What does consumer-driven media look like in the age of abundance?

Given free, open, and abundant content, consumers — not producers — now control the media, which means the competition shifts to user experience

To paraphrase David Skok, ‘publishers once had to focus on their own platforms, but the dynamics have changed, and now they need to focus on their readers.’ It’s a fascinating about-face in the business of content production — even that beyond journalism — and I’ve harped on it too:

Throughout history, the media business was predicated on scarcity. There were huge barriers to entry, like expensive printing presses and distribution infrastructure. So, if you could afford the startup costs of a newspaper business, your reward was an effective monopoly: one newspaper and hundreds-of-thousands of subscribers.

Accordingly, when the product was scarce, the balance-of-power always lay in the hands of producers. However, today, the internet has eliminated the barriers to entry, and now anyone can produce and distribute content. In this age of abundance, the balance-of-power has shifted to consumers.

Yet, content consumers still have to waste way too much of their time to get way too little value out of their experience. Innovations like blogging and social media have improved how content is produced, but nothing has made it easier or better to consume

The process of enjoying good content is way harder than it should be, with unnecessary frictions making it needlessly time-consuming to find, finish, retain, or apply the media that’s actually valuable to each of us.

It’s so hard for producers to wrap their head around what consumer-driven media looks like, because there’s really no historical precedent. I promise it’s not this:

Stories were selected, reported, and written, not only on the basis of whether they were good stories or not, but whether they allowed the department to provide a comprehensive news package that would fill each section.

Nor this:

the unintended goal of each department became to drive readers back to our owned articles so we could capture the revenues through our existing manufacturing supply chain (and existing business model).

First off, quality is a given. The rest of consumer-driven media has a lot to do with the user experience. That doesn’t mean build a better mouse trap — like new formats or new ways to catch & keep attention. It means make it easier or better to consume content.

The Correspondent and Annotote are two very different approaches, but they’re the best examples of consumer-driven media for the age of abundance that I can find.

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