The New Media Explosion! (Part 1 – Technology)

By Dick Rolfe – CEO, The Dove Foundation

This subject is too broad to cover in one article, so I’m focusing here on the technical side of the issue. My next installment will deal with content and how it’s being impacted by these new media formats.

There are many new and exciting platforms that deliver all sorts of media; from text and photo-based social networking sites like Facebook, or voice-over-video communications on Skype, to movies, music and games on iTunes. You can even gain unfettered access to tens of thousands of professional or homemade video tidbits on YouTube. These forms of communication all fall under the blanket term, New Media. The problem with the word New is that advancements are moving so rapidly that something branded as New last year is already Old and has been replaced by Newer media today. In fact, this article may be outdated soon after it’s written.

In the late 1980’s the home video business was in its infancy. The technology was initially exploited by the porn industry which had a lock on inexpensive video rentals. (One reason The Dove Foundation was formed.) When the Hollywood studios began delivering their movies in VHS format, the entire entertainment landscape changed and video cassette players could be found in virtually every household in America. Home video rentals offered us a cheaper, easier way to watch movies, on our own time and in the privacy of our homes, regardless of their ratings. (Thus, the second reason Dove was launched.)

VHS rental business moved to sell-through and soon the lower quality analog video tapes were replaced by shinny Digital Video Discs (DVDs). One recent evolution happened when DVDs were “upgraded” to hi-def Blu-ray Discs.  (The name Blu-ray Disc derives from the blue laser used to read the disc which renders an ultra high quality picture.)  Because of another rapidly growing technology, this “new” video format may be doomed to become the most quickly outdated technology in history.

The true New Media explosion ignited when Internet speeds increased to a point where developers could deliver high quality video by streaming it over the web, thereby replacing the “old” method of waiting endlessly for a movie to download.  Scores of web services now offer video streaming of hundreds of movies and TV shows for under $10 a month. The two most popular are Netflix and Hulu.com.

Another advantage of streaming is the lack of storage space needed to keep one’s video library intact. Many video-buffs store their video libraries securely in the Internet “Cloud” (If you aren’t familiar with this term, ask someone under the age of 25.)

Advances in cellular phone technology are opening a new form of “internet” which is different from the traditional web. Cell phones were originally designed to send and receive voice traffic. The cell towers have been stretched and stressed by the addition of iPhone and Droid phone technologies creating a whole new media paradigm. Now cell phones have morphed into mini-computers incorporating text messaging, email, web access, social networking, and tens of thousands of apps from online cookbooks to GPS tracking systems.

Wi-Fi (Which accesses traditional internet services) has taken some of the stress off cell networks. However, 3G and 4G cell technology used in Apple’s iPhones/iPods/iPads and the new HTC Droids are now transmitting such sophisticated content as hi-speed/hi-def live video streaming. Federal regulators are looking into whether cell services should be regulated as internet portals or telephone systems – two major differences where the laws are concerned.

Well, that’s a 35,000 foot view of the technical side of this phenomenon called New Media. The important thing to remember is who’s in control. The excitement and allure of it can quickly occupy large chunks of your life and your mind. Trust me on this…as one “user” to another.

Note: The Dove Foundation is taking advantage of several of these New Media, including Apple iPhone app; Facebook and Twitter.