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finding the core

Just posted a comment on Dan Misener’s blog (Dan now runs CBC radio, from what I can tell), that I thought was worth repeating here. Dan’s post was about connective tissue, says he:

On Spark, we’re trying really hard to make the show’s connective tissue live up to its content. That comes in the form of story treatments, editing techniques, music choices, sound design, scripts, segues, and all the other tiny little bits that go into making a radio program.

My comment was about the need to find the “core” of information-provision institutions:

i’ve been thinking about this lately: the changes on the web mean that many prized institutions are afraid of becoming obsolete. but i think the real problem is that the function they serve is not the one they thought they served … and they haven’t figured that out yet.

for instance, “providing information” is just one thing that say britannica, and mainstream media, and universities do. but it is not the *core* of their existence – and the core is where their importance and relevance lies. these institutions were fooled in the past century into thinking provision of information was the core of their existence, because information used to be scarce, and it’s distribution limited. now info is cheap and plentiful, and distribution ubiquitous … it turns out they aren’t all that valuable as providers of information.

and yet I feel deeply that professional media, britannica, and universities etc still have crucial roles to play in the world, they just haven’t adjusted yet to what that is.

they have to stop thinking of themselves as “providers of information” … they are something more (not sure what) and when the can confidently figure that out, they will find solutions to their angst about the future.

maybe your ideas here touch on something about where that core might be for radio.


  1. Mat Mat 2007-11-23

    > they have to stop thinking of themselves as “providers of information” … they are something more (not sure what)

    now if you could figure that out, i’m sure a lot of media fat cats would want to talk to you…

    points of gravitation maybe?

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-11-23

    i’ve been thinking along the lines (here i am talking about news sources) of: “tools to help people make decisions” … but i don’t know what i think of that.

    i think that newspapers etc need to really have a good long think about what they are actually *for*, ie why they exist, beyond abstract things like information and gravitation … both of which are abstract words that have no meaning to people in and of themselves. “providing information” is a way newspapers etc do something. what, exactly, i am not sure, and different newspapers will define that “what” in different ways, but if they can define the “what” they might find a path out of the fear described above.

    and of course it’s got to be something other than “making money by wrapping content around ads” because if making money is their objective, they would be better setting themselves up as casinos.

  3. Dan Misener Dan Misener 2007-11-26

    Though I’ve been meaning to for a long while, I’ve finally gotten around to reading Getting Things Done. by David Allen.

    He calls asking these types of existential questions “nothing but advanced common sense… [but] common sense that’s not commonly practiced, simply because it’s so easy for us to create things, get caught up in the form of what we’ve created, and let our connection with our real and primary intentions slip.”

    I agree with you, Hugh.

    Perhaps the question mainstream media outlets need to ask themselves is, “What business are we in, exactly?”

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