Lance Knobel Lecture

Lance Knobel has posted a transcript of his recent Alfred Deakin Innovation Lecture (as has Jay Rosen, but I haven’t read that one yet).

Lance’s post includes a good introductory description of weblogs, RSS, and wikis (I’m finding myself explaining wikis to people more and more of late) and how they are changing the media landscape.

Coupla bits from Lance’s lecture:

Most of us are familiar with the 80-20 rule, sometimes known as the Pareto Principle after the same man who derived the eponymous distribution. It’s sometimes formulated as 80 per cent of the sales will come from 20 per cent of the products.

But Anderson found out that for online retailers Pareto’s distribution hides an important new reality. When Anderson wondered what percentage of the top 10,000 titles or DVDs or tracks sold in a month at Amazon, Netflix or itunes, he found the answer was generally 99 per cent. Number 10,000 may not sell many, but because there are so many more misses than hits, that adds up to a large market in aggregate.

So it is, too, for weblogs. Most blogs are in the long tail. Individually they may not have many readers, but when you multiply not many readers by several million weblogs, there is a huge audience out there. And for some specialist areas, we have already passed the point where a lone blogger has similar authority and reach in her niche as a specialist reporter in traditional media may have.

He also warns against the echo-chamber effect and hints at the new role for editors in the new media space:

Some technologists, notably a team at MIT’s Media Lab, have developed a seductive picture of a Daily Me. The Daily Me is a personalised newspaper that contains just what you want. So if you’re passionate about Aussie Rules but could care less about rugby union, your Daily Me would have pages of footie, and no rugger.

So, too, it could contain the local news you want, and perhaps updates on political developments in east Asia (because you think that’s important) but exclude the news from the Middle East (because you’re bored by those conflicts).

To me, and I suspect to many of you, the Daily Me is a terrifying prospect. The Roman writers had a concept of dulce et utile, to delight and instruct. That’s a worthy ideal. Media that are unrelentingly delightful lack the virtue of instruction. Similarly all instruction and no play makes for dull media.

But the Daily Me threatens all dulce, no utile. It’s already here in some forms.

It’s a long post, but check it out – a good reference about the challenges, and opportunities, facing the media, journalists, and the people formally known as “the audience”.