Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


I think just the radio industry is an understatement, if you say market correction for the music industry it would be more accurate. I know many folks, myself included, who felt that using it was a civil protest class action act except we actually got something back for this. We were told the price for CDs would drop after they paid off the equipment, it never happened, we all know the economics that it is cheaper to make a CD than a tape but which is more expensive in the stores.

Market correction, sure just a little broader...

Gotta love the title of the session.

"Will Mainstream Media Co-opt Blogs and the Internet?"

Beter: "Have blogs and the Internet already replaced Mainstream Media?"

For many people, the answer is yes.

Neither question really makes sense, unless you think that 'mainstream media' and 'internet' are mutually exclusive. (It's 2003, btw.)

(As an aside, "blogs *and* the internet"? How much work is blogs doing in that phrase? Something like "will the Vatican City and Europe pull ahead of the U.S. in GDP in 2004?" Little problem of scale ...)

"Blogging will have the same effect to journalism as Napster & P2P to the music industry"

Like what? Endless litigations and lawsuits? ;)

Zoe: no I do not think we will see the same copyrights issues even if we already see a lot of material being used on blogs (texts and pictures) without any authorization from the author.

On blogs, most authors produce content and therefore agree to share it. In addition, most blog entries make a reference link to the author. So it is not going to be as bas as mp3 sharing I believe.

In terms of effects I meant more the incredibly speed of sharing ideas and knowledge, the capability for anybody to get his voice heard with few means, without having to wait for a media to talk about him and his ideas.

Suddenly millions of people start writing content and posting pictures easily. This is the analogy with Napster.

So "similar" in speed and power (I think mainstream media have hard times ahead of them), different in results and copyright problems, that is what I meant.

"Suddenly millions of people start writing content and posting pictures easily. This is the analogy with Napster."

I can buy that as far as "vision" goes. There is only one tiny little practicality to get over first: Internet balkanization.

Napster is/was a P2P infrastructure. Originally, the "Web" used to be like that also. But not any longer.

To effectively turn those "millions of people" into self-publisher, you need to address this issue first and foremost. As long as there is no practical way to reference those "millions of people", this entire business is a chimera.

Agreed Zoe, any suggestions ?

Why is the Balkanization of the Internet a bad thing?
When the Balkans, um, Balkanized, it was in response to what was perceived as a centralized identity that did not fit the needs of the people. Different religions and cultures split the area into areas too numerous for a schoolboy to memorize. Yet, for the people who lived there, it was, perhaps, a workable situation.
There is plenty of room here on the 'net for hundreds of thousands of small, focused communities.
As it relates to Napster, well...
For me, napster was a way to find other people who were like-minded in their musical tastes, whether those tastes were mainstream or obscure. In my case, the things I searched for were *very* obscure and often I searched for things I had already, to see what *else* people who liked that artist were listening to.
Napster, I'm sure had no effect on radio, though it probably pounded the last nail into the coffin of tape traders, which, if you're old enough to remember, actually enjoyed a brief period of popularity in some circles in the eighties and nineties. Now, they have all moved to distribution online, but most of the communities are nearly invisible because their tastes are so far from the mainstream.
As for blogs and how this all relates, well, I've been a self-publisher on the Internet for around ten years, though I've never sought or had a particularly wide audience. When I write, I write to my friends and family, because that's my audience. (Plus, given my I've never sought a larger group of readers and I think that tone of voice strikes a chord with those people who wander in and wind up staying.)
I've written about blogging where I said that I think that writing to groups of about five people is the most effective. After much thought, I still believe in this, though I know with audiences like that, I'll never put the New York Times out of business. But then again, why would I want to?

"Suddenly millions of people start writing content and posting pictures easily. This is the analogy with Napster."

But this is precisely the disanalogy with Napster (much moreso than the p2p thing): people used Napster to trade Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z and Cristina Aguilera. Napster was popular not because it was democratizing the creation and distribution of content, but because it was a way to get music --that otherwise cost money-- for free.

If blogs could somehow deliver copies of The Economist and the New Yorker to my house, saving me a hundred-odd dollars a year, then there might be some kind of an analogy there, but I think the blogsjournalism thing only comes from people who fetish traditional journalism and media.

I have no idea how to settle an argument about this, but I contend that, for the overwhelming majority of blog readers and writers, blogs have almost nothing to do with 'content', and everything to do with identity and relationships.

People read the blogs wirtten by the people they care about, and people write as a way of expressing themselves -- and that doesn't mean ejecting content from inside them into a database. It means creating an identity that is meaningful to them, using their choice of links, their style of writing, the design of their site, the photos they choose to upload, etc., as a way of communicating their values, what they aspire to, how they want other people to regard them, what and who they want to be associated with. It's like a using set of pointers to external cultural and personal references to communicate the 'personality' of the author. It is a way of both exploring who you are and conveying this-is-who-I-am to the world around you.

As far as I can tell, the relationship between blogs and journalism is no more significant than the relationship between blogs and literature, or music, or movies, or coding, or dating, or professional development, or families, or health, or nature or any of the thousands of things that people are interesting in.

"Agreed Zoe, any suggestions ?"

Better yet: a concrete solution. More info in Q1 2004 :)

"Why is the Balkanization of the Internet a bad thing? "

The "[Technical] Balkanization of the Internet" is a bad thing because... it impair the free flow of information.

Too many gatekeepers, barriers and friction between a publisher and its audience.

Considering that everyone should be a publisher and an audience, this is a problem.

If I publish, I need to provide a permanent reference to my work (i.e. URL). If I read, I need a permanent reference to that material.

As long as the technicality of transparently providing a permanent URL to "millions of people" is not resolve, this is a chimera.

But as soon as "millions of people" are truly peers on the network, the sky is the limit :)

Joi and Company. I will be joining this same panel at Davos this year. In fact, I was asked to chair it.

This is relevant to the discussion because we can, in fact, make it about anything we want, as long as we incorporate the issues the program raises.

When I chair a panel at a conference of smart people, smart people are allowed to take it where it ought to go at that moment. Isn't that what you'd do?

No reason we shouldn't start conferencing now. I have the advantage of never attending the WEF before, so I do not know what can't be done.

Forget what the program says. It's just "topic music," lightly playing while people file in.

Maybe you can just tell me... What should we make the panel about?

What happened with Napster to music will happen with weblogs to journalism. That's a great start, Loic.

Weblogs can aid professionals, but they transform amateurs into real journalists potentially equal to the professionals in their ability to inform a given public. This is one of several revolutions underway re-casting the terms of authority in American journalism. See this, for starters:

I posted this in Loic's comments....

I think you need to look at this not from established media's perspective but from the perspective of the people.
I am fond of saying that thanks to the Internet and weblogs, the people now finally own the printing press and gain its power.
And I'm a big media guy (who also now lives in the world of small media).
Most big-media organizations are starting to look at this -- if at all -- the way you do: How do we take our content and put it into weblogs?
That's the wrong question and the wrong answer.
What they should be paying attention to is the tremendous new content, new information, new news, new viewpoints, new diversity coming from the people who are creating weblogs. Rather than trying to do their own weblogs, why not start by listening to what is being said in the weblogs the people formerly known as the audience are producing? Why not embrace their content, their information, their viewpoints?
Weblogs expand the world of media tremendously.
Media needs that, just as the industry is being hit with new competition and new pressure (e.g., losing millions in classifieds to new players and new relationships; losing channels of sale for magazines; losing the mass audience TV had...).
This is the extension of the nichefecation of media that has been occurring ever since we got the remote control.
But even more important, look at Iran, where one person started a revolution in weblogs; in less than two years, there are now an estimated 100,000 Iranian weblogs writing about politics, sex, women's rights, music -- things forbidden in that country. And they are writing in English as well to get their story to the rest of the world, a story that otherwise could not get out.
This is not about big media dipping its toes into little media.
This is about little media setting the agenda and the future of news and information.

There's so much to talk about on this issue, but let me add a few of my thoughts.

Blogs represent so many things and touch just about everything. It will affect journalism, dating, politics, security, privacy... yada yada. So one question is whether we want to focus on journalism with the assumption that blogs also do a lot of other things... just like the Internet is used for many things.

I think Radio Lover is maybe a better example than Napster. I can download 6 radio channels from anywhere on the Internet in parallel and it rips them into mp3's with metadata. In 1 hour, I can download 6 hours of music. On my iPod, I click the ones I like... then I go and buy the albums of artists that I discover. There is a very fine line between broadcast and file sharing. The fact is, I listen to more artists and buy more music than I ever did...

But I think the point is that the low cost production of content and sharing of this content is important from the "media" side of the world. The ability for opinions to allow a competition of ideas and for people to "vote with their links" affects journalistic process and democratic debate. It also affects marketing and purchasing and empowers people.

I truly believe that whether you call it co-opting or synergy, blogs will make bad journalism harder to get away with and will hook up with good journalism to help solve two of the biggest problems with current commercial journalism. Help people "care" by creating a "voice" of the people in remote regions and lower classes and help the "scare resource" issue by allowing specialized clusters of bloggers in and affliated with remote regions where coverage is low. I think Ethan Zuckerman's Geekcorps combined with Africa sensitized bloggers and a few real voices from Africa could significantly increase our awareness of the region for example.

I think most of the really smart jouralists are thinking about how to work with blogger, but I don't think this is co-opting. It's more like collaboration.

On the other hand, stepping back from journalism for a moment, I think that most people will use blogs to create communities and express themselves to their peers and won't think of themselves as journalists.

The other track to watch is moblogging and eventually video blogging. Photos, audio, video and sharing... most of this will be personal. The biggest impact may end up being what young people end up spending their money and their time on. Look at the trend of purchasing for young people going from CDs->Karaoke/Video Games->Moible Phones... It's becoming more and more about communication. Now communication together with sharing of microcontent. I think this may be the real impact of blogging... also, when you're mobile, things will move much much faster with location and time becoming more key. Then presence information and stuff become relevant... yikes... It's not called blogging anymore...

Anyway, sorry about the rant... Maybe I'll try to post something more organized later.

By the way. Nice to meet you Jay.

By the way, everyone should read Dan Gillmor's book outline before going to Davos... better yet, we should invite Dan. He's thought about this more than anyone I know.

Joi -- glad to see this re-framed. Comparing this to journalism is like calling film "radio with pictures". As you point out, the interesting things to watch are how it engenders new forms of communication which defy the current classification schemes. And as Jay says, the notion of "Media" is problematic. Unfortunately, journalism has largely been coopted by, and is therefore equated with Media.
It's much more iuseful to look at the broader scope of potential -- how can we realize that potential if the best we can imagine is old wine in new bottles?

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