Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lakbima News and Kottu Bloggers. Can the traditional mass media survive the challenge forced by the Bloggers and the Internet?

In my last post about "Free Media in Sri Lanka" I hinted that in my next post, I'm going to discuss about how the internet and web 2.0 going to challenge these traditional, “owners investment driven” media industry. I think the posts by Cerno and Rhythmic Diaspora about Lakbima News and Rajpal Abenayake, set a good background for me to start my post about the changing face of news & information exchange methods among people.

I see this whole "Lakbima episode" as a good answer for those people who think "bloggers are not serious,just because they blog anonymously or under pseudonyms". All the articles copied by Lakbima, were originally done by anonymous bloggers including Cerno, RD and Chaar-Max. So, if anonymity is a barrier for credibility, why a national newspaper like Lakbima bothered to copy content from anonymous bloggers?

And this is a good indication that the traditional channels of mass media like Sunday Newspapers are dieing fast, and they are trying to catch up with the latest trends around. User generated information on the internet and web 2.0, are the latest buzzword! First hand experience of real people. Not some bullshit written by a paid journalist, to promote some one's political agenda. And the mass media can't skip this trend. They have to do something to rescue their markets. So, increasingly the editors and owners of these mainstream media channels are looking forward to the general public, to source their information. And this is a common trend happening in mass media all around the world.

CNN branded it as "iReport". BBC branded it as "Have Your Say!". But what all these big media companies are doing is, stealing valuable content from the users, and use that content to run their business. Imagine how much would it be cost for CNN to get a picture or a video of Virginia Tech Massacre, from a freelance journalist. But, through iReport CNN managed to get hundreds of user generated video's of the incident, for free of charge! And they broadcasted it across the world. CNN and BBC are only two examples, but increasingly the mainstream mass media institutions are adopting these tactics to get free content for their media channels, from the first hand users of those information.

Lakbima News was only a one such media organization in Sri Lanka, who tried to practice the same tactic. It's very attractive to read some one's real first hand experience at the passport office, rather than reading a professional journalist's boring article about the corruption at passport office.
But, the way they did was inappropriate and immoral. CNN invite users to submit stories to iReport, and the users know that their content is going to be published on CNN website and TV. But what Lakbima did was, simply stealing somebody else's content without even dropping off an e-mail or a link back to the original post.

I think the web 2.0 communities, and blogging going to re-shape the way we acquire news and information in the future. I am more comfortable to trust what Indi Samarajeewa says on his blog, than trusting what Lasantha Wickramatunga says on Sunday Dry Fish Wrapper Leader. And I'm comfortable in believing what DefenceNet blog publish about the war in North, rather than believing what the TamilNet or Defence.lk have to say about the war.

And the most attractive thing about this new media of blogging is the level of interactivity. I can't give an immediate response to a Lasantha Wickramatunga's article, but I can do it for a post by Indi. And, Indi can clarify or counter argue within a matter of few seconds. No one can lie, like in the traditional print or electronic media. Every one who read a blog, can input their ideas and knowledge, to enrich the conversation.

Bottom-line is, people tend to like believing peers or people at the same caliber, rather than believing what the mass media is publishing. This is where things like Blogging and Youtube can make a huge difference. With the technology is becoming more and more simple to understand by non-geeks, more and more non-geeks like me, will start using new technologies like blogging, mBlogging, FlickR, and Youtube. With these techy things enhancing our day to day life, I don't have to wait until a reporter from Sirasa FM reaching the latest bomb blast location in Colombo. Before he reach there and compile his report, some one at DefenceNet or some other Kottu blogger will come up with a post! Or else, we can get instant alerts through JNW.

And as a result of these developments, "information and news" will no longer be under the sole proprietorship of "Paththara Mudalai's" or "Free Media Mudalali's". We, as the consumers of information, can exchange more trustworthy news and information among ourselves, faster and accurately, rather than depending on so called "journalists" to do their job.

At the most extreme case, the job of the journalists in the society will have no value at all in the future, (Because everybody is going to have a blog. Every body is a journalist!) and it will create an opportunity for Free Media Mudalali's to fight for a new slogan. "Save our jobs! Ban all the blogs!"

As I mentioned above, companies like CNN and BBC has recognized the immense value of the user generated information on internet. In Sri Lanka, we still don't see the mainstream media companies utilizing this to the maximum, other than stealing articles from Kottu bloggers.

Future of information and news sourcing going to be a fully community based operation. Instead of depending on large media companies, people will be able to exchange the first hand information and news, faster than through traditional media sources.

Real entertainment begins, when the traditional journalists try to get into the blogosphere, they have to come out of their shelters. Because unlike in their favorite print media, people are not going just read and believe what they write. People will ask questions. And if the questions are un answerable, these traditional journalists get uncomfortable. Then they look for censor comments (Giving one of thousands of reasons), or delete unfavorable comments. The same people who accuse governments for media censoring, are practicing the same cheap tactics against the reader responses. That's why the people with traditional media background couldn't do much of a difference in the blogosphere. They can't survive in environments where interactivity, and opposite opinion exchange is considered as an utmost value.

There may be lot of such traditional media people, utilizing this new media, to publicize their political agendas. They may use attractive terms as "citizen journalism" or "Participatory journalism" in the cover, but inside their sites/media it's the same old bullshit they used to spread in traditional media channels, they spoiled over the years. It's the same old "media Mudalali's" who write on those sources. They never adhere to the principles of web 2.0 communities, and participatory journalism. Two main principles are, "Keep it real" and "Let the users interact freely".

To end this post, I would say, welcome to my own personal Media Empire! "A Voice In Colombo".
Here, I challenge the oligopoly of Sirasa Mudalali, Sumathipala Mudalali or any other Mudalali, who use these traditional media channels to promote their political agenda's. You too can build your own media empire. Start blogging, if you have not started yet...

Reccomended Reading
The Economist's (April 2006)

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7 People Had Something to Say about this post. Read them and add your thoughts....

Lakmal said...

Yes man. What you said in your post is 100% true. In near future newspaper usage will be very low due to the high speed communication models like blogging, podcasting, etc. Also I'm sure those Media Mudalali's will hire bloggers to capture the online market. But we (bloggers) should never join to any Media Mudalali. Beware bloggers ! They might catch you using their money.

Dili said...

Your argument is totally valid VoC, but Paththara Mudalali isn't going anywhere just yet. at least not in Sri Lanka. Its only a minuscule amount of the population that has access to and that properly uses the new avenues of blogging, podcasting etc. To a vast majority, a computer is a worthless dream, and the Sinhala newspapers showing all thats bad in the country is the mainstream media. But the VoC media empire is the future :) Rise, Bloggers!!!

Sam said...

Blogs will not destroy news papers. But popularity of blogs will force new papers to deliver quality content. Eventually news papers have to move in to much more serious and investigative journalism that is hard for normal blogger to handle. Like how New York Times is doing now. That way news papers will always survive in content business.

BUT, physical appearance of the new paper will change once plastic papers out in the market. Defiantly we cannot keep on using fiber base papers for far long because of environment issues too. Newspapers have to adapt in to digital content delivery very soon, just like how music publishers have to adapt in to digital distribution when tools like ipods hit the markets. That will also give wider space to bloggers same way mp3 provide more space for independent artists. But digital plastic papers not yet ready.

Now in Sri Lanka, internet is NOT something we are familiar with (thanks to TRC). We have to wait one more generation for that. Well-repudiated book publisher in Sri Lanka, also a university lecture and a writer, once told me.. “oh no! We don’t give internet to our boys. They can’t play that game with us”. Our older generation still looks upon internet as something dirty and vulgar, just like how their parents look at the TV and their parents look at the books. We are not there yet.

Theena said...

I agree with your assertions.

I think Sri Lankan newspapers in general haven't got a proper strategy to deal with the web. It's the same old story; once they get a website, they think they are sorted. Getting a website is not even difficult - giving great content is.

You only have to read the UK newspapers - The Times Online, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph - to get an idea of how traditional journalism can be merged with new age content delivery methods. The entire websites of these newspapers has a high degree of interactivity with readers being able to comment away at stories that they found thought provoking.

Some of these papers have also brought in blogs and have had some pretty good writers blogging for them. So not only do they have traditional newspaper style reporting, they also feature the conversational, almost ranty, take on issues of importance.

That is the right way of doing things. Not copying stuff from blogs without asking for permission from the owner and having it published on some newspaper that people buy only to check out job vacancies (Sunday Observer) or to fill pages on a new publication (Lakbima) that doesn't have enough writers to begin with.

Rajpal had the right ideas. He just did it in the most moronic manner possible.

Theena said...

*The entire websites of these newspapers has a high degree of interactivity with readers being able to comment away at stories that they found thought provoking.

Should be, 'the entire websites of these newspapers have.....'

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