16 Jul What will the future of media look like?
If you attended Ross Dawson’s Future of Media Summit in Sydney or Silicon Valley yesterday, there are a few core take-aways you might have been left with:
- the artificial split/war between journalism and new media prevails
- everyone – PR, journalism, advertising and broadcasting – is trying to figure out this social networking and social media stuff (and I guess that’s good for people like me who can help with that)
- old media is changing and coming into the new world, although the old “pump it out and they will consume” attitude still persists
- closed formats and limited availability are still seen as viable business models
- what to do with and how to manage participant created content (rather than user generated content. Thanks, Chris Saad) is a puzzle many organisations are struggling with.
There was a lot more, but these were certainly the most striking to me. I’ve summarised my thinking around each of these issues below.
We don’t need no blogucation
The false dichotomy of the schism between the professional journalists, journalism educators and academics one one side, and the world of new media, particularly as embodied by bloggers, on the other, prevails. It seems largely perpetuated by a somewhat chauvinistic attitude on the part of some professional journalists who cling to the notion that a blogger, no matter how good a writer and reporter of information that they might be, is still something to be looked down upon as a non-professional by the profession of journalism.
This attitude was brought home particularly strongly by The Australian’s Jane Schulze who evidenced a particularly disdainful attitude towards bloggers, and Deakin University’s Stephen Quinn, who was surprised when I exploded from the audience with a vehement “yes” to his question whether, if an “amateur”, doing the same work and equipped with the tools of a journalist, ought to be considered to be doing journalism without having been properly trained, authorised and edited.
Later in the day, at the Future of Journalism round table, several of us opened the eyes of some of the journalism types there when we revealed that yes, we do take ourselves seriously, we do fact-check, we do seek to interview serious experts for appropriate writings and we weren’t just shooting off at the mouth in an unfiltered op-ed manner. I don’t know whether Stilgherrian, Chris Saad and I moved any mountains, but we certainly seemed to chip away at some of the ivory in the tower.
It bothers me that a good proportion of the journalism profession appear threatened by the new media, especially powerful and high-reputation bloggers. I believe there is a place for journalists and bloggers and that their aims and outputs, while often sharing similarities, are different. There will always be a place for good, well-researched journalism; whether it’s long form features or punchy news. The same goes for quality blogging. What there isn’t a place for is low quality in either camp. Rubbish is rubbish wherever you find it.
Bloggers too, however, are not blameless. There are some in the blogger community who seem overly sensitive to the attitude of the journalism half of the equation. This feeling of being challenged, and the precious sensitivity evidenced on both sides needs to be swept away. Bloggers and journalists both have their place and both have value in the world of new media.
New and scary (and largely ignored)
Everyone seems to realise that social media (that created by participants) and social networking (the connections between participants) are important. But still, they remain clueless (not in a pejorative, but rather a factual sense) as to what to do about it. As much as the use of social tools within organisational walls remains a challenge (and it is a huge challenge for most organisations), the issue of the informal organisation, social networking within and across organisational walls and in particular, participant generated content – what to do with material related to your brand that was generated in an unofficial capacity – is a major hurdle.
Whether it’s brand hijacking by ad mashups, negative publicity in an uncontrolled space like GetSatisfaction or the issue of how to communicate with mavens for your brand, most organisations haven’t yet dealt with the issue and are baffled as to how to do so. These organisations have a lot of work to do, and the idea of an uncontrolled, open and honest conversation about their brand, free of spin, is a terrifying thing. Equally the PR, creative and ad agencies these brands are talking to are just as challenged when it comes to building strategies around social media.
In talking to people from several creative agencies yesterday, they revealed that when these ideas are presented to clients, they are often dismissed out of hand as something the brand “just doesn’t do”. Risky. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation than the subject of it (yes, Gavin, you can borrow that)?
Our model is firehose
I was particularly bugged by Mark Antonitis of San Francisco’s KRON-TV. Much of what he said resonated with me; he wants relevance in his programming, local focus, and an open market, but still believes that TV is going to win the content war by simply producing sheer volume of material that we, the audience, will passively consume, slouched on our couches. Obviously, he’s not talked to Clay Shirky recently.
He is so wrong. What will win, ultimately, is well-produced informative or entertaining media. It won’t matter whether it’s in full-1080p HD, ready for watching on your 50-inch plasma. What matters in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace is relevance, interaction and content quality.
Closed is broken
The ABC’s Mark Scott lauded the efforts of the BBC in producing a closed format, limited viewing window (seven days) media player that needed to be downloaded from the BBC site. The ABC, apparently, is producing a similar tool.
When questions from the floor were asked for, both Chris Saad and I asked why this sort of wastage was occurring, when rather than a proprietary format, limited tool, an open format usable on any device at any time and place wouldn’t be a better option. Scott avoided answering the question. Obviously, he’s never heard of Hulu and doesn’t get BitTorrent.
You want to do what with our brand?
The resounding success of something like The Gruen Transfer, both in terms of its ability to explode the myths around branding and advertising and to generate massive participant uptake (there are many thousands of mashed up, user-made fake ads on the Gruen site, made with collateral provided by the show’s makers) should have ad-men, PR flacks and brands themselves quaking in their proverbial boots. Yet, more than anything, there is denial.
That participants could be more than passive and could be a powerful aid in generating and distributing brand messages, particularly when they are considered and invited to to take part in an open conversation is still largely a mystery to most Australian brands. In talking to creative agency staff yesterday, they know they want to try these things but are frequently stymied by the management of the brands, who still believe that retaining control and pushing messages is the answer for them. The brands, 10 years on, haven’t yet read The Cluetrain Manifesto. There is no conversation as far as they’re concerned.
Oops! Dear car/soft drink/shoe/beer/widget manufacturer, you are in for a rude shock. We, the participants, are already talking about you. And we have been for some time. If you’re lucky, we’re complimentary, often we’re not. You’re not in control of our conversation so perhaps it’s time you became a part of it and put in your best effort to humanise yourself. Hmm?
Overall, I came away from the day disappointed in the closed-mindedness that prevails in some parts of the media industry (and some bloggers too), but hopeful that enough voices are wanting to be heard that the switch to the future that is already here is perhaps not too far off.