Disruptive Technology – the blog versus the media

A disruptive technology is a new technological innovation, product, or service that eventually overturns the existing dominant technology in the market. This happens even though the disruptive technology is radically different from the leading technology and often initially performs worse than the leading technology according to existing measures of performance. That’s taken from the definition for Disruptive Technology in Wikipedia.

Clayton M. Christensen of Harvard unveiled the concept of disruptive technology in a book entitled The Innovator’s Dilemma. I believe something happened three weeks ago that means that blogs and blogging may well be the disruptive technology that puts traditional news media under incredible pressures.

The conflict between the great unwashed horde of barbarians producing all those blogs and the professional journalists producing their reasoned publications in the traditional news media has been evident for some time. Traditional media have not yet completely figured out how to make money through the Internet. Restricting access to their prestige articles and to their archives by fee-paying subscriptions seems to be the preferred route. However search engine spiders don’t pay fees so such hidden content stays hidden from the world. Often someone somewhere will have written something similar on a freely available web page. That’s where the spiders find it and that’s where searchers go.

The user-friendliness of blogging software suddenly caused an explosion of information on the Internet. Everyone and his sister could now comment rapidly on the events around them. However the search engines had built-in delays in cataloguing all this information so a rapid professional news-source would always reliably give you the important news items first.

What changed three weeks ago is that Google launched a Blog Search service to search blogs in just the same way as it stays on top of the traditional news media. In fact, Google doesn’t search all blogs, but only those that produce what are called Newsfeeds. This is exactly the same mechanism by which the traditional news media alert the world that they have a new news item. Most blogging software will produce newsfeeds automatically. They’re usually called RSS or Atom newsfeeds. By alerting all the news services or aggregators of a new blog posting by a process called pinging, the whole world knows almost instantly of this posting. This is what Google Blog Search relies on.

The blogosphere, or the world of all those blogs, already had the quantity to more than compensate for its possibly lower quality than traditional news media. Suddenly Google provides almost exactly the same immediacy that the traditional news media have. It will be interesting to see how the traditional media evolve to best cope with this formidable, disruptive technology.

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