What is main stream media to do with new media? Should they leverage social networks? Should they provide a platform and then just fade into the background? These are some of the questions journalists and editors of traditional publications have been posing themselves.
Why is it important to know? Who benefits from learning the answers? With the emergence of new ways of sharing information, we have not only witnessed the proliferation of opinions and sources, but also the chaos of all these voices -- sometimes to the detriment of clarity. What information warrants our attention?
Bruno Giussani at Lunch Over IP just shared an article he authored for new online magazine Knight Forum. I discovered his blog after reading one of his articles for Foreign Policy magazine -- what I love most about Giussani's writing in addition to the ease of reading and depth of thought is the contribution of a fellow European to this ongoing dialogue. [Italian readers of this blog may enjoy Giussani's articles here.]
Traditional media and journalists exist to serve quality information and the quality of public debate. According to Giussani, these will both go up if everyone remains open to embrace the chaos and stays focused on the aim of both traditional and new media. As with every new operating system, this too has its key words: social, hybridization, sharing, complementarity.
Let's take a look at what Giussani proposes and some of the implications for companies pitching to media and bloggers/new content creators.
- "Old media" and "new media" are not antagonistic but complementary, and engaged in a dialectical exploration that will change both.
Translates into: This is what many of us have intended as part of the new age of conversation. As new media content creators, bloggers view themselves as adding an important voice -- singularly and collectively -- to the debate.
With the barriers to entry in publishing lowered by tool providers such as Typepad, business professionals have joined their colleagues from traditional fields to add their take on current affairs. This has enriched the dialogue in new ways: we have gone from customers and consumers of traditional media to creators of new media.
Instead of writing letters to the editor, we can now publish our opinion directly -- and so ensure that it is heard. Furthermore, the collective now decides what is valuable and worthy of attention. And since the writers are now also the customers, chances are their experiences will be shared not only with their close colleagues, family and friends -- they will also be broadcast to a much larger 'audience'.
Implications: Just because these new media writers may not be associated with a traditional outlet, it doesn't mean that they are not practitioners and do not warrant respect and consideration. Some blogs have higher readership than most media outlets.
Their authors take this responsibility seriously and work hard to bring you unfiltered commentary so that you can be part of the discussion. Unfiltered however does not mean sloppy and not credible. We are still figuring out what editing means in new media. I have seen bloggers revise their posts, highlight valuable comments and follow up with in depth analysis *and* do so in real time.
If a company and author are to pitch bloggers, it is important to understand this point. Better yet, to have experienced what blogging and writing extemporaneously and building trust online mean.
- Nobody holds the recipe for how a local newspaper or a national television network will reinvent itself in an environment of bloggers and amateur video-producers. We will have to figure out things as we go.
Translates into: The lack of control that traditional media is experiencing is not necessarily a bad thing. It will improve from the mashup with new media. I can see how this is a scary proposition for old networks that made money from holding the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.
Information wants to be liberated and integrated with more voices -- that is why blogging is so compelling. We love the idea of adding to the conversation and by doing so we feel this is adding value to public discourse. And that is good. The result is a richer learning environment for everyone. The process however has just gotten more muddled.
Chaos is where creation thrives. Where we need to apply discipline is to the rigor and honesty of our thinking as we redefine this conversation. Instead of relying solely on the opinions and facts gathered in traditional outlets, we now add what we are observing.
Implications: As with every opportunity we have to gain recognition and status, accountability is key. New content and media creators are also subject to a code of ethics. This has been the subject of recent debate: do we need a code of ethics for blogging?
Opinions are strongly against it. I suspect this is more a reaction towards the way in which O'Reilly presented the code than in the acknowledgement that having one is a good thing. What is a code but a common and shared statement of principles we agree to abide? Many professional associations require you to adhere to one. The usefulness of a code of ethics is in having a departure for a conversation on teachable principles. That's all.
For companies joining in the fray it is important to remember that you are a voice -- and not the gospel. Forget your internal view of the business, in which you are or should be an expert, and be ready to learn as much as you teach. You decide how you filter what you learn. Should you pitch new media as well as traditional media?
The greatest value from joining the broader conversation (old+new) is that you can gain greater insights into how your product and service are being used. Relinquishing some of the control over your message(s), allows you to gain in credibility, too. I know that what you're asking yourself is: will this translate in your ability to sell more products and services? This is exactly why you're not doing this, yet you are thinking about it.
Giussani talks about three likely ingredients of things to come for traditional media: (1) the assembled media or ability to mash up information and add content from disparate sources; (2) the "read-write" media or hybrid forms of media that benefit from a soft structure to provide editing necessary for comprehension -- the noise to signal concept; (3) the media as places or the platform where people and content come together and evolve both learning and connections.
It's happening already and talking about it allows us all to benefit from what we discover. This is both why it's important to know and who benefits. We could look at this and run for cover or we could see it for what it is: an opportunity to increase the quality and variety of what we offer. The most powerful content of all is people themselves, I'm with Giussani on this. What is your take?