the online masses correcting big business?


I am curious about the increasingly familiar crash of big business. Big media are falling to their knees with free advertising on and audience numbers dropping with widespread access to information online. Wall Street seems to be following the same track – though I won’t pretend to understand why.

The established media moguls seem to be perplexed with what to do with the new world order the Internet has created. So, they cling to old models, proclaim that newspapers will never die and continually dig their heads deeper into the ground. But not all of them …

I listened to an interview with St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Will Sullivan and loved that one of the Post Dispatch’s solutions to make a profit is to create a number of niche papers and Web sites for different interests and communities. The Post Dispatch is the paper I grew up reading and every time I go home to visit, I’m increasingly depressed by the poor quality of reporting and the pathetic amount of original coverage. But I think this new business model of diversifying and appealing to different communities and interests is a fascinating one.

Digital media experts like Amy Webb say the best thing you can do to get the word out about your work/product/service/etc is to put it in as many different portals as you can. So it does seem logical that by big media going small, they’re really going to find more success.

I also heard a presentation at the Knight-Batten Awards on’s Wiki-scanner. The scanner tracks down IP addresses of people who edit Wikipedia and uncovers conflicts of interest in the entries. For example, Exxon Mobile deleted the entire section in its own Wikipedia entry on the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I notice a few back stiffen when the presenter said the resulting information is better than that which would result from the best team of investigative journalists because of the sheer quantity of people with different opinions looking for information of interest to them. The result: the most interesting information rises to the top based on number of votes.

Of course there are plenty of other models that may work out for these big media companies that have the honorable goal of bringing quality information to their communities. But I like the thought that maybe we’ll be going back to our roots when small, neighborhood businesses and not massive chains were the norm.

Who knows, maybe the same painful process will take place in the financial industry!

Either way, the massive democracy of crowd sourcing is taking over, and I think the masses will come up with a better world than the big business owners have done over the last few decades.

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