Thursday, 5 March 2009


Classical ideal feedback model. The feedback i...Image via Wikipedia

Image via WikipediaThe changes that ‘new’ media approaches are bringing to the way in which we browse, consume and are affected by information are fundamental. And most of those changes are being brought by the process known as disintermediation – the idea being that any intermediary is now potentially out of a job. Gone are gatekeepers – and nowhere is this more true than in our ‘traditional’ media.

Take a newspaper as an example. Yesterday’s model was that an event was reported on by a journalist, perhaps commented on by a columnist. The participants in the event were certainly not expected to actually commentate on it. Just comment, if the journalist or TV crew picked on them. The letters page was pretty much the only way Joe Public got ‘voice’ and even that was guarded by the letters page editor. And similarly broadcast media such as radio, where DJ’s talk to us and where feedback was limited to carefully regulated, breathless, gushing teenagers requesting tracks for their friends (it wouldn’t do for them to be asking for Rammstein or Ministry during a drive-time slot, for instance) or perhaps to angry of Bur Dubai calling into the midnight talk show.

Now newspapers put their pieces online and public voice gets to comment on those pieces. What’s more, the success of a given piece of writing is not longer judged because it reached the readership of a single slice of tree, but on how much it is commented on, linked, referenced by blogs, Tweeted, Digged, tagged or shared in a myriad new ways across myriad content streams.

Those links, the food of the new media leviathans, bring prominence, SEO and clicks. Similarly in radio, DJs (and other celebrities) are beginning to find that connecting with their audience using ‘social media’ adds another, growing dimension to the business of broadcasting. Those willing to give up the gatekeepers, or the gatekeeper role, are finding themselves part of a wider and more engaging dialogue that enhances their reputations and audiences.

In other words, today’s media depend on the feedback and discourse of an actively engaged readership. The reader is a participant, is increasingly a central part of a dialogue that makes journalists, writers and broadcasters answerable and publicly accountable in ways that no media law can.

In short, you goof, you get trashed...

This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named 'A Moment with McNabb' columns in Campaign Middle East magazine.
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