Friday, August 24, 2007

New Media: What's Old is New Again

I don't even know what this new media thing is. Really. But it seems we are a part of it, even us old folks that remember how liberating life was before computers.

Shall I wax nostalgic about those silly old days when people actually had real fish in their fish tanks, instead of virtual fish in a little window on Facebook? I do own a little fish, though. She's a little hyper and entertaining, and I like to think that she recognizes me. Feel free to indulge me on this point. Anyway, there is something to be said for the virtual ones. I don't have to clean the tank.

So back to new media. The aspect that had me thinking about it is how it has really returned to the "word of mouth" distribution model. Back in the day, people sent letters to communicate. Newspapers were hand-cranked and certainly not available for daily download.

Even as a child, the incredible audio-visual media resources were limited to the big three networks, and TBS if you had a decent VHF antenna. The AJC was actually two smaller papers, the Journal and the Constitution. A bluetooth technology device stuck in my ear? Nah, I had a dime in my back pocket, for emergencies. I could also bank on a public telephone on every corner, and in practically every public restroom.

Today we have so many channels, paid and public, that it's a wonder anything can really be a hit—the audience is so widely dispersed. Radio, too, has satellite distribution that reaches a much wider audience.

When I finally jumped on board and understood the potential of the internet through podcasts, videocasts, and every conceivable manifestation of self-publishing, from simple blogging to print-on-demand books, I was overwhelmed, and then…intrigued. I admit to taking baby steps and watching and learning from the younger folks for whom this media is an intuitive and natural tool. It's changed the way I view information.

My brother, Mr. Connected-to-Everything-Pop-Culture, called me on self-publishing some books. You can't get any more supportive than this goofy, really nice guy, who immediately bought a copy of everything I published. His question--why not Random House?--wasn’t intended as an insult; it was sincere.

The truth is, Random House, et al, have no interest in me. I’m not a well-known criminal, or sleeping with anybody famous, or have any other scandalous attention-getting qualities that would make me a marketable risk. Instead, I have a little dream of writing a novel, an opportunity to bundle some of my more popular columns from Rosary Army's News from Headquarters, and the task of presenting a practical guide to writing for my students.

Each of those “markets” is too small for a big publisher to make a killing on—but there is a niche for those books. I know this because they are selling, in spite of no formal marketing.

So how are people discovering these books? Well, the answer is here, the new media. We've gone back to the “word of mouth.” Let me tell you how effective that is. The big lesson I've learned is that to build readership, I have to read. I have to read other bloggers. I have to support other self-publishers. I have to leave comments, make links, send in feedback to all those folks who are interconnected in this small network that is really GIGANTIC. And the really amazing thing is that it has become an incredible tool for evangelization. It's pretty cool.

And it's humbling, too. Evidently, one does not write on one’s Wall in Facebook. Oh. Well, I’m sure it’s a faux pas in a long line to come as I learn how to maneuver this exciting community.

check out my favorite resources for really cool stuff happening out there:

Star Quest Production Network, the media portal for quality popular content with a decidedly Catholic basis (check out ALL the shows--you'll find something that you like)

That Catholic Show, a fun and funny video series that explores Catholic culture and customs

The Rosary Army Podcast, a (usually) bi-weekly peek into the lives of a young, Catholic couple raising a family, growing a ministry, and spreading the Gospel

Ink 'n Doodles Creative Workshop, a good place to whet your appetite for creative inspiration

and the myriad blogs listed on my reading list.


ductapeguy said...

Thanks Maria. I agree that the revolution here is twofold:
1) We now have the ability to produce, publish and distribute our own books, music, art, video without involving the Random House's of the world.

2) It's all about community and building relationships.

It's been a summer of social media for me, and you are one of the people to start my new blog: A Catholic Canadian at in addition to my music and songwriting site and podcast.

PurpleP said...

I've tried being un-goofy before but it didn't stick.