Last week I was a panelist at an IABC New Jersey program on the future of newsletters (in a social media era), and one participant asked the speakers this question: “What do you read to keep current on communication channels?”

It could have been a Sarah Palin moment (“Newspapers? No, wait . . . I’m sure I can think of one.”) but luckily my brain became unstuck and I began to list some of my go-to sources for inspiration. Beyond the usual suspects (IABC and PRSA continue to have valuable content), I realized that my most valuable information comes from experts in marketing and external media.

Why external media? Because, unlike Las Vegas, what happens in external media doesn’t stay there. Instead, the challenges and successes that occur in media and, even more importantly, the way that people experience media, all have an impact on internal communication. After all, employees bring their expectations to work.

That’s why this post on online media site GigaOM resonated with me. According to author Matthew Ingram, the future of media equals “many small pieces, loosely joined.”

What’s happening in media today, writes Ingram, is that the old concept of a media bundle—all the news and information in one package, like The New York Times or CNN—is eroding. Ingram quotes Meinolf Ellers, the managing director of German multimedia agency dpa-infocom: “The more we see the bundle losing market share and reaching the end of its lifecycle, the more we have to work on smaller, fragmented products that, not each by each, but overall, can compensate. That’s the strategy.”

The future of media, then, is not a collection of neat bundles, carefully tied with string. Instead, Ingram predicts that media will be more like a phrase that David Weinberger, co-author of the book The Cluetrain Manifesto, came up with to describe how the Web works: He called it “small pieces, loosely joined.”

“This is the idea that the Web allows for individuals and small groups or entities to have almost as much power as—and in some cases more power than— established players,” Ingram writes. The future for media, then, might resemble more of a community: “a membership approach, where new features or ways of packaging content or experiences related to that content are offered to readers. So live events, for example, which both the Texas Tribune and the Atlantic have been using to their advantage, or e-books, which are a different way of packaging content, can be remarkably profitable, even if that content has already appeared on the Web for free.”

How does this affect internal communication? Consider these three concepts: individual channels are losing importance, the value of unique and useful content continues to grow, and what will matter most in the future is community and the opportunity to connect and collaborate.

Intriguing, isn’t it?

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