SInce the advent of newspapers (hell, since the advent of carving your message in stone), the world of media has been one of We Make It, You Watch It.
It is little wonder that with 5,000 years (or so), of human experience, when the web arrived, people just plugged in that way of looking at the world. On the web, major media companies (and nearly everyone else) approached it as an electronic newspaper, or a small screen TV. We make it, you watch it.
The few companies that didn't approach it that way - companies like Facebook - saw the web as something entirely new - "A Social Network" (too late to grab credit for this one?)
Social networks (and the web as a whole, I would argue) are different. They are about participation as well as watching or reading. After all, who goes online to 'read' Facebook? Yet there are 800 million people there doing something else. They aren't viewers.... and they aren't 'users', which is what I would call the folks on Amazon.
They are something different.
They are viewsers. Viewer + User.
This then is the target for every website in the world.
You want people who not only 'view' your site, you want people who will actively interact with this. (Where do you think Instagram gets its content?)
The viewser is the person who is on your site, but also builds your site as well as reading or watching. Like Wikipedia. The site is alive, growing, breathing and maturing. You don't need a 'focus group' - your Viewsers are your focus group - if you have the intelligence not just to listen to them but to let them become the site.
This is a big change for conventional media, which has a kind of arrogance that says 'we decide, you shut up' or perhaps they will carve out a tiny corner of their site for 'viewer participation' - you know - 'send us your wacky home videos!'
Take CNN. They have an astonishing 750,000 iReporters. Registered. Yet where do you see their work? Like nowhere? Like only if your trailer park happens to be hit by a tornado and you have your video camera can you send us a few seconds of your world being blown away and we'll post it? THAT is crazy. THAT is a tragic waste of potential. But worse, it shows a tragic lack of understanding of how the web works, and will work.
It is not about viewers.
It is not about users.
The future is in viewsers. People who ARE the site. Not people who are watching it.
This requires a radical rethink of how information has interacted with people since the days of Hamurabi.
"Hey everyone, I'm going to post a Code over here on this stelae. Anyone who wants to add anything be my guest. Love to get feedback from the community".
In the world of politics we've been able to mature from The Word Of The King.
Now, the question will be if we can mature in the same way in the world of news and information.