August 28, 2004

Digital Ethics II.. and the New Commodity In Online Media

Talking with Adam Penenberg, he notes, continuing the conversation on digital ethics, linking and transparency:

Good point. In fact we talked more about the disintermediating effect of blogging on journalism. I think that blogging disintermediates it in many ways, but one new thing I hadn't thought of in quite this way until I said it to Adam was how blogging changes the business relationship between authors and creators, and publishers and editors. Basically, editors and publishers, in their old media format, commodify authors and creators.

In the old analog media, you bought Time, and they aggregated the articles.. and while you might know a byline or two, you trusted Time to get the right info, and the authors, with few exceptions, were not promoted, and were not the focus of reader's attention. Publishers and editors had the control and focus. Authors were commodities.

In the new online model, with deep linking and bloggers and low transaction costs for publishing, authors are the focus, and editors and big media publishers are both much less necessary, and the control they held is disappearing.

In otherwords, in the new model, the commodity becomes editors and traditional publishers. And the focus and attention, that which is linked to, valued and discussed, are authors and creators (partly because they assume the role of publisher and editor). A great author, a great creator, online, will get attention because their creativity and value stand out and originality can't be commodified.

This is one of the reasons why digital ethics means author ethics are so important. We want to see where people link, what the relationships are between them, and make our own decisions as readers and conversants about what those author relationships mean, as we take in the work. It's the author who matters, and the author who must decide how and what to show about their own biases and relationships. Because otherwise the online communities will decide for that author. It's so much cleaner if authors and creators give it to us up front. Readers like it and we need it to evaluate trust because authors have become uncommodified.

(BTW, I know you were wondering why (the f-word) I'm blogging right now.. well, I'm in the office; we've been cranking.. all day.. the joys of startup life... it is fun though.)

Posted by Mary Hodder at August 28, 2004 08:37 PM | TrackBack

(note my new blog link above, Mary)

Part of the fun of being a blogger and studying blogger is just that: there are few rules. Especially when compared to the ethical code of journalists. Bloggers can answer off-the-cuff, print erroneous stuff and even talk gibberish. However, if you want to establish a readership, you'd better follow a few rules (consistency, no lying, etc.).

Posted by: joe at August 29, 2004 10:04 AM

I think the simple explanation of what's happening is that with blog technology the publishing function has become so trivial that authors can easily do it. So they become the publisher.

And, as to your comment about an author getting attention because of their creativity, value and originality - aggregating publishers also stand out based on their ability to attract a good mix of good authors.

My point is, what's happening isn't terribly mysterious, nor in need of a new set of ethics. If an author becomes a publisher, then the author must/should adopt the relevant publisher ethics (as well as the relevant author ethics).

Posted by: Terry Steichen at August 29, 2004 01:04 PM

Mary: thanks for the great thoughts on this topic. I summarized some of the other activity here:

Posted by: Ben Casnocha at August 31, 2004 05:36 PM