Enough already with the blogs-versus-mainstream debate, which erupts yet again over a MediaPost report that summarizes an alleged study* by Lexis-Nexis, the pay-per-view info-warehouse where people can search for articles from leading print publications. The gist of the report is that consumers turn to mass media, not bloggers, for breaking news. Prominent bloggers fumed that the study was self-serving — after all Lexis-Nexis hosts mainstream media content — and completely misses how the blogosphere (or the citizen media movement) is changing the media world.
I agree with the bloggers but fuming at the dunderheads of dead-tree media is not going to change their minds. Instead let me use a metaphor to argue that old and new media may be headed toward a symbiosis that will lead to something better. Let me borrow the concept of the mind-meld from the original Star Trek, the television parable that hinged on the interplay between the bombastic James T. Kirk and his uber-logical Vulcan sidekick, Spock.
Fans of that show will recall that time and again the differing talents of these two characters enabled the starship Enterprise to escape the various perils of Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction universe. Kirk would have the gumption to go where none had gone before and knock out the bad guys. Spock’s reason complemented Kirk’s passion because, even in real life, it is often critical to understand precisely how many zeroes to the right of the decimal point it takes to express a contamination rate of six parts-per-billion.
To extend this metaphor to media, the more even-tempered and fact-based mass media plays Spock, while the blogosphere, hard-wiresd to throw a punch or preach a sermon as Kirk-like tendencies.
I see us headed toward a melded media in which the mass outlets, craving information to feed their varied and voracious audiences, fly over the blogosphere with AWACS -look-down radar, lifting the best bits into the larger knowledge cloud. In return the mass media bestow some attention on the originating blogs — and attention is the new currency of media.
“Blogs aren’t about big breaking news stories. They’re about news in thousands of niches that are too small for the big boys to cover. When will people get it? Surveys like this are just silly. Big media and micro media are complementary, not competitive. Gee Willikers.”
This symbiosis will not be equal. They never are. Mass media will rule because it has the cash and the audiences and the clout. But who benefits more is irrelevant. Because the crew of Planet Earth will never achieve its continuing mission — to explore new worlds of ideas and build a better civilization — guided by its media as currently constituted.
* It would be helpful if, in the future, MediaPost reported details of the study: number of persons interviewed, margin of error, etc. I also looked for but could not find a copy of the study or at least a Lexis-Nexis press release. That would also have been useful.