One of the striking elements about yesterday’s inauguration was the physicality of it.
An estimated 2 million people traveled from all over the country just to be anywhere near the event.
All over the world, people gathered in front of TVs in their offices and schools, but more significantly, many made a point to go to venues set up just for watching the televised event.
What does this say?
It says that proximity matters. In a time when we can easily gather “virtually” with anyone we know, anywhere in the world, people will still get up off their couches and unplug their laptops, and they will go stand with friends and strangers to share an experience.
That speaks to a basic hardwiring of the human psyche that we in media need to keep remembering: Now that everyone knows how to use technology to share an experience virtually, there are times when we choose to gather. Now that it’s a daily routine for many to connect on Twitter and Facebook, they still go out and find each other. There’s a shared experience around the physical space we occupy.
And that brings us to the future of local media. I believe people’s actions yesterday — they were drawn to proximity with each other, around a shared event — reaffirms the idea that local media can be relevant. People identify with their geographic communities, and with their virtual communities.
The challenge for local media is to understand the innate needs of human beings who identify with a physical space. Local media must make itself indispensible to those who identify with the place, must make itself part of that community, and must make sure it’s always invited along when people gather.
Who knows, maybe take it a step further, and create a physical community space where people gather?