Since the development of the Internet and the World-Wide-Web, there's been this peculiar distinction between “old”, or “traditional” or “mainstream” media and the “new” forms such as blogs, podcasts, Internet radio, and video sharing, such as seen on services like YouTube. It's time we all stopped thinking this way. As the “new” media have taken root, and as the masses have adopted the Internet as their primary source for news and entertainment, these distinctions no longer make much sense. The Internet and Web have become the mainstream. Print, Radio and Television are rapidly becoming outlyers.
What, after all, is the REAL difference between an article printed in an old-style newspaper or magazine, and one published on a web-page or blog? The only real difference (leaving aside qualitative questions for a moment) is the means of distribution.
Does viewing video on a computer screen really differ that much from tuning in to the nightly news on television? Again, the primary difference is the mode of transmission. The same can be said of radio. Listeners to podcasts and Internet radio differ from radio listeners, mostly in the devices used to listen.
The fact is, the “old” media have already realized that in order to continue to be relevant, and (perhaps) commercially viable, they have to embrace these new means of distribution. Newspapers, publishers, television stations and networks, and radio outlets have all added the “new media” equivalents to their old-school paradigms So, the distinction is one without a real, meaningful difference.
Content is still content. If it's good, it draws an audience. In old-media, there were only a few channels, one-or-two local newspapers, so they didn't have to try very hard. Even ‘bad' material managed to find an audience due to limited choice. With the deveolpment of new technologies, audiences have access to a much wider array of choices, and can consume the programming they desire, rather than what's served up by a handful of information curators (called editors or publishers). Because of technology, the playing field is more level than ever before. Anyone with some information, some ideas, and a minimum amount of access to technology can create and publish content and find an audience.
But, from the social, business, and legal perspectives the so-called “new” media are really just an evolution of the way media content is consumed. Yes, they're “new” in the sense that they've only recently become available, but in all other respects, they're still just media, and the same rules apply (or should) to the the producers.
The real trouble is that so many content creators are doing so not professionally, but as a hobby. The danger in this is that these content producers are subject to the same laws, regulations and (arguably) ethical guidelines as the pros. But unlike “big” traditional media, many are not equipped with the resources to defend lawsuits that arise from the publication of their content. So their voices can be stifled, by a simple threat letter or an unjustified DMCA takedown notice. Some have suggested that hobbyists shouldn't be held to the same standards as professionals. Others argue that hobbyist bloggers shouldn't be afforded the same protections given to ‘real' journalists. Bunk.
Content creators need to know the rules, the ropes and the techniques they can use to minimize their risk, avoid liability, and bypass the pitfalls that can confound them. They also need the same protections as old-school content creators. The first amendment was designed to permit, and even encourage the voicing of minority and unpopular views. It's one of the things that makes America great. Free speech and press protections must not be limited to only those speakers that are deemed ‘worthy' by those in power. That's exactly what the first amendment is about.
I'll be expanding on all of this in my upcoming presentation: “Don't let your content land you in legal hot water” as part of the BlogWorld New Media Expo being held in Los Angeles, November 3-5 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The expo is packed with top thought-leaders who'll be presenting on myriad topics that relate to making, distributing, marketing and monetizing blogs, podcasts, online video, and the like. The trade-show floor is likewise a must-attend. If you're a new media producer, whatever your medium, blog, podcast, video, or even if you work primarily in “traditional” media, you owe it to yourself not to miss this important conference. I attended last year, and it's terrifically fun, too!
My talk will be held at 12:15-1:15pm on Saturday, November 5th, as part of the digital broadcasting track. I hope you can join me. I'll be giving away a few copies of my book “The Podcast, Blog, & New Media Producer's Legal Survival Guide” (ebook available at http://podcastlawbook.com) (hardcopy available at Amazon.com and Lulu.com)