John McCann

Traditional media enter the Participation Age

In Long Tail, Television on February 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

It is now clear that the traditional media have joined the Participation Age by adopting the same tools originally deployed by amateurs: blogs, podcast, vidcasts, social networks, etc. This participation was highlighted by a headline in the Wall Street Journal on February 13: “MTV to Lay Off 250 in Digital Shift.”

“Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks plans to lay off 250 employees this week, in an effort to realign its work force away from its traditional television business in favor of higher-growth digital media.”

I read this article shortly after examining the Top Podcasts list in the iTunes Store: almost all of the top 20 podcasts come from the traditional media such as ESPN, NPR and the other television networks. This means that podcasts from the traditional media are in the fat part of the long tail distribution, which is to be expected for branded material produced by professionals.

As the MTV’s of the world have shifted part of their efforts to the domains that were originally the province of the amateurs, it appears that those amateurs are going to be in the long tail. But it could be a “fat” long tail, as indicated by a recent press release from Verizon:

“PRESS RELEASE — NEW YORK, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Verizon FiOS TV and consumer broadband customers will soon have easy access to premium user-generated video content from Revver (, the first marketplace for viral videos. Revver content will launch on Verizon’s Surround broadband entertainment portal by the end of the first quarter and on FiOS TV later this year, and it will be free to Verizon FiOS TV and broadband subscribers.”

Verizon is a big company but is not thought of as a traditional media company. As Verizon grows its broadband TV system, it provides a venue for talented amateurs to gain distribution that could move them closer to the fat part of the long tail.

A similar venue is being offered by the New York Times, perhaps the epitome of traditional media:

“PRESS RELEASE — announced today that couples who submit announcements to the Weddings/Celebrations pages of The New York Times will be able to submit their own How We Met homemade videos to Never before has featured user-generated content in a video format.”

It is clear that the New York Times has joined the Participation Age, as has the Associated Press:

“PRESS RELEASE — NEW YORK — The Associated Press and announced Friday that they have agreed to an innovative initiative designed to bring citizen content into AP newsgathering, and to explore ways to involve NowPublic’s on-the-ground network of news contributors in AP’s breaking news coverage., based in Vancouver, is the world’s largest participatory news network with more than 60,000 contributors from 140 countries.”

Participatory news networks are likely to become a bigger part of our future, either as readers or news gatherers.


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