Friday, February 02, 2007

An Internet By the People, For the People…

A bit of musing today…

Back in the early, heady days of the ‘net, many people talked about how it was “the great equalizer”, and how it would “democratize the world”. Not so much in terms of rulers and politics, but more in terms of people interacting with people in ways that sidestepped traditional power structures.

As the web and other peripheral technologies grow, people get access to more and more media and information. And with that access comes opportunity.

It was said before that there is only freedom of the press for those that own presses. If you didn’t own a print shop, or if you couldn’t afford to pay someone else to print your material, your voice and opinions stopped. Alternatively, you could go to journalism school, and after years as a cub or beat reporter, finally get a chance to be an editorial columnist. Of course, you could just write letters to the editor, but who knows if they’d get published? That wasn’t up to you!

Now, if you have access to a computer, you can make a blog and share your opinions, experiences and beliefs with anyone that can find you and wants to read you!

When I first started making music, to record a song cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in a studio. Then, you’d have to pay more thousands of dollars to press a few hundred copies of the record you’d made. Then they sat in your basement because nobody knew they were available to buy. Alternately, you could practice a lot, get noticed and signed by a major record label and have them record and promote you. Not a big chance of that, right?

But now, I can record my songs on my computer in my basement. I can put those songs out to the whole world from my website. With my own promotional effort and savvy, I can get my tunes in the ears of people from, literally, all over the world.

The same thing is now happening in the world of video. Video production is, by its very nature, even more difficult and expensive than music production, and way more so that simply writing. And once your show is done, what are you going to do with it? Is the local TV station going to put it on at 2:00 in the morning? Only if you pay them to!

But now, with the advent of YouTube and other video hosting sites, you can shoot a funny looking video clip with your cell phone, and within minutes it could be downloaded, and bring a smile to, a kid in Singapore or Russia! And it can be found just as easily by a friend next door.

It used to be that to set up a business you needed to buy, build, or lease a building in a great location. You needed to staff it, wire it, and heat it. You needed to fill it up with products that you bought up front. You needed to buy lots of advertising and hope that people from all over town would come in and buy from you.

Now, forget about the building, and forget about the overhead. Put up a website, get some product sources (rather than the products themselves), and start selling! Yes, it still takes work, and yes, it still takes investment of time and/or money in promotions and advertising. But now, you can bring people from all over the country to your store, maybe even from all over the world.

So, what’s happening is that the power is shifting. Old systems and traditions are falling away. It’s getting harder to sell a music CD, for example. Even legal downloads are cheaper and easier than that. Newspapers are faltering. People are reading their news at RSS-fed portals. Radio? Streaming music sites! Why stress over missing your favorite TV show, or struggle to figure out how to TiVO it when you can just download it whenever you want? You can watch it on your iPod, or even plug your iPod or media player right into your TV and watch it the same way!

See, what’s happening is that people still want the same things. They still want news, they still want songs and shows. They still want to buy things. What’s changing is how those things are being provided. And, what's also changing is who is providing them. The old power players are being undermined by ordinary people putting out great content. They no longer hold the monopoly any more.

So, what end of that curve do you want to be on? Do you want to be a part of the old guard that’s fading out, or do you want to learn how to provide the same old stuff in a brand new way? To be a part of the new wave, you’ve got to keep informed, you’ve got to keep scanning the horizon and watching trends. Some will come and go as flashed fads. Others will stay and make a change. If you ignore them all, you get left behind.

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