To understand how communications have changed so quickly and why it is virtually impossible for expertise alone to cut it in the Interactive Age, you have to think of information as a commodity.
For most of human history, the information market was functionally an oligopoly: a few information producers and brokers (royalty, the church, scholarly institutions, etc.) dominated the market. Their production systems—chiseled stone, monastically scribed books, a limited run of hand-pressed Bibles—were expensive and labor-intensive. As a result, there was an extremely high “price” for accumulating information, which restricted learning to those who had stature and wealth.
During the Industrial Age, the supply of information gradually broadened as universal education became widespread. During the Information Age, however, the supply of information exploded as technological advancements lowered the price for the production and accumulation of information.
The supply of information greatly outpaced its demand long ago. Anyone who’s ever been to a library has seen a vast amount of information languishing on dusty shelves.
Ironically, in the Information Age, information became less valuable than ever before. But because the channels over which this “cheap” information flowed was until recently controlled by corporations, the media, Hollywood, and the recording and publishing industries, the price for that information could be artificially manipulated. As long as they controlled the distribution of information, these multi-billion-dollar industries thrived, generating profits that would make a banker blush.
The Internet broke the lock on the flow of information and people began freely sharing ideas, images, videos, music, and art. Where consumers once paid money to receive information (via subscriptions, cable fees, telephone bills, movie tickets), they are now getting it and giving it away for free.
Today, the value of information is not predicated on how much people are willing to pay to receive it. It is determined by how many people want to share it.
The consistent delivery of relevant, accessible, and/or entertaining content will build “brand loyalty” that can be used to earn revenue the old-fashioned way, while also creating an emotionally invested community of supporters.
To learn more about how to communicate effectively in the Interactive Age, check out our new book, The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization's Story.