Home > Future of News Media, Web Changes Everything > What are the essential Properties of the Web as a media platform?

What are the essential Properties of the Web as a media platform?

This post is to stimulate discussion about characteristics and capabilities that distinguish the Web as a media platform.

The thesis behind this post – which is no great insight – is that the Web is a fundamentally different media platform from anything that preceded it (and most important to our discussion, Print media). I think in the past, it has at times been tempting to view the Web as an online distribution channel for the Newspaper. However IMO, this is rather like how the radio industry first viewed television as a media – which was “Radio with pictures”! Of course, the TV is much more that “radio with pictures”, and news media on the Web is much more that “Newspapers online”.

So if the printed Newspaper as a medium had some inherent properties that defined it as a medium, what are the essential characteristics of the Web that define it as a media platform? And how do these differ from the traditional print newspaper. Well this post asks that question.

So, here’s my first thoughts at what defines the Web as a News and Community media, and upon which future media strategies, IMO, must be built.

1. The Web is “social”
  • This is the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s a biggy. The web is all about participation, having conversations, connecting with others with whom you want to share ideas, content, or community. And it is becoming “more social” all the time.
2. The Web is “universal”
  • It is a truly universal platform. “Everyone in the world” is potentially your audience, potentially your partner or collaborator, and potentially your competitor. It’s awesome.
3. Digital Content is fundamentally different
  •   All content can take digital form, and be provide over the web, or via some other digital device. This is such a game changer in the big picture. It used to be that “analog” content was wedded to the channel. TV content was “broadcast” via either terrestrial signals or cable. Print content was provided via printed publications. Music content was provided via records or CD’s, or broadcast terrestrially via radio signals, AM or FM. In the digital world, ALL media is digital.
  • Digital Media has unique properties. It is mallable. It is highly portable. It can take various forms – i.e. video, images, audio, etc. And I’m sure there’s several other profound properties of digital media. It can be delivered over multiple devices. It can be delivered wirelessly.
  • Digital Media is profoundly “discoverable”. It can be “tagged”, searched for, and discovered within seconds.
  • Digital Media can be subscribed to, and delivered in a personalized manner.
4. Content on the web is Social
  • The Web is NOT a “broadcast” medium. It is a profoundly social and interactive medium.
  • On the Web, people want to consume content, contribute content, and share content. All types of content: the written word, photos, video, etc.
  • Furthemore, they want to have discussions around content. They want to share their opinion. They want to let you know what they think of things you wrote.
  • If you’re not having continuous, ongoing, meaningful “conversations” with your customers, you’re talking to yourself, and no one probably cares that much what you’re saying.
5. People, Information, and Content on the Web is fundamentally and profoundly Linked, it’s interconnected, it’s a Web of people, information, and Content.
  • Understand the power of the Hyperlink. To the degree that a business fundamentally leverages the power of the hyperlink, it will remain relevant. To the degree that it fails to leverage the power of the hyperlink, it will become irrelevant.
6. The Web is a software platform, and the products and information provided on the web are based on software.
  • An organization must develop capabilities around software product development. Whether you like it or not, you’re now in the software business.
7. Content and Information on the Web wants to be free. The Web enables Information and Processes to be transparent.
  • This is a tough one. I’m not sure what the implications of this are to our business.
8. Architecture is critical.
  • For businesses that do business on the Web (which is ALL businesses these days), Architecture in critical. If the organization does not have a mature Enterprise Architecture discipline, it’s probably going to be in trouble.
9. The Web of Data
  • Traditionally, organizations have guarded their data closely, and done everything from preventing their data from being shared “outside the firewall”. Increasingly, companies are building Web 2.0-style business models around exposing their data “to the world”, and encouraging others to use their content to develop their own applications. For example, Amazon, Google, and Thompson Reuters have all developed API’s that expose key corporate data via Web Services to external developers and organizations, and encourage others to develop applications and solutions on top of their data/services.
  • The Web is rapidly evolving into what Tim Berner’s Lee calls the Web of Data, as expemplified by the W3C’s Linked Data Initiative. Here’s Sir Tim speaking about the W3C’s Linked Data Initiative to a TED conference earlier this year.
10. “My Web”
  • Increasingly, users expect to be able to consume information and content that is “personalized” to their unique interests and tastes.
11. The Web is “generational”.
  • The first generation of “digital natives” (see attached document; the document is a bit old, but I believe Capgemini coined the term “digital native”) are now entering the workplace. Digital natives grew up with the web, and have never known a world without the web. Digital natives consume media very differently that previous generations.
  • This generation is also referred to as The Millenial Generation or “Generation Y”, and as discussed in the book “Generation We”, their numbers are HUGE!
  • It is absolutely ESSENTIAL that we understand this generation and their habits of media consumption and interaction. Our new product development efforts should be fundamentally targeted at this generation.
12. The Web introduces new forms of social organization, which will transform organizational structure and internal collaboration processes.
  • There is a lot of very interesting literature on this topic – from research that explores online social production processes like Wikipedia and Social News, to analysis of the impact social media tools will have on social processes and organizational structure within the enterprise.
  • This TED Talk by Yochai Benkler from 2005 is a great introduction to this topic.
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