Thursday, February 5, 2009

Take Your Pick: YouTube or Hollywood

No, I'm not literally asking you to pick, or suggesting that one will die in battle with the other. When recently listening to discussions about the "social web" and citizen journalism, I got to thinking that, while some believe we're witnessing an evolutionary step, we're really just playing into the old system. (Image: Digg) YouTube is a great example of a Web 2.0 site that is often directly compared to, what are now called, "old media" counterparts. Some hold the belief that YouTube is a viable replacement for the Hollywood studios, television networks, or broadcast news. This is simply not the case.

As mentioned by Michael Wesch, YouTube's content is not directly comparable to television content by any means. While there is explosive growth in the amount of content, most of the content is not meant for mass consumption. There are a few standout examples of people putting up high quality products for mass consumption (usually created during YouTube contests), but generally the content and production are not that great.

YouTube can provide endless hours of entertainment, but I would not pick it over the few TV shows I watch regularly. Likewise, I would never sacrifice CNN, or more broadly the Associate Press or Reuters, in favour of the Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Though both are great and tend to provide excellent background mainstream press tends to glide over, I would be uncomfortable relying on the Web community to not only produce opinion, but also to gather news as it happens in a credible and responsible way.

What I find more interesting than blogs, YouTube, or collaborative content is the concept behind sites like Digg. While Digg is primarily fed by mainstream sources, users control what content gets featured. What surprises me about Digg is how quickly stories can explode to the top of the list; many sites are competing for that spot and, more often than not, the best site for any given news item usually is the one to catch the wave of Diggs.

In some ways I see Digg as more democratic than citizen content creation because it is not a shouting match to get your voice heard, but a collaborative effort to pick out what's newsworthy or entertaining. It's an entirely different beast, and it's really something special. When it comes to the future of democratic media, I believe it will be the content presentation (via sites like Digg) that is far more valuable than the direct contributions of the blogosphere.

The blogosphere is a great thing in many ways and blogs really are a liberating force in allowing opinions to flow freely. However, what brings order to this is the power of collaborative filtering -- both in the form of Digg and in the form of social bookmarking like Stumble Upon or Delicious. Everyone should have their say as to what's newsworthy.