We are in the midst of a communication revolution. The very fact that you are reading this right now is proof that you are a revolutionary. If you first heard about this on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or anywhere else on the internet means you are deep into the revolution already.
I’m talking about a complete revolution in how the human race communicates with one another. Technology is advancing at a break neck pace and it’s completely changing how not only individuals communicate with one another, but also how organizations get their messaging out to a broader audience.
Do you even realize how big this revolution is?
To get a feel for how big a transition we’re in now, lets take a quick walk through the history of mass communication.
In the 1400’s Gutenberg is credited with developing the movable type printing press. He saw a way to make a profit selling Bibles because he could produce them much less expensively than before. Because before the printing press came along the only way to publish a book involved scribes meticulously copying the text of the book by hand to create a new copy.
It was a time consuming, labor intensive, expensive process.
But with Gutenberg’s press he could turn out multiple identical copies of a page incredibly quickly compared to the old way. This reduced his cost and increased his profitability.
It also had a democratizing effect on knowledge. Because as books became less expensive they became available to a much larger percentage of the population. And as more people gained access to more knowledge, the speed of the advancement of our understanding of science and technology began to increase.
Advancement was relatively slow at first. For example if you look at the printing press that Ben Franklin was using to spread the political ideas of liberty in the 1700s during the American Revolutionary period, it isn’t much different than Gutenberg’s original press. Printing technology didn’t really change much at all in those 300 years.
In fact it wouldn’t be until the 1900’s until the full potential of printing was realized. It needed technology like huge paper rolls and electrically powered digital presses before printing finally met its full potential.
That process took about 500 years!
About the same time printing was maturing other forms of communication were coming on the scene such as radio and television. Combined with printing these things became what we call mass media. It was a way to get information and entertainment out to the masses.
Some common features of mass media are
- Huge audiences
- Limited Competition
- High Barriers to Entry
- One Way Communication
The revenue models for mass communication were generally subscription and/or advertising based. Audiences generally had limited options (we had 4 TV channels when I was growing up) and there was little or no way for them to respond. Mass media is effectively one-way broadcast communication.
When the internet came along, the early practitioners initially applied the mass media model. They treated it as a broadcast tool and it was predominantly one way communication. There was a big focus on advertising for revenue.
But that model has some problems on the internet because the internet brings options
On the internet we see
- Much higher competition
- Fractured audiences
- Incredibly low barriers to entry
Enter Social Media
And now with social media everything is changing. We are truly in a communication revolution because now anyone can build an audience.
The barriers to building an audience have been completely removed. There is an overwhelming array of no-cost options that allow anyone to potentially reach unimaginably huge audiences today.
With social media today we have the potential to reach more people for less money than at any other point in the history of mankind.
Just Getting Started
But here’s the thing. As amazing and powerful as social media is today, we are just getting started.
Facebook has one billion users today. The company was only incorporated 8 years ago. It was only 6 years ago that Facebook was opened to the general public. Google+ has only been around for a year at this point and already has 400 million users.
Keep in mind that it took 500 years for full potential of printing to be realized.
We’re less than a decade into this social media thing. We’re just now scratching the surface. We’ve got a tiger by the tail and there is no telling how things are going to develop from here.
But I do know it is going to be an exciting ride.
Welcome to the communication revolution!