When open source started, techies revolutionized not just the info tech space but also some of the rules of doing business and providing services and products to customers. In other words, they transformed economics.

In the last decade, technology in general and information technology more specifically has not only given jaw dropping sci-fi style gadgets and Daily Prophet like interfaces but has also broken some long standing rules about how much businesses can charge for what and how. Dis intermediation is one outcome of this open source culture, but for some industries its more than dis intermediation, it is changing the production process, delivery mechanism and consumption patterns.

Some prominent examples of this in a snapshot are:

  • Music sharing for free that challenged the Music industry’s business model ending up with Apple’s I-tunes as the model of choice.
  • Hollywood’s traditional distribution methods are being challenged, with the likes of Netflix rapidly becoming the new way of delivering programming and film content.
  • Tailored and on demand news and information sharing by platforms like Zite and Slate etc. which send push through multimedia articles and domain specific content to readers from a wide variety of sources.
  • Kick-starter and Bit coins and a whole range of financial alternatives and financing models being currently tested and tried successfully that are seriously challenging an already brow-beaten financial services industry.

    These technologies are powerful, seriously powerful things. Open source culture and now crowd sourcing have become ubiquitous. As open source allows many people to use available technologies to create and sell their products at low prices, there is considerable competition in things like gaming and entertainment and information, which means that the mechanics of charging customers have changed. Crowd sourcing in finance not only allows people to raise funds for an invention or a project without having to borrow or go to a major financial institution or a rich uncle but also allows producers to understand what products have a market. The customer is involved right from the start. The click is certainly mightier than the brick. The most significant revolutions and ‘regime changes’ that have happened in recent years started on social media, the famous social media led uprising in Tunisia followed by the Arab Spring being a case in point.

    There’s been talk for a long time of how social media will change advertising, but most social media companies had so far failed to really tap into this. This too is now however set to change with social media companies’ especially Facebook’s Advertising and boosting options offering very powerful advertising options to businesses. This is a big threat to traditional broadcast media advertising. With targeted, referral based and cheaper alternatives available, small businesses, start-ups and individuals can reach the right psychographic and demographic across the globe without spending too much. Competition for advertising revenues coupled with cheap and free information and news that is delivered through multiple sources into our inboxes, hand-held or palm tops and soon into our sunglasses (think Google Glass), its about time broadcast and broadsheet media really considered their options and business approach going forward.

    Alongside these seismic changes in access and distribution, there are dramatic developments in data visualization, information presentation, graphics and analytics. All these mean that not merely the messenger but the message is changing. While good journalism, creative writing, talented music composition and content creation is valuable and will perhaps always remain so, the tools of producing content, the mechanism of expressing an opinion and the very means of production and laws of economics and sociology are changing. While it will take academics years to perhaps piece together all the elements of this puzzle if at all they ever completely understand its implications, there is some very insightful work that has already been done by some academics viz Chris Anderson, Ethan Zuckerman, Robert Fisk etc. to name a few.

    While we wait to get a grasp of what really is the true and lasting impact of these developments, there are things that media professionals can already do to better reflect and adapt to these changes. To start with, creating more interactive, creative content and deploying newer design elements and graphics and incorporating crowd-sourced content into mainstream reporting is essential. Too often one sees publications take a puritanical and conservative attitude to these inevitable changes. These are incredible opportunities for serious journalism to deliver hard-hitting and meaningful content. Up-skilling journalists to deploying these technologies while expressing themselves is another aspect of journalism that needs far greater attention. Rather than hire techies to work separately and journalists to continue in the traditional way, the two need to work together to develop stories and present them. Matrix structures for reporting as opposed to the classic approach of journalists chasing stories and analysts working separately to bolster the views and news with statistics may not be the most efficient way of telling a story anymore.  How can a journalist for instance report on a news story accurately only through interviews and on ground observation, when multiple developments and aggregate actions of people influencing the story are being tracked through algorithms and when the key actors themselves are acting online and impacting developments on ground.  A 3 dimensional news experience presented in simple formats while conveying all the complexity that goes into a situation is a tractable challenge with the aid of these technologies. One sees television studios transformed into many a different type of data visualization sets during elections for instance. While that is a start, it needs to be incorporated in everyday media interactions. While software is becoming increasingly available and simpler for everyone to use and design their presentation and analysis, media companies need to embrace this head on and explore the possibilities to the fullest degree as they happen. Like gaming and other industries, engaging customers now comes before asking them to pay. The model therefore needs a rethink. This needs to be a media revolution as much as it is a technological one.

    Opinions voiced by Global Minds do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Global Journal.