One of the reasons it is so hard for the establishment to get this shift is that it is a largely generational one. Most of the new voters coming online will get their information on politics (and everything else). Of course the idea is not exactly new, but as George Osbourne’s insightful speech demonstrates, getting it late may be no disadvantage if you get it well. He explains the contextual shift:
It is very different from the world we all grew up in – the world of a mass culture. We had access to three or four TV channels and half a dozen radio stations. By and large everyone watched the same programmes, read the same newspapers, went to see the same blockbuster movies and listened to same hit songs. We received our political information from a dozen of so columnists, another dozen political editors and a handful of TV shows like Weekend World or Panorama.
This world is alien to the generation below me. As Chris Anderson has written in his seminal book The Long Tail, this new generation has unlimited and unfiltered access to information of all sorts – from the most mainstream to most obscure.
Their cultural landscape is “a seamless continuum from high to low, with commercial and amateur content competing equally” for attention. There is no distinction between the mainstream hit movie and the user-generated video, no difference between the award-winning newspaper columnist and the favourite blog site.
Where does this leave the mainstream media and the main political parties?
Previously: “Everybody is becoming an editor”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty