Many-to-many to many-to-one

In my mass communications class, my final exam required students to write essays based on a prompt. Among other things, one of the prompts asked them to speculate on the next phase in the evolution of one-to-one and many-to-many communication.

Some selections from a few students’ answers follow. Bold face is mine. FYI, they all came from first years:

“The web will take mass media in the direction of forming many different many-to-many communities. Individuals will share their voices and hear from other people, organizations and businesses about exactly what they feel is most important to them. Mass media will evolve to “communities of many-to-many” where individuals can form their own communities and be parts of many different communities in a personalized way.”

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“Media will adopt a many-to-one subcategory in which the individual user can personalize which media and specific aspects of those media he or she wishes to be exposed to.”

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“The next step in media evolution may be not as “many-to-all.” Users can subscribe to only the apps they want and the news they care about. Not as many types of media will reach all, but everyone will be reached by some type of media.”

All of these have already started. And because the students are thinking that way, it’s not a bad bet to think the future will go that way. If there was any doubt that “if the news is important, it will find me” of five years ago had staying power, this should put an end to that. Many of the students discussed the information-sharing power of social networks. When they talk news, they talk Twitter and Facebook…on their phones. When they talk community, they talk family and friends…and then Twitter and Facebook.

Paywalls will stop them. We old types may wring our hands over what that means for an informed citizenry, but they won’t care. The news that matters to them will find them. The sad thing is that it seems as if paywalls are the only revenue solution being considered by many news organizations. I hope I’m wrong.

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