I enjoy listening to and creating podcasts. To me they represent what is truly unique and good about new media. I was therefore taken aback when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Should Know, and heard the hosts read a letter from a listener by the name of Katie. This listener was from old media and criticized everything I believe is special about the new media as exemplified by Josh and Chuck's very successful podcast series. She thought the podcast should be more polished, more thoroughly edited, and could do without the delightful exchanges between the two hosts. The essence of her argument was that the podcast should conform to the style, format, and content of old media. While I'm sure she meant well, I couldn't disagree more with her arguments. And it got me thinking about a trend that I'm seeing with new media as it is increasingly taken over by old media.
Right after I listened to that episode of Stuff You Should Know, I finished listening to Tim Wu's book "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires". I would recommend that anyone interested in the history of information empires and an insightful analysis of the trends, read Tim's book. The book points out that previous information innovations cycled between decentralization and centralization. The internet and new media in general, according to the author, has thus far not repeated the trend evidenced during previous introductions of new information technologies. However, I think we're starting to see wonderful decentralized web and new media attempting to be taken over by old media and thus becoming more centralized. I was even approached by old media proposing to convert my Life Habits podcast series into a syndicated terrestrial radio program. Of course, the podcast would have had to change to conform to the old media format and style which in my view would have fundamentally changed it's essential character. When I mentioned this to friends, they were impressed that old media came calling. However, I find it strange that people still consider being asked to contribute to old media having "made it". To me, being successful with a piece of new media means having a lot of people actually download it, provide positive ratings on it, and having it rank highly on iTunes. I think it would be a shame if we all went back to the old media format and characteristics because it would mean losing what is truly special about new media (thanks to Pete Price for the above photo via Creative Commons).