Everyone has a voice and everyone has always had a voice. The challenge in the past is that very few people would actually hear your voice unless you managed to get yourself out in front of the major networks. Sure, there were small community newspaper and local access television, but it was still a challenge for the average citizen to make their way into those channels. But times have changed and the biggest driver of this change has been the Internet.
And this phenomenon of everyone having the opportunity to get up on a soapbox to tell their story or to express themselves continues to expand and grow with each passing day.
Newspapers, Magazines and Blogs
When I started my first online newsletter way back in 1999, my primary ambitions to write for a living led me to believe that I had to write for a newspaper or a magazine of some sort. I thought that I would head down a path that would eventually have me writing for the Vancouver Sun or something similar. Needless to say, a lot has changed since 1999.
The thing is that people who have gone through the more traditional media system may have a different understanding of “journalistic integrity” than those who partake in so-called “citizen journalism.” I’m not saying that all traditional journalists adhere to a high ethical standard, but they are at the mercy of their editors and higher-ups. If you run your own blog, you have to answer to no one but yourself.
Video Killed the Radio Star
It started with primarily text-based blogs that may have a few images, because that’s what was available to the average citizen wanting to have their voice heard. But then, further barriers to entry were torn down. “Radio” wasn’t restricted to the AM and FM dial anymore, because people could host their own podcasts. And “TV” was no longer restricted to the box in the living room, because were introduced to services like YouTube.
You could buy a cheap camcorder or webcam, record your video, and upload it for everyone to see. When I attended the 2006 Gemini Awards, I stood alongside people from major TV networks. My video was of poorer quality, but I was there and I was treated no differently. Absolutely, YouTube is filled with a lot of poor quality content, but then the videos we do for MEGATechNews have very high production value. Again, you have these larger “blogs” that produce broadcast quality material… but it’s all recorded and viewed after the fact.
Going Live in 3… 2…
Most recently, technology has advanced once again. Writing words and uploaded pre-recorded videos are still very viable forms of democratized mass media, but people don’t to only read, hear and see things that happened some time in the past. They want it live, like the 24 hour news cycle. Live streaming was a quirky idea when Justin.tv busted on the scene, but it’s quickly becoming the thing to do. Many people stream their gaming on Twitch.tv or whatever else on Ustream.tv.
YouTube has allowed very large companies to present live events on the site for a little while, but even that bar has now been lowered. Last week, it was announced that you only need 100 subscribers to host a live event on YouTube. Considering the reach of a site like YouTube, that’s a really big deal… and you don’t even have to pay for the service. We’ve seen the live stream of major press conferences and notable music concerts, but now you can stream your own local event too.
This ongoing expansion is inherently a double-edged sword. By further democratizing mass media, it means that anyone with an Internet connection has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their viewpoint seen. It’ll be like walking into a large auditorium where everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs, trying to everyone else’s attention. The task then falls on you to filter out the noise and focus on the signal.
And, for better or for worse, that task is only going to get harder.