Today Boston University’s College of Communication graduated the class of 2006. I had the pleasure of teaching about fifty of those students. This year’s class enters the industry at an exciting time. The :30 spot lies on its death bed, but an heir hasn’t been identified.
The era of the mass audience is ending. The conventional wisdom has it that long tail content will dominate the 21st century media landscape. But exactly how will these kids connect with their audience? They have stories to tell, and they have the tools to do it.
Beyond narrowcast, niche content, today’s early twenty-somethings want to participate in the telling of the stories they consume. The Facebook and Flickr generation doesn’t spend nearly as much time staring, mouths agape at the TV set.
What will stories look like in an age of participatory media? What devices will they be viewed on? And what tools will be used to create those stories?
Most of my film and television students expect to work for themselves for a significant part of their careers. When I graduated in the 1980s, my classmates and I expected to spend our careers working for large media companies. Today’s young storytellers expect to have a more direct relationship with their audiences. Mashup services like JumpCut and social media creation sites like OneWorld TV are changing the face of independent media production. They are changing audience tastes and expectations.
Many of the pundits and analysts are already making funeral arrangements for big media. I’m not sure big media’s going away soon. Years ago the VCR was supposed to spell the doom of the studios. Instead VHS and DVD sales have become more lucrative than the box office revenues. Don’t be so sure that participatory media will be the final stake in heart of big media.
Participatory media will change the face of society in coming decades. It has the potential to deliver on democracy’s promise, the potential to make government more transparent, and educate more people in more ways than Sesame Street could ever reach on its best day.
I’m still digesting the wealth of the insights exchanged at the Beyond Broadcast conference last week at Harvard’s Berkman Center. I’ll be sharing some of the key takeways from the conference in the coming days.
To the class of 2006, I raise my glass. Enjoy the wild ride.