. These individuated music services have become phenomenally popular. For example, Pandora Radio, whose number of user is growing 20 percent annually, has more than 150 million users worldwide, of which more than 80 million listen ‘regularly’. That is more any single music radio station in the world and more than seven times that of the most popular Mass Media radio company, Sirius XM Radio.

The trend towards individuation of services is beginning to spread throughout the media industries. Flipboard is a individuated service that provides its users with a customized selection of textual and photographic contents based upon each users choices of traditional content providers (such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters), newer providers (such as major blogs), and from the selections that the user’s friends using Flipboard. The result is a customized magazine for that user, with contents that can change in real-time. I’ve also encountered entrepreneurs who plan to launch individuated video services, which would provide users with customized cinematic and television (plus videos uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video repositories) contents based upon each users preferences of genres, actors, plots, locations, etc.

Because these individuated music or text/photograph services provide copyrighted contents from traditional Mass Media companies, they license those contents and thus aren’t able to provide unlimited selections of items to their users. Nevertheless, their licensing efforts grow ever more successful as their user numbers grow. Pandora Radio, for examples, has already licensed more than 800,000 musical tracks from more than 80,000 artists.

The algorithmic form of collaborative filtering that these music or text/photography services use to provide unexpected items to each users which that user did not predesignate involves (a) recording all selections that that user predesignated plus others that he subsequently ‘liked’, (b) finding other users who made the same combination of predesignations and ‘likes’, (c) finding any additional musical items or text/photograph pages that those users predesignated or ‘liked’ that the user hasn’t heard, and (d) streaming those additional items or pages to that user as suggestions or recommendations. This algorithmic form of collaborative filtering is different from the organic form of collaborative filtering used in Social Media, in which the user’s choices of friends and acquaintances, rather than a computerized algorithm, provide additional items they like, suggest, or recommend. Such methods of algorithmic collaborative filtering also provide the ability for serendipitous discovery by the user, much as if an editor or friend suggested something the user hadn’t known or might never have discovered had he been provided only with the categories or genres of contents that he predesignated or preselected.

Individuated Media services have become wildly popular tapping a latent need that Mass Media couldn’t satisfy: providing each of their users with a mix of contents that more precisely matches that user’s needs, interests, and tastes. These services have begun making Mass Media companies’ general-interest editions or programs obsolete because none of those editions or programs can match that mix. The decline of Mass Media in the post-industrial countries reflects the rise of Individuated Media in those countries.

However wildly popular, all current forms of Individuated Media, such as search engines, Social Media, and the types of services that Pandora Radio, Flipboard, and similar companies provide, these are inchoate forms of Individuated Media and will be rapidly evolving in future years as their developers refine their algorithms, increase their inventories of available contents, and as technology advances into the era of the Semantic Web (‘Web 3’).  The prime flaw of all current Social Media is that they are proprietary systems; ‘closed-source’ systems in that a person who is a customer of one Social Medium service can’t access or interact with friends or contents on another Social Medium. However, there are many technological precedents during the past 20 years — the triumph of the open-source Internet over proprietary online services such as Minitel, Prodigy, CompuServe, America Online, etc.; the rise of open-source Linux as a viable alternative to server software from Apache, Microsoft, etc.; and other examples — which might indicate that ‘open-source’ solutions are likely to be developed and replace these proprietary Social Media services. Although more than eight years’ work by the OpenSocial movement’s work to do so hasn’t succeeded and has retracted its scope, the century is still early.

Whatever the pace of development, Individuated Media is likely to succeed Mass Media worldwide because Individuated Media can provide a more satisfying mix of contents to people than any Mass Media newspaper, magazines, or broadcast can. The gargantuan success of Social Media, Pandora Radio, Flipboard, and other services in less than a dozen years illustrates that.

Next webpage: Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media.

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015