Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Technology and frustration of communications

Technology and frustration of communications

……Chapel Hill, NC – I did not write anything yesterday because I spent too much of the day trying to solve a problem that has been gnawing at me for months as I have added content day after day to another blog relating to the Mediterranean

The problem is a simple one – how to allow people who are interested in what is posted there to receive e-mail alerts of new content. This does not seem very complex to my non-technical mind, but few seem to offer this capability.

Yes, a couple of paid blog hosting services do offer this, but it seems wrong somehow that one can post to a blog for free but not let anyone know about it unless you pay. Well, maybe that is just capitalism. I don’t think so. If it were, the firms offering this would be approaching those with the free blogs trying to get them onboard or the hosting organizations would be offering it themselves for a fee.

They are not.

Instead, the techies (and I mean no disparagement) who control most of these offerings, are so enamored of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) that they have given e-mail the heave-ho or the cold shoulder. Why? Because it is not the flavor of the month, to mix a few metaphors.

For most of the connected world, e-mail remains the place where the most important happens. It is where friends, family, and business connections are made and where people turn first.

Anyway, I will keep trying.

This points out a bigger issue – the ways in which technology can be both an enabler and an inhibitor of better communications.

We have seen huge advances in the technologies that relate to communication and most are being used all over the media landscape.

Telegraphs and even normal telephones have been replaced by portable phones and handheld devices of all sorts that allow reporters and other collectors of information to do so better and more efficiently. They can capture words and pictures, video and sound, and all sorts of data and other content whenever and wherever they wish and because of the telecommunications connections, that content can be shared with the center of the media organization almost instantly.

Editing technology is super-sophisticated and often even automated. That means that content coming in can turn around and go to customers almost in that same instant.

If not instantly, it can all move very quickly.

What are the implications?

It means less reflection and more quick reactions. It means more fascinating with the live shot from the helicopter than the content resulting from an intense discussion between reporters and editors over what that content ought to be. The middle person formerly known as the editor is reduced or eliminated and the marketplace seems happier because of it. Speed is more important than delay and review and the accuracy and perspective often produced as a result.

How do we at least raise the questions of what is happening and where is it headed?

David WESTIN did an excellent job of raising some of this in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. WESTIN is president of ABC News.

He, in effect, said that technologies and the marketplace have brought the two bastions of media power and influence – daily newspapers and network television – together facing a common problem. Neither institution is doing very well in the face of marketplace changes, and there seems to be no crusade underway to reverse that trend. The market simply seems no longer to value what institutions like network television and daily newspapers can add to public debate, or at least the value is much diminished.

If one can get the media content quicker, just as if one can buy the t-shirt cheaper, we seem quite willing to do so. It does not matter that it is somehow of lower quality of either case. And whether it is textile workers or reporters whose jobs are put at risk, it simply does not seem to be as important as it used to be.

Are we prepared to have all our news manufactured in a low cost factory in central China?

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