The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Via the Social Customer Manifesto:

An insightful, spot on piece about Generation C (that’s for content folks!) and an open announcement to big media to pay attention!

The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.

Once they were your printing presses; now that humble device, the blog, has given the press to us. That’s why blogs have been called little First Amendment machines. They extend freedom of the press to more actors.

Once it was your radio station, broadcasting on your frequency. Now that brilliant invention, podcasting, gives radio to us. And we have found more uses for it than you did.

Shooting, editing and distributing video once belonged to you, Big Media. Only you could afford to reach a TV audience built in your own image. Now video is coming into the user’s hands, and audience-building by former members of the audience is alive and well on the Web.

You were once (exclusively) the editors of the news, choosing what ran on the front page. Now we can edit the news, and our choices send items to our own front pages.

A highly centralized media system had connected people “up” to big social agencies and centers of power but not “across” to each other. Now the horizontal flow, citizen-to-citizen, is as real and consequential as the vertical one.

So what does this mean for libraries? A few things — many of which I run my mouth about a lot! We need to address user-centric content creation in much of our planning and many of our processes. For example:

Let’s make sure we are providing collaboration space and digital tools when we build or renovate our libraries. I wouldn’t even begin a building project without a firm grasp on the OCLC Scan and User reports, a good understanding of user behaviors and patterns and a look at what other successful libraries and businesses have done.

Let’s teach social software and content literacy in our instruction sessions as well. Teach blogging, Flickr, wikis, YouTube, etc… and what folks may find there.

Let’s involve users in creating content for the library and maybe even give them a venue and space to store stuff at the library server.

Let’s incorporate video production as well — for the library and for users to create their own stuff — and be aware of the power of iTunes and YouTube to change the way content is ditributed.

Let’s blog our stuff, with human voices, and write accordingly to pull in comments and conversation… this builds community.

Finally, this bit: Let’s not wait too long…look at how quickly all of this came up on a handful of years. we don’t have time to convene teams that meet for months on end…we don’t have time to study an issue “to death” as Abram would say… let’s get in there, make quick, yet thoughtful decisions and implement what works best for your situation, mission and context.