Companies and businesses would do well by reading and understanding this post titled migration point for the press tribe by Jay Rosen [hat tip to Chuck Peters]. In it, Rosen describes how thanks to the rising of flourishing of people as content producers, expert sharers, and self-guided consumers, the professional news tribe finds itself in the midst of a great survival drama. He puts his finger on exactly what did not happen with the migration to the Internet.
The Web is not a way to re-purpose content from other platforms - it's a way to engage, a completely different way of understanding what people think about, what they want to say and do. One that moves to exponential results when the context is built with the community that wants to participate in mind.
It did not happen for mainstream media in exactly the same way as it's not happening for companies. Products and services are shared territory - experts and veterans can and must exercise their editorial voice. On the other hand, the grassroots peer groups who are good at participation, community formation, and locating intelligence anywhere in the network can contribute those strengths to the system.
The shared part is also where the customers' use makes the product either a success or an utter failure.
It's not a matter of having one system without the other - at this stage, it's necessary to have both. Strong and inspiring leaders and thriving communities - of employees, of customers. The balance in the conversation between them shall be reflected on the balance sheet.
News was one-way traffic just like communications and information flows in organizations were only top-down. Business managers created it, compartmentalized it, had it aggregated, published and broadcast. Yes, water cooler conversations among employees have been going on for a while. Does this remind you of the carefully scripted brochures and marketing materials for customers?
Except for now we have better tools and knowledge to be distributors *and* creators. Imagine the power of having actual distribution and communication tools that allow those same people who used to be just on the receiving end to produce their own information and disseminate it through their informal networks. Peer networks tend to be stronger because dissent and questioning are (better) welcomed within a horizontal or open structure.
In talking about why media gets community wrong, Adam Tinworth wrote - "Most media people don't realize that blogging is a community strategy. They think of it as a publishing process... They certainly don't think of it as a conversation."
If you have seen me draw those pyramids on white boards or notepads, you will recognize one of my biggest pet peeves about companies and their processes - they forget the people part. Companies are process-focused and not people-focused; traditional media is content-focused and not people-focused. Your content is a product. The true integration is between people - journalists and readers who are also publishers; in business overall it's all employees with customers.
Pat Sullivan, the creator of ACT! and SalesLogix said "last time I checked, there were no buyers at our corporate offices... so maybe we should figure out how to spend more time in the field with them, learning about what they need than we do here with us guessing!"
Community is an approach to better product and services. Tinworth concludes: "holding community apart from professional content only harms the professional content creators. It bars them from seeing and exploring the reaction from their customers to their work. It stops them developing relationships - friendships even - with those they ultimately work for."
A lesson for business if I ever so one so clear. Now can we stop talking about the tools and start thinking of community as a strategy?
Bonus link: the state of the news media 2008 - an annual report on American journalism.
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