lookingnorthfromrotherhithe

Where everyone is.

May 30, 2009

In a widely linked to post, “Where is Everyone?”, Thomas Baekdal claims that, “In the next 5-10 years, the world of information will change quite a bit. All the traditional forms of information are essentially dead.” The future according to Baekdal is social:

baekdal.com

baekdal.com

But for all their visual flair what do Baekdal’s graphs actually show? Though Baekdal asks “Where is Everyone?” the graphs do not represent audience figures. In the comments Baekdal says, “This graph does not illustrate the size of the different forms of media. It illustrate their importance. In short, where should you focus your efforts if you want to stay relevant.” (emphasis mine). Near the end of the comments he says, “The Y-axis is ‘Influence‘” Divorced from audience numbers, measures of “importance”, “focus” or “influence” seem hard to pin down. It’s not clear what is being measured or how. Though we are told this is based on ‘surveys’, none is cited, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that these are very impressionistic figures.

Nor is it clear which geographic market the graphs represent, a very important question for those who think about media strategy. “Where is everyone” indeed.

History lessons.

The message of Baekdal’s graphs is that new forms of media push out old. Radio is a case in point. By 1998 we’re told “radio [was] almost reduced to a place where you listen to free musicThe Today programme might argue with that – “generally considered to be the most influential news programme in Britain“, according to wikipedia. In fact, radio, at least in the UK market (that where question arises again) is still growing.

In radio we see something not reflected in the graphs, the idea that linear and social media can be complementary. Radio and Twitter seem to flourish in a wonderful symbiotic relationship. And it seems rather artificial to draw a clear line between podcasting and radio when podcasting is helping radio stations grow audience see here and here too

In conclusion.

None of the above is to say Baekdal is wrong in the broad thrust of his argument – media is clearly going to become increasingly social, and increasingly “personalisable”.

But while Baekdal’s graphs are a visually pleasing piece of design, they merely illustrate his own convictions rather than providing evidence to support his ideas. If we really want to understand what’s happening in the media industry we have to look elsewhere, when we do we find the picture is rather more complex than Baekdal suggests.