The old media infrastructure is still very much in place – but who today would think of investing in newspapers as their seemingly inexorable decline continues? The TV programmes are there, but the proliferation of channels threatens both the advertising revenues of the “core” independent sector and the apparently inalienable right of the BBC to licence fee revenues. (Do I need a licence for a fast Internet connection, and if not, why not?). The choice of information source has multiplied to the extent where almost anybody can be a broadcaster – including our friends, our neighbours, our employees, our clients.
How many blogs are there? I have seen figures ranging from 10 million to 35 million, and whatever the truth it looks as though the numbers must be getting bigger rather than smaller. Meanwhile, something happens somewhere – a crash, a fire, a flood - and images and reports are instantly available from digital cameras and mobile phones ever ready in the pockets of many more millions of people. And their thoughts and images may be posted on the Internet within seconds. It is a staggering resource.
Somehow successful sites and business models emerge, but how? Google didn’t become a mega company by using the right ad agency, and neither did Friends Reunited, or Skype. Who could have predicted the incredible success of the Crazy Frog ringtone in 2005? Or the rapid emergence of podcasting? Or that SMS would be so big, and that so many (young) people would be so fluent in something so extraordinarily awkward? Or the brilliant success of Wikipedia? Or the Million Dollar Homepage? Things catch on because people are interested or excited by them, and increasingly the word spreads by “viral marketing”, and not because of saturation advertising, or conventional media or media structures. A new media age is seemingly taking shape, where ever higher quality images and ever more focused and better quality reporting is available instantly through the anarchy of the Internet.
How does all this affect the language business? It seems likely that more and more information of all sorts will be accessed having been filtered and propagated through trusted virtual communities. Searches on the net will of course continue to be made through leading search engines, but also increasingly through newer resources such as Google’s Blogsearch, or Feedster, or Technorati’s Blog Finder. It is a scenario that favours good communicators, the fleet of foot, the creative, and the honest.