When we, the people, create our own media

PUBLISHING | With photo sharing, blogging and podcasting, the self publishing revolution is starting in earnest, says Ahmad Humeid.

One of the biggest trends that we’ll be seeing unfold over the next few years is the self-publishing movement. Sure, the commercial internet has been around for a little over a decade and some people have been publishing their own websites since the mid 90’s. But it is the increasing proliferation of the internet and the development of tools that make self-publishing easy that is driving the movement’s growth and entry into the mainstream.

These thoughts came to me after meeting a number of Jordanian bloggers the other day: young people who grew up with the internet and to whom self expression on the net is like second nature (see some of them at jordanplanet.com).

Dave Winer, a technology pioneer and one of the earliest bloggers (see scripting.com), has been talking about how blogging is affecting the media landscape. He says that our appetite for information has increased dramatically over the past decade. When we buy something or visit a new city, we expect now expect to find a wealth of information about our purchase or destination online. And indeed we do. Yet while much of this information is provided by traditional information and media outlets, increasingly, we might be finding information that was created by other users/consumers.

So it’s media for the people by the people.

A generation is growing up that would trust a blog more than a ‘professional’ publication when it comes to product reviews and recommendations. Of course, even individual bloggers can be ‘bough off’ by companies to speak favourably about a product. But any hint of that will instantly drive people away to another blog or motivate them to start their own. Welcome to the truth economy.

Mainstream media is facing the fact that it no longer has a monopoly over information provision. Not only newspaper and magazines will feel the pinch, but radio and TV too. Podcasting, which, in essence, is on demand audio content that can be produced by anyone with a computer, microphone and an internet connection will put a dent into the current radio business. The phenomenon is less than a year old but is growing rapidly, with industry players thinking up ways to make it as easy as blogging.

One of the interesting ideas that Winer discusses is that new technology platforms only become really big when the device itself can be used to produce content or programming for the platform. He cites the Apple II computer of the early 80s as an example of that. People where able to produce software on their computer (and not just consume it). Today, our web browsers can be used to edit our own websites, and, in the case of podcasting, some of the MP3 music players out there can be used to record audio in the MP3 format, ready for immediate uploading to the web. This signals the start of something big.

A site like blogger.com was developed with a vision of push button publishing in mind. Editing your site is a matter of logging in, writing inside your web browser and pushing the publish button. When I published my first personal website in 1996, the procedure was much more complicated, involving html coding, web space purchasing and uploading via FTP. In contrast, anyone can now have a blog up and running in minutes.

The photo sharing site Flickr (flickr.com ) uses the concept of photographic self publishing. I am seeing more and more blogs featuring photo streams from Flickr. With increasing bandwidth and computing power, videocasting is also on the horizon.

The coming few years promise to be extremely confusing for the media industry. Traditional media distribution channels and the advertising models of yesterday will be destroyed.

A final word on how the Arab world is relating to this. The low internet penetration levels put the region at a huge disadvantage. In some countries like Korea, high speed internet is reaching almost everyone, while our young people still have to go to an internet café to access the web.

But what is even more tragic is that the big investors in the Arab world seem always to be going for copy-and-paste project ideas, even if the Western models that are being copied are already dead or, at least, dated. This is as true for the glass towers of the Gulf as it is for ‘big media’ projects like expensive satellite TV stations that imitate the 20 year old CNN model.


4 Responses to “When we, the people, create our own media”

  1. Athena Says:

    Hi Ahmad,

    I enjoyed your article. I think it’s great to see blogs taking off in Jordan. I have done research on Arab satellite media, and in my opinion, just because it’s “indepedent” doesn’t mean it mostly tries to frame stories as neutral. Yes, the same can be argued for American media, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad. We may disagree on those issues, but it seems we’re both very enthused to see human publishing mounting at increasing rates. From reading your site, it seems like your are an important part of writing/tech community in Jordan. I can’t wait for the day when there are less internet cafes in the country, and more people have their own home connections, so blogging can become much easier and more widespread.

  2. Humeid Says:

    Dear Athena,

    Thanks for the comment. While, in general, Arab media cannot be compared (from an independence standpiont) to the US media, which has a long tradition of independence and professionalism, I have to say that in many instances (especially before and during th eongoing war in Iraq), US media has devolved into a one sided, misleading affair when reporting on the Middle East (especially on Palestine/Israel).
    I am not trying to generalize here. But the media on both side is often playing a distructive role. Hence the importance of blogging :)

  3. Ameen Malhas Says:

    For further proof of the dismal state of media in the US. Pls watch the movie “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism.”

    Undeniably one of the best looks at what constitutes “Fair and Balanced” these days.

    On topic, how will the autocratic regimes of the Middle East react to this flattening of the media, and how will this integrate into traditional media will be interesting developments to watch.

    As for our cut and paste ‘innovation’ model, I suggest we jump over everyone and make Amman, Beirut, Cairo and Dubai mega-hotspots where WiFi is accessible everywhere and provided by the government for very low access prices.

    We should also aim to bring the cost of mobile computing down by cutting tariffs on everything wireless and maybe even subsidizing such products. Allow open source to flourish in the region,

  4. Athena Says:

    Actually, for the most part, our media here in the US is anti-war. I will admit that it does not show pictures unless it’s “newsworthy” meaning “bad news” so bombings and all the like are mostly all that make the news.

    My friends didn’t even realize there were places like Mecca Mall or that women in Jordan wore outfits that some girls in the US won’t even wear.

    Even still, our media tilts to the left with a huge bias against Bush and against the US intervention in Iraq.

    I think it’s interesting to compare Iraqi blogs to the coverage by that of al-Jazeera and American media on the Iraqi situation.

Leave a Reply

* Copy this password:

* Type or paste password here:

391,434 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress