Media Darwins

Media Darwins

: Many of us are trying to figure out and explain the evolution in media that we’re witnessing — and that we’re participating in. We want to know what it means about media and about us.

See the latest exchange between Jay Rosen and Doc Searls on cold media (dry, institutional anchors and attempts at objectivity) vs. hot media (more bluster and bombast trying to change our opinions) vs. blogging (something in the middle: we engage in media and we get to change our minds ourselves). It’s a smart, telling, and true analysis.

But I still want to pull the stick back and look at this from a higher altitude (where the oxygen is lower — so, be warned, it just may make me stupider). And here’s what I think:

Media is getting personal

: Perhaps it’s as simple as that. Media was institutional. Now it is personal.

By personalizing media, I don’t mean customizing it (My Yahoo, Your Yahoo, All God’s Children Got Yahoos).

I mean humanizing it, taking on the personalities of people, not of institutions. Consider:

: The success of FoxNews can be attributed to the rise of the personalities and opinions of its anchors. See my lengthy blatherings on this; see Rosen’s cogent view of it; see Bill O’Reilly’s own take, too.

: People magazine personlized all news, for now every story has a People angle. I was at the magazine at this tipping point. Once was, a big TV show on the cover yielded big sales. That ended with the remote control and its revolution of choice. The institution — the show — no longer mattered. Now what sold was the event in the star’s life. It was personal. And soon, it wasn’t just entertainment but news of any sort that got that treatment in People and everywhere. News was personal.

: I was also at People during the VCR revolution and I remember watching the son of my friend Peter Travers (the man you can blame for making me a TV critic), watching himself on video. For me, at my age, being on TV was a big deal. For young Alex Travers, being on TV was just part of growing up; everybody does it. Media became personal.

: The latest trend that ate TV, reality shows, is all about bringing people just like us — the unfamous — onto TV and making them famous, making us think that that could be us up there. They make fame personal.

: When Steve Outing asked me why Koz — an effort to bring the Internet to local communities — didn’t work and why I think our attempt at using blogs to bring hyperlocal content online will work, I stopped and thought about it — a rare moment — and answered: “Personality.” Koz (and we) had tried to bring the local institutions — schools, congregations, teams — online. But institutions have no heart. People will bring their communities online. It’s personal.

: And weblogs, of course, make media personal to the extreme: We put our own personalities and opinions out there for the world to see. We mix up what we know with what we think and whom we like and who we are.

We become media….

We put the me in media

: (Sorry. I warned you that the oxygen was thin up here.)

I think this happened for a lot of reasons:

First, it could. We got choice with our remote controls and more cable channels and VCRs and the Internet; we could abandon big institutions for the things that we, personally, liked more. In a sense, weblogs are only the extreme extension of that trend: We don’t choose from among 500 channels. We become our own channels.

Second, the institutions bored us. Fox is more fun that CNN. Simple as that.

Third, ask Dr. Freud: We all have egos and given a chance, they will emerge.

: Can this trend go too far? Of course. All trends do. If all news becomes personal and opininated, it will be inefficient to get an answer to a simple current question: Enough with the commentary, just tell me: What’s the score?

But this trend will not go away, for whenever we the people get the power to choose what we want, it sticks. Whenever people get a taste of fame and attention, they don’t want to give it up.

Media is personal for good.

: UPDATE: Read the comments on this post; some wonderful contributions.

: UPDATE: I was remiss in not linking to the “me in media” tagline at Corante’s Amateur Hour because I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it. Done.