With a very simple concept, Digg.com has changed the fundamental nature of the news media and how millions of people access information. Digg (and its fellow social media sites) democratized the media, and wrenched control of what gets read from the gatekeepers of print and broadcast corporations and gave it to the people. Now, argue about whether this is good or bad, but it’s now a fact of life.
And someday soon this concept will spread to just about every area of our lives, from politics to entertainment to business to … you name it.
Get ready for the democratization of everything, like it or not.
What Digg Did
Before we can see how the concept of social media will spread to other areas of life, let’s take a look at what has happened, and why it’s so important.
In the days before Digg and friends, how did we access news? Through newspapers, magazines, radio and television. And who decided what news there was to access? Editors, and their bosses, publishers and corporations. To some extent — the extent that we still access new through traditional media — this still happens. A small few controls the gates of information to the masses.
But then social media came along, just within the last few years, and the gates broke open. Now, the traditional media still covers the news … but now many, many people don’t read or watch the stories through the traditional media outlets. They go to Digg, and see what’s hot. If there’s a story that sounds interesting, we click on the link and read or watch it.
And who decides what’s hot? The masses. And what’s more, it’s no longer the traditional media stories that are hot. Everyday writers, the bloggers and You Tube masters of the world, can be just as popular as the Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaws. Getting information to the masses depends on how good you are, not who you know.
How Our Lives Will Become Dugg
Corporate media is not the only area of life where a small few control the gates of information for the masses — it happens everywhere. The powerful concept of social media will break open those gates — maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually. It’s inevitable, as once someone decides to offer a Digg-like site for other areas of life, people will undoubtedly want to be in control of their information, and would never give it back to the gatekeepers.
What areas of life will be affected? Here are just a few examples:
- Music: Controlled right now by corporate production companies and distributors, and fed to us by radio stations and music television (MTV, et. al.), music is already becoming freer through peer-to-peer networks. Though the legal battles will continue for years, because of the huge amount of money involved, it is impossible to catch and prosecute every person who downloads music. The business structure of the music industry is already changing, and will eventually change completely. But who will decide what music is popular? The masses, through a Digg-like social interface. And it will be open to all musicians, not just ones with record deals.
- Movies: Also controlled by corporate production and distribution systems, movies are already becoming socialized through sites like You Tube. Soon DVDs will become obsolete as entire movies become distributed through You Tube-like sites, and the popularity of movies becomes Digg-like. And as more filmmakers turn to self-publishing on the Internet, just as writers do on blogs, it will no longer require a production and distribution company will millions of dollars to make a successful film.
- TV shows: Same as movies.
- Politics: But our government is already democratized, right? Sure. We elect officials every two or four years, but who votes on each individual proposal? The gatekeepers. A Digg.gov site will allow the masses to decide on issues, rather than having politicians do it for us. And those who are afraid of the masses deciding on issues are not truly in favor of a democratic government.
- Marketplace: Who controls what clothes are available to us? Clothing companies and department stores. Social media can change that — imagine a digital marketplace where you can go to see what clothes are hot. What about cars? Restaurants? Gadgets? Books? As you can probably tell, these things are already starting to happen with sites like Amazon and eBay.
- Work: Who controls what work we do and how we get paid? Traditionally, the corporations and managers — the gatekeepers of decisions and money and information. But what if your work was run by a Digg-like site? Where business decisions, project decisions, pay and benefits and workplace environment decisions, were all made by the masses of the company? That’s hard to imagine in traditional companies. But consider that these days, many people are working remotely, as free-lancers or consultant or telecommuters. If work becomes less centralized, and more spread out and free (as in free-lance, not free beer), why does a central person or group of people need to control all decisions? If a group of free-lancers begins to democratize their work, this idea could have much more appeal than the traditional corporate structure … and once people have their work under their own control, they are less likely to want to go back under the control of the gatekeepers.
These changes, again, won’t happen overnight. But the winds of change are already obviously blowing in this direction, and once people get a taste of freedom, they aren’t likely to want to stay under the control of a few.