Attending the We Media conference last week, one key theme began to emerge for me from the many insightful panels — that the "storyteller instinct" is the driving force behind much of the change happening in the media industry today. Consumer generated media, in large part, is driven by individuals’ need to tell their stories. For a long time now (for better or worse) reporting has been more about telling a story than about reporting on fact. Good marketers and salespeople tell stories that consumers want to believe.
The instinct itself is not new – storytelling as a form of keeping history has been a key part of many native cultures across the world. But as the We Media event showed, the difference today comes from the diversity of voices that are now able to add their stories into the previously closed world view of "mainstream media" (the Global Voices blog remains my favourite example of this). As people continue to read blogs, use RSS feed aggregators and selectively seek out new stories and new forms of media – the dangers for mainstream media to grow obsolete are ever present.
The even greater danger many panelists in the conference from the media side noted, however, was the rise of the "comfortable cocoon" (as termed by Andrew Heyward of CBS News) – where people only consume a narrow band of information and never expand their world view. This is the phenomenon which may present the greatest challenge to the media industry in the coming years. Given the breadth of content and rise in technologies which allow us to filter our media choices – what we may really be facing is the death of debate. The challenge for the media industry in the coming years will be to keep the collaborations and conversations happening.