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The key to New Media's victory: communities

Some may believe that New Media has grown because of its inherent ability to bring information to readers much quicker. But as Don Reisinger argues, New Media has enjoyed its success because of its adoption of communities between readers and writers.

As a member of both the Old Media and the New Media, I've come across a variety of values that different publications covet. Some in the Old Media require the tried and true forms of journalism that revolve around the idea of talking at readers. On the other hand, I've worked in the New Media environments where I have been asked to talk with readers and develop a quasi-friendship through my columns and their comments.

And while both have their own merits, the Old Media style is based in the past. After all, before we had the Internet, we were inundated with newspapers and magazines that allowed writers with a significant lead time to discuss topics they were passionate about in the hopes that their readers would care.

Compare that to the New Media style of community and immediate response, and an interesting dichotomy develops where those in the Old Media are still clinging to the past, while those in the New Media are trying desperately to move away from the ties that still bind us to the twentieth century.

But if we've learned nothing else over the past decade, we now know that people have been craving for the ability to communicate. For too long, readers like yourself were caught in a trap where writers would write and readers would read. If the reader wanted to cross that boundary and write, they would need to send a letter to an editor and hope to see it in a future issue. By that point, almost everyone has forgotten the topic and the reader will never be able to see a response.

Some people say that the New Media -- namely, blogs, podcasts and IPTV -- has been successful because of its ability to bring important information to readers in shortest amount of time possible. And while I believe that has contributed to its success, it has been this enormous growth in communities that has ushered in a new era of journalism.

Human beings are community-oriented. In fact, many studies have shown that a person who is left alone will lose many of their human-like qualities and quickly sink into depression and outright despair. Knowing this, why would we think media should be any different?

For too long, people were forced into vacuums and told what to do and how to do it. If you wanted to read column, listen to the radio or watch a television show, you were expected to absorb.

But today, the rules have changed. Absorption has quickly given ground to participation and the old idea that readers are uninformed and need guidance has (luckily) been thrown out the window.

And while New Media and Old Media are relatively similar in terms of content -- I write a column online or I write a column in print, but either way, I'm still speaking to the same subject and in the same style -- it's speed and community that makes those two forms of media so incredibly different.

If someone says New Media has become popular solely because of the ease of access to information, they have no idea what they're talking about. New Media has proven to be a success because any reader can read this column, scroll down the page and leave a message telling me I'm right, wrong or just plain smart or stupid. And once that person leaves that message, they are immediately part of a community where I tell everyone what my opinion is and then the reader tells the rest of us what they believe.

Although some people may not find the time to comment or have nothing to say, commenting and discussing a topic can be addictive and extremely pleasing. Instead of absorbing information in a vacuum, we now have the ability to communicate with those that may share the same belief or disagree entirely. And in the end, who can say that either one of us is wrong? After all, an opinion is an opinion and no one should be thought less of for having one.

Of course, this idea of a community goes far beyond print. Podcasts and IPTV shows actually take this idea of community to whole new level.

Consider this: when you hear someone speak or watch them talk about a topic, you almost feel as though you know that person and can relate to them in some way. Sure, you may not necessarily agree, but if you ever saw them on the street, you feel like you already know them and they're a part of your community. Can the same be said for the Old Media? Not a chance.

Ironically, Old Media has yet to discover the secret to New Media's success. Sure, some major publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have found ways to include a semblance of a community on their Web pages, but by and large, most Old Media publications have been extremely unsuccessful in this new age.

And although many Old Media outlets have tried to find a way to turn it around, they have lost sight of the true allure of New Media -- communities. And by allowing readers to run astray and become valuable parts of communities all over the Internet, Old Media has very few options at its disposal. Suffice it to say, Old Media may fail sooner than you once thought.