Revolutions don’t happen overnight. They sneak up on you. One minute, your life, career and beliefs are cruising along and in the next minute, everything that you once held sacred is turned upside down. Today, we are smack dab in the middle of a revolution — a New Media Revolution — that is forever changing the way content is created, distributed, interpreted, consumed, and paid for. And so that got me to thinking. What happened? How did we get here? What were the significant innovations that formed the Tipping Point, beyond which there was no turning back.
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In 1995, the World Wide Web became a prevalent part of mainstream business. Websites from every conceivable industry sprung up as businesses recognized a new way of publishing their marketing materials. Newspapers began putting their content online and tech-savvy individuals began creating their own personal web pages.
Between 1995 and 1999, this trend continued, as people got more and more familiar with HTML. Both Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and web-hosting services reacted to growing demand and competition by adding sophisticated services at lower rates, further increasing the number of companies and individuals that published their content online. And although this love affair with online publishing grew, three bottlenecks still existed that restricted the free-flow of information between online publisher and online content consumer.
- Hand coding HTML pages was way too geeky for the average user
- There was no way to syndicate online content
- Variable Delivery Costs — the more successful you were, the more you paid for bandwidth
The first bottleneck was eliminated in October 1999 by a company called Pyra, who released a new “weblog” service. Through the company’s innovation, anyone with access to a web browser could publish their thoughts online for free (and without requiring a degree in Computer Science.) This web-publishing platform would eventually be named “Blogger,” which was purchased by Google in 2003.
But such a publishing platform only solved one-third of the problem. The web was still missing a way to automatically distribute that content to an interested audience…that is until the Fall of September 2002.
Although web-syndication technology research goes back to 1995 with work being done at the Apple Computer’s Advanced Technology Group, RSS didn’t hit mainstream adoption until RSS 2.0 was released in September 2002 and subsequently used for the first time by the New York Times two months later. Not only did RSS provide publishers with a way to syndicate their online content, but that method was simultaneously validated through its adoption by a mainstream publication. And even better, RSS 2.0 also had the ability to enclose rich media files such as MP3-encoded audio. This combination of RSS feed with “enclosures” was originally called an “audio blog,” but would soon be renamed to a “podcast.”
Finally, with the ability to syndicate their text, audio, or video content, online producers almost had the holy grail of content — the ability to deliver content to self-selecting audiences cost effectively.
Yet, one last bottleneck remained. The cost of delivering online content — especially rich media content — was anything but cost effective. Unlike radio or television stations, who’s broadcast costs are fixed no matter how many people are tuned-in, delivery costs for online publishers increases with audience size. And so, as the demand for online content grew, popular online publishers found themselves as a victim of their own success — burdened with significant bandwidth costs. For example, in the early days of podcasting (2004/2005), popular podcasters would exceed their web-host’s monthly bandwidth allocation, thus dealing with one of two unpleasant situations: The web-host would either shut the website down, or perhaps worse, send the podcaster an invoice for the overage — a sum that could hit thousands of dollars!
The final innovation addressed this problem and ultimately opened up a new era in publishing. In November 2004, Libsyn (who would eventually become Wizzard Media) offered rich media publishers, such as podcasters, unlimited amounts of bandwidth for a fixed monthly fee — with its most economical option being $5 per month. By converting online delivery expenses from fixed to variable costs, Libsyn’s innovative business model put the final nail in the Gutenberg Economics of Influence’s coffin. The established media had lost most of its competitive advantages overnight, and a new revolution had begun. The New Media revolution.
User-transparent publishing platforms + web syndication + fixed bandwidth costs = New Media Revolution
Tags: New Media Revolution Tipping Point History Catalyst Pyra RSS RSS 2.0 Libsyn Wizzard Media Flickr Economics of Influence Era of Scarcity Era of Abundance Online Publishing Gutenberg New Media Evangelist ronamok ronploof