RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

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.

* * *

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.

  1. Hand coding HTML pages was way too geeky for the average user
  2. There was no way to syndicate online content
  3. Variable Delivery Costs — the more successful you were, the more you paid for bandwidth

Pyra Logo from Megnut on FlickrThe 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.

RSS Feed

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!

Libsyn changed the world by introducing fixed bandwidth costs

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

Photo Credits: Pyra logo courtesy Megnut on Fickr

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Comments

All of this is true, but there is one problem: the New Media has not yet found a way to survive financially. Facebook and Twitter on on the knife’s edge as funders are starting to wonder where all these profits are. The traditional media (which actually has the most active websites) still see the online sections of their media world as cash holes, not cows.

The creators of the content — the writers — still are not making a living off of new media. Old media writers, now having to do both, are burning out with the work load. Many are going to the darkside and trying to get content place by “respected” media houses, or are going in-house altogether.

We’re still in the “gee-whiz” stage of new media technology, but we’re getting close to the moment when a lot of significant people are going to say in unison, “Show me the money!” When that happens, new media is goign to face the same issues old media has to contend with.

Yes, new media is an effective communications medium. But right now it is a charity ward. That is not going to last.

Lou Covey
September 2, 2008

All of this is true, but there is one problem: the New Media has not yet found a way to survive financially. Facebook and Twitter on on the knife’s edge as funders are starting to wonder where all these profits are. The traditional media (which actually has the most active websites) still see the online sections of their media world as cash holes, not cows.

The creators of the content — the writers — still are not making a living off of new media. Old media writers, now having to do both, are burning out with the work load. Many are going to the darkside and trying to get content place by “respected” media houses, or are going in-house altogether.

We’re still in the “gee-whiz” stage of new media technology, but we’re getting close to the moment when a lot of significant people are going to say in unison, “Show me the money!” When that happens, new media is goign to face the same issues old media has to contend with.

Yes, new media is an effective communications medium. But right now it is a charity ward. That is not going to last.

Lou Covey
September 2, 2008

Lou,

One of the fundamental mistakes that people make is assuming that “New Media” as an industry. It isn’t. New Media is an infrastructure, no different than the roads that we drive on or the Internet itself. Throughout history, money is rarely made on infrastructure technologies; rather it’s made through the things that people build on them. The infrastructure called New Media has changed the content distribution game forever. Those who invent information products and services that leverage its advantages, will make plenty of money.

ronploof
September 2, 2008

Lou,

One of the fundamental mistakes that people make is assuming that “New Media” as an industry. It isn’t. New Media is an infrastructure, no different than the roads that we drive on or the Internet itself. Throughout history, money is rarely made on infrastructure technologies; rather it’s made through the things that people build on them. The infrastructure called New Media has changed the content distribution game forever. Those who invent information products and services that leverage its advantages, will make plenty of money.

Ron
September 2, 2008

Hey Ron,

Nice to you see back.

Godwin

Godwin
September 5, 2008

Hey Ron,

Nice to you see back.

Godwin

Godwin
September 4, 2008

Birth of an EDA Revolution…

I can’t sleep at night.
This Idea has been bouncing around in my head for the past few months. I can’t shake it. If you know me, then you’ve probably heard me talk about the Idea or ask your opinion about the Idea or whether I’m…

harry ... the ASIC guy
September 5, 2008

OK, Ron, I buy that new media is an infrastructure. But so is old media. Tou have printing presses, distribution networks, sales teams, etc. You can build a car, but until you put gas in it it doesn’t go anywhere. And if you put someone behind the wheel that doesn’t know how to drive it causes a few problems as well.

The gas for media is funding and the drivers are people dedicated to the mission of communication. Right now, there are just a few quarts left in the tank and the drivers are still trying to figure out how to put it into second.

This will not last because it has to change, but the days when we thought new media could be accomplished with little to no investment is coming to a close. At least, for you and I, we better hope that’s true or we won’t be getting paid.

Lou Covey
September 8, 2008

OK, Ron, I buy that new media is an infrastructure. But so is old media. Tou have printing presses, distribution networks, sales teams, etc. You can build a car, but until you put gas in it it doesn’t go anywhere. And if you put someone behind the wheel that doesn’t know how to drive it causes a few problems as well.

The gas for media is funding and the drivers are people dedicated to the mission of communication. Right now, there are just a few quarts left in the tank and the drivers are still trying to figure out how to put it into second.

This will not last because it has to change, but the days when we thought new media could be accomplished with little to no investment is coming to a close. At least, for you and I, we better hope that’s true or we won’t be getting paid.

Lou Covey
September 8, 2008

[…] depends on the confluence of critical technologies. As Ron Ploof had pointed out in his post on the Birth of a New Media Revolution, social/new media required easy-to-use publishing tools (e.g. WordPress), simple […]

Blooming of an EDA Revolution
March 5, 2010

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