The New Bards

In 1938, National Allied Publishers, better known today as “DC Comics”, published Action Comics #1. It was about a man, who was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and could leap tall buildings—- yes, Superman wasn’t a man who could fly, at least in those early days. He was just bullet proof. Since 1938, humans have created the bomb. We’ve left our foot print on the moon. And brilliant men and women have invented the Internet. Now, more than ever, we live in a world where humans are increasingly becoming Super.

This is about our transformed media landscape. This is about the new Bards. This is about you.

Recap

This period we are living in today, Clay Shirky dubbed the “largest increase in expressive capability in human history”.

Our world today is so fantastic that we know about earthquakes faster than an earthquake itself could travel. Twitter made a big deal that tweets travel faster than earthquakes!

This transformed media landscape has redefined how we communicate, and how we express ourselves that in January 2010, the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton gave Remarks on Internet Freedom.

In more ways than one, the year that was 2011 was an extension of 2010. At least so far as this transformed media landscape we’re in.

To stress the point, this 2011’s Time “Person of the Year”, is the Protester. Fueled by Arab Spring, and the Occupy movement, the Protester has used social media across countries. Fueled by the rise of Facebook and Twitter in the public consciousness. More and more people, are expressing themselves online with effect offline.

Across America, the landscape is maturing. We see print and television scrambling to get on digital. We see the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal experimenting on business models. And we’ve seen Apple creating newsstands, and the Voice of Tech— at the end of 2010— podcasting, as an industry five years ago wasn’t a viable business model turn into a multimillion dollar business, and it continues to grow and expand in 2011.

For Tech publications, the market is moving quickly and has consolidated to “brands”. All Things D, TechCrunch, The Next Web, The Verge, AppleInsider, Mac Rumors, and others were once called Group Blogs, and once were driven primarily by bloggers, but the landscape matured and that journalists are finding the ease of publication to start their own media empires.

In 2011, the search for revenue continued as pageviews and online advertising makes for less sustainable market place. And now we’re seeing subscriptions popping up— as newsstands on Tablets. As the Tablet market grows, so too will the fortunes of online publications.

That’s in America. So where does the Philippine media landscape lie?
In 2010, we saw the online world’s first step towards becoming relevant in an election year. It was a battle ground to be in, but it neither won the war, nor did it make a significant dent in the rise or fall of fortunes.

All it did was create buzz.

So in 2011, it did the same. Social Media— blogs, video blogs, social networks have been used to create buzz. Entertainment scandals would sometimes start off online and migrate offline. We’ve seen local brands and campaigns create buzz and awareness online, and spread locally through various range of successes. We’ve seen breaking news— like Osama bin Laden’s death started off online, and seep through to our offline world.

As buzz and social media become increasingly important, we find more and more companies, not just in the Philippines but around the world transforming themselves into IT companies. More and more people are connecting to their customers by creating Apps to interact with their audience.

We’ve seen media companies create apps, whether outsourced or driven in house, they are transforming themselves into IT shops. We’re seeing companies of all shapes and sizes creating Twitter accounts, and Facebook accounts to interact with their customers, and to engage in buzz.

In Philippine publishing, we’ve seen publishing houses transform themselves from purely print, to creating their own end-to-end solutions are more and more schools are dropping paper, and 5 kilos of backpacks and school gear for tablets. This is forcing publishers to develop technologies in house, transforming themselves into digital companies.

Another example is Interaksyon, and the MMDA. The MMDA created an App for traffic monitoring. This is an organization largely offline, but with pioneering work from their digital teams, the new Map is brilliantly executed.

So these foundries are the next step, and 2012 we will see the continued transformation of small, medium and big business in the Philippines into creating IT shops themselves.

On the social media world, we’ve seen a slow down in blogs. The blog world seem dry, and dismal with many of its practitioners focusing their attention to other pursuit. In the Philippines, the primary sources of online growth seem to be the group blogs, led by entertainment sites like pep.ph, adult entertainment, YugaTech and similar sites are the top draws, and oddly enough, the old forum is where the eyeballs are. Diarists, and similar style blogs have failed to breach the top 100 sites visited. So we’ve reach a point of stagnancy.

The fact that Facebook, and forums remain the top eyeball draw for online infotainment particularly spells much trouble for practitioners of social media. An “echo chamber” has been created. We’re no longer producing much content so much as repeating content already made, or worst— filling the dull drums with meaningless and intelligence draining drawl that Filipinos think of as sarcasm, and worst— satire.

So why this dismal?

First, it is the absence of an increase in audience leading to a fragmentation of the market— producers are the only ones reading content. This is due to the fact that infrastructure isn’t there to consume this content, as much as there is only so much attention one can focus on. There are a so many channels, attention by the existing consumers is fragmented. And second, a matter of economics.

At the end of 2010, we’ve seen a small controversy generated by a draft NTC memo shake, and spur the Philippine online world into activism. Throughout 2011, we’ve seen the memo to be partly defeated. A status quo of sort— as arisen, but no US-style cap on paper. An effect too we’ve seen is that telecommunications companies have somewhat reacted. The telecommunications companies engage in public relations warfare, and in slowly building and refurbishing their networks.

Speed and reliability has somewhat improved for some, and for others it has gone from good to terrible. We’ve seen networks grow with increasing speed and reliability. In 2011, most people have between 1MBPs to 2MBPs speeds, and more and more people are opting for higher speeds— in small pocket areas. This is understandable given physics, economics and limits of engineering. Networks aren’t built overnight, at least not yet. So at the end of 2011 we’ve seen the groundwork laid in, telcos restructuring, and into 2012 we will see if they actually see a continued increase in infrastructure development.

More than anything— the threats and upheaval in 2012 in communications, and in technology, with significant impact in the way of life and the economy in the Philippines rest on how fast telecommunications infrastructure is brought up to par with our neighbors in Asia.

So the bottleneck in growth is in the infrastructure. As in previous pieces, I’ve noted that the network is like the road, the railway, and electricity. It is a driver of economic growth.

To prove this, I point you to Nielsen’s Net Index 2011. According to Nielsen, “Internet usage has remained stable between 2010 and 2011.” Further more it noted that increasingly Internet use is moving the home, away from Internet cafe, but in snail’s pace. The further threat is highlighted in the non-existent growth in Mobile Internet use.

That said, the social media landscape is being redefined. With few exceptions, the self-published diarist will find it much harder to be noticed in a sea of echo chamber content. As the rise of group blogs continue, and now— with the coming of Rappler, and mainstream sites like ABS-CBN, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Interaksyon set to usher in the next chapter in social media in the Philippines, and the creation of the next wave in digital brands and digital media that is uniquely Filipino.

2012 will see continued experimentation in the group blogging scene. And depending on eyeballs— entirely created by access to this medium, we will see its continued experimentation to a better business model, right on time for 2013.

On the economic side, Blogging shares the fundamental problem of long time newspapers. Blogging needs a business model. Blogging as a business isn’t sustainable through advertising alone, as publishing companies have realized. So there has to be a business model that makes sustainable blogging possible.

So where will the ordinary Filipino find itself scratching an itch to say something online?

Facebook. instagr.am, tumblr, and others will be places for where we scratch that itch.

The new blogging

Twitter Discover (Click to Enlarge)
Twitter. Google+ will be places where “serious” stuff gets published, but not too “serious” to warrant a full “blog post”.

It is a mistake going into 2012 to think of Twitter as a “social network”.

It isn’t. In 2011, Twitter has found itself to be a blogging platform. It is Blogger+Reuters Newswire+cocktail party+columnist all rolled into one. It is where real-time news happens. It is the place were earthquakes are first reported, then felt. It is a media company, not a social network company, and Twitter the company understands this dramatic shift.

Twitter the company understands it with the way it has been “Baked” into iPhones, and the rest of Apple’s mobile devices. Twitter reflects this understanding with its latest version— both on its website and on its iOS app. There is now more room for “discovery”, and the hashtag has become a channel. And each person— each @person is now a “channel” in this diverse New Media Platform. So no longer will blogs define your personal brand, twitter will, and does. This “new” media platform is the perfect place to create your own personal online brand.

The retweet now becomes the new link back. One upon a time, to be discovered in blogging you needed people to link back to you. Today, and going into 2012, we will see the diarist transformed into the twitter, and linked back to you. This is the new power structure.

Identity

Facebook and Google+ on the other hand are edging their way to make you be their identity service. This transformed Social Networking landscape is the next step in what used to Forums and Bulletin boards. So don’t think of it as a “blog”, think of it as a bulletin board.

And campaigns waged on it should be within that dimension.

It is also a channel with a captured audience.

The new Bards

What we’ve learned in 2011 is that the technology landscape is interrelated. We’re seeing IT companies— developers dissolve and merge with every other business. SMEs need to be increasingly social to reach their customers. And there is an explosion of need for people to design, build and execute not just social media, but apps, and webpages like never before. Product launches require now the added “umph” of social media as a channel of broadcast.

This transformed media landscape is redefinding how we tell stories. The New Bards of 2012 will be found in group blogs, as it becomes primary sources of infotainment. Each site will become a portal and capturing that market will be invaluable.

The New Bards of 2012 will be found on Twitter, and on Facebook. This is where the amateur, and the noobs will grow their audience from, and they will graduate to full blown apps, and websites.

A transformed media landscape however will be limited by the infrastructure. Just as television and radio were limited by the set top boxes, and the broadcast antennas that needed to be built, so too is this “new media” limited by the current generation of not just infrastructure, but how and where content is read— excuse me— experienced.

So it is a broadcast medium, not so different from “blogging”, and not so different from being a daily columnist.

In 2010, in a presentation called “Democracy and New Media”, Manolo Quezon noted:

“In the aftermath of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the public was able to scour official records, often in real time, analyze government policies, scrutinize official actions, and raise red flags. It resulted in the Secretary of Social Welfare Esperanza Cabral filing a libel suit against a blogger, not for herself, she claims, but for her fellow public servants. This is a reminder that those who oppose the medievalism of the Catholic Church are fully capable of launching their own inquisitions.”

In 2011 we saw Old and New Media interacting, and the players in both spheres mixing. While New Media— the sum of media online— now appropriately called, Social Media, is becoming just one Media— how is it in reality? In 2012, we will see it consolidate in media properties, with social networking as the primary places where ‘ordinary people’ get to be ‘discovered’.

I spent a considerable time noting network infrastructure because this has significant impact for Philippine economy, and Philippine media as we know it.

So yes, in your hands today are Blackberries, and iPhones, and Androids. So yes, we live in an time of great expression— the single greatest explosion in human expression, in like ever. Each in their own right powerful. You each in your own right is armed with the tools to make you super. And on the extreme, as Arab Spring, and countless examples of 2011— that is indeed powerful. But as Nielsen’s Net Index 2011 pointed out, crippled with the near absence in growth in Mobile Internet, and likewise slow transformation from the Internet cafe to work and home.

What we can gleam from this is a low tech world living in a high tech universe. The tablets and transformation in the text book publishing industry will only go so far as how the network we have going into 2012, and 2013 become increasingly viable. And the way we tell stories— in video, in text, on audio, is now highly dependent on how we experience these stories, and these stories are entirely dependent on the Network. The strength of the network is for humans like the strength of the sun is to Superman. The network is where we get our superpower.

Going into 2012, the Philippines will face a number of political issues. The Corona Impeachment, the battle for GMA and the story of corruption will reach a fever pitch. The battle between the Church’s old guard becoming relevant in today’s world, and today’s flock’s need for those same leaders to be relevant will too be put to a test should the RH Bill fail to pass or should it pass. And all these will require New Bards to tell the tale, just as we need New Bards to tell stories about fashion, about lifestyle, about travel, and about causes once too little, can now gain much attention. Like it or not, going into 2012, telecommunications infrastructure— its presence or lack there of— is a national resource that becomes increasingly important as we tell new stories, and as an economy needs to grow.

There is a need for new bards to tell new stories. We need new bards to write the new experiences we will consume. To capture what they see with their eyes. To explain what’s new, and what’s awesome. To be the first to be overjoyed, and be thrilled with delight. That is the challenge that new media faces. Game on.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.