Are media consumers mostly couch potatoes?

by Mathew on January 19, 2006 · 5 comments

Scott Karp, the managing director of research and strategy for Atlantic Media, seems to have a way of writing things that get under my skin. First he said that bloggers have it all wrong when it comes to the “new” media, and that the vision of people choosing and even helping to create their own media was fatally flawed. At the end of the post, he responded to some of the criticisms from the blogosphere, and then wrote another post that was more conciliatory, discussing the idea that old and new media should work together.

That was fine. And then he wrote another one more recently entitled “Web 2.0 is not Media 2.0,” in which he returns to his previous theme — which is that sites like del.icio.us and newsvine.com and digg.com and so on are not helping anyone except geeks, and that this is all a symptom of the problem he has described before, which is “too much media.” He says Newsvine is way too much work for the average person, and that what consumers want is someone to filter and synthesize for them. Jeremy Wagstaff of the Wall Street Journal says the blogosphere is a bit of an echo chamber.

I’m not saying Scott doesn’t have a point, or that Mitch Shapiro at IPDemocracy doesn’t have a point when he says the tools we use need to evolve. Obviously they do — and they likely will. And yes, people need filters and synthesis. But I’m not sure they need to be led by the hand quite as much as Scott seems to suggest they do. Yes, reading a newspaper is easier than going to digg.com — but not much. You have to buy the paper, for one thing, and then flip through a bunch of crap you have no interest in. How hard is digg? You go to digg.com and click on something. Don’t want to tag? Don’t tag.

Flickr.com, which Scott uses as an example of an easy and successful Web 2.0 app, is just as hard as digg.com, if not harder — if you want to tag, and join groups and so on, which plenty of people clearly do. Anyone who has tried to actually buy or sell something on eBay knows that it’s no picnic — and yet millions of people do that. Readers also show a huge interest in carrying on a conversation, either with each other or with writers, as we’ve found at my newspaper the Globe and Mail, where readers can comment on any story. That is a huge part of the draw.

Yes, people need filters, and they are time-pressed. But they will go where their interest lies, and they don’t need as much hand-holding as I think Scott is suggesting they do.

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