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Keeping the New Media new
Micki Krimmel, 10 Nov 06
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If you’ve been spending any amount of time online recently, chances are, you’ve been reading quite a bit about online video-sharing. With Google’s recent purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion and viral video stars increasingly earning mainstream fame, it’s clear that the “user-generated? video phenomenon has crossed over from the realm of citizen media enthusiasts into mainstream culture. And there’s money in it.

The online video explosion has blossomed as a beautiful example of democratized media. Affordable production tools and increased access to broadband Internet technology have given voice to millions of people across the globe, in what we call the Participatory Panopticon. Communities of citizen journalists and independent artists are popping up across the web. Independent video artists like Ask a Ninja and Ze Frank are working on their own terms, creating a new interactive art form as they go. Ask A Ninja’s short videos have been seen one million times over the last year and each new episode gets 300k - 500k views.

With its increased popularity, the Wild West of online video is now under the sights of the Old Media establishment. They want a piece of the action. Online communities are being gobbled up by traditional media companies and large revenue sharing deals are being struck. (Some may be shadier than others.)

Big corporations don’t necessarily care so much about open media. They’re certainly not interested in democratizing the process. If you’re a big media company, your goal is to own and control as much content as possible. You want to decide who gets to interact with that media and how, wrap advertising around it and secure maximum profits.

If Old Media buys out our New Media homes, how do we keep New Media new? If the owners of our communities sell out, who will be the guardians of the open media movement?

I spoke to Kent Nichols from Ask a Ninja about this issue over email and he said:

It's a weird time -- I imagine it's like the Seattle Music scene when grunge exploded into the national psyche. A small community of people thrust into the national spotlight. But this is the first time that the scene isn't geographically based. The old media is always going to co-opt -- it's a vampire with lots of upfront money. There will be a continued frenzy for a bit, and then things will change and those kids from the web will be passe.

But that won't matter. After the hype of "Web 2.0," the tools will still be there -- the technology doesn't disappear even if the companies that make it do. RSS is a old technology. It wasn't until recently that it was embraced and people figured out they could distribute files with it. Flash Video is old, but it's only been recently that broadband and compression technology has made it worthwhile…

The biggest threats are the people that would create a non-net neutral internet and the video sites that have unfriendly Terms of Service. If those oppressive forces conspire together then the indie creators don't have a chance to grow in the short term and profit in the long term. And you want the indie creators to profit, to move into the head of the long tail, because that's where they can make money.

As long as we can keep the Internet open and democratic, the tools for self-distribution will still be accessible and new New Media stars will replace those bought out by Old Media. It’s a big Internet and there is plenty of room for both Old and New Media.

The independent creators working on the web (from professional producers to kids in their bedrooms) can help ensure the tools for self-expression stay available by making informed decisions about which online services to use to publish their content.

Sites that host “user-generated? content necessarily depend on their users for their success. It’s up to the members of these communities to demand the respect they deserve. Creators need to choose services and websites with user-friendly terms of service and a strong commitment to Web 2.0 ideals. The decision you make when you choose where to host your content makes a difference.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Who owns your content? Be sure that the site you are using does not assume ownership of your video. Don’t give away rights to your video without reading the fine print. You should have the right to decide what people can/can’t legally do with your work.

  • Does the video-sharing service support sharing? Lawrence Lessig from Creative Commons wrote a blog post recently about “fake sharing? vs. “real sharing.? A truly open media requires that content is available for free and open sharing across the web.

  • Is the video-sharing service making money from your work? If so, are they sharing it with you?
  • Lessig recommends the following tools for video sharing with web 2.0 ethics: Blip.TV, Eyespot and Revver. (Full disclosure: I work at Revver.) If you have more recommendations, please leave a note in the comments.

    The rest of us can do our part to support New Media by protecting Net Neutrality. The beauty of the social web is in its democracy. The foundation of an open and free media system is in an open and free Internet, with all online content equally accessible by everyone (not taking into consideration varying qualities of connections). We’ve written about this issue here before. This post by Jon Lebowsky does a great job of explaining why it’s so important:

    We live in a world that's been reshaped by access to the Internet; this kind of communication has become so much a part of our lives and of the promise of the future, we owe it to ourselves to understand what its about, so that we can grasp the cultural and economic impact of proposed technical developments. The move away from net neutrality creates a slippery slope: if the network differentiates for some kind of content, we may see more and more differentiation and outright blocking and throttling of content from some sources. This would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.

    It would also mean the end of the burgeoning participatory media culture which allows us all to have a voice in shaping our world.

    You can get involved in the fight for Net Neutrality at

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    Speaking of reclaiming the internet - it is great to see the increasing profile of Mozilla Firefox as an alternative to the MS/IE stranglehold, as it has been for so long. Between greater control as an end user to what we see and what we don't, as well as what scripts and controls each individual site can 'push', combined with an active community of programmers providing regular updates and features that USERS want, it has given me back the control of my browsing experience.

    And even better - others among my net based friends community are frequently swapping over to Firefox - all in all it is a wonderful alternative option gaining mainstream acceptance - making the internet experience as easy and fuss free as it always should have been, before IE very nearly took over.......

    Posted by: Michael O'Brien on 12 Nov 06

    Everyone keeps talking about sites that own your work. I'm not aware of any that restrict you from doing other things. Are there specific terms & conditions I should watch out for? And can anyone tell me what sites are risky???

    Posted by: nalts on 13 Nov 06

    If Old Media buys out our New Media homes, how do we keep New Media new?

    We move to Boyle Heights, probably.

    Posted by: the daniel on 16 Nov 06



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