Heads Up: Future ‘Readers’ Are Content Creators

Here’s a peek into the future. A new report
from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says, “Fully half of
all teens and 57 percent of teens who use the Internet could be
considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or webpage,
original artwork, photography, stories, or videos online, or remixed
online content into their own new creations.”

This is just a teenage thing, right? Won’t they grow out of it? Isn’t
this Myspace.com thing just a fad?
Don’t count on it.

Media usage patterns are established early in life and tend to persist.
The General
Social Survey
has been tracking consumer behavior for about 35 years
now. Take
a look
at Philip Meyer‘s chart of that data, recently quoted by Ben
on Corante.com. Notice how newspaper readership bounces up and
down from sample to sample, but over time doesn’t change all that much
as a reader ages.

Maybe applying that principle to content creation is a stretch, but I
don’t think so. I think this points to a future with high levels of
participatory media usage. Now is the time to focus your Internet
content strategy on participation and online community development, and
to work to change your newsroom culture to embrace interaction. Question
that worn-out term, “readers.” It doesn’t cover the territory any more.

If you need to quote somebody in a debate with your print pals, don’t
quote me. Quote Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times,
who said last weekend at the Online News Association conference that
“our cultural firmament is shifting” with the evolution of new forms of
global conversation on the Internet, “and we need to adjust.” Part of
that adjustment for the Times is “exploring becoming a convener of
communities.” Coming from the “All the News that Fits” newspaper of
record, that’s a leap.

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