11.21.2008

Creativille (slight return)

I’ve begun Twittering lately, and the resulting ability to keep tabs on the ideas of thought leaders from various industries has energized me in the same way that my immersion into blogs thanks to my first RSS reader did a few years ago. I’m not among those who think Twitter will displace blogs, much as I don’t believe the Internet will displace print media. But I do know that information consumers have much more to choose from these days, and that makes it an exciting time for those of us who revel in such freedom of choice.

This blog began a few years ago after I read books by a number of big thinkers – Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson et al – who sparked my own thinking about issues of business, technology, arts and culture. I used the blog to grapple with a unifying theory that could help all of these things to line up in my mind. I finally hit upon the idea of Unlimited Choice. It’s not great, sounding like a generic cell phone or cable television pricing tier, but it gets at what I’m after.

Essentially, the diversity of media through which information is shared means that people can choose how much or how little to absorb. They can choose what they want to hear, read, watch or experience. They can choose when to do so, for how long and at what cost.

This is all restating what I have written here before, but there is an amplification that comes thanks to the deafening debate about the fate of the media going on. As if it wasn’t bad enough to read constantly in online news reports and even-more-frequent blog posts about the impending demise of my industry, I now read such opinions and analyses on a minute-by-minute basis on Twitter.

I drifted away from Creativille (if that isn’t a Jimmy Buffet song in waiting, I don’t know what is) as other pursuits took precedence, but the recent conversation of which I’ve been a part has drawn me back in with a refined purpose.

There is no doubt that the news industry is in trouble. But there are plenty of people who are trying to point us all in the right direction. The diversity of media I mention above has sprung up because technological advances allow for it, of course, but also because consumers increasingly demand such choices. They no longer want to wait for the morning paper to see a sports score, or for the evening news to get the weather, or for the local CD shop to stock a CD to hear a song. They want it now.

At the same time, however, the still do want the newspaper and the evening news and the CD shop, but not for the same reasons they once did. The want the newspaper as a permanent record and a place to read longer stories. They want the evening news to see high-resolution video. They want the CD shop so they can hold that deluxe boxed set in their hands before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

So my purpose here is twofold. To explore the continuing ways that technology, business, media and culture intersect, and to look at ways the new age of unlimited choice is affecting the way people produce and absorb media.

I was able to engage in a brief dialogue about a couple of my ideas during an online chat with new Cedar Rapids Gazette Editor Stephen Buttry this week. I wrote that the media has three roles: gathering news, filtering out what is most interesting and then offering context and analysis. Buttry wrote that consumers can fulfill the middle role of filter just fine thanks to services like Digg.com, which is true. But I’ll stand behind the idea that we’re professional filters, hired by our readers to sift through all of the information out there and present the best of it. That job is harder now, because everyone has access to pretty much everything, meaning no one needs blindly trust our judgment.

So, welcome. I hope to pick up where I left off many months ago with similar content and some new ideas. The conversation is happening, and this is my attempt to be a part of it. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter and, for those interested in more specialized writing about music and books (or even more specialized writing about the music of Robert Pollard), you can find me elsewhere. And, of course, there is always the Corridor Business Journal and CorridorBuzz.com, where I’m dealing with these issues from the front lines.

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