NMKForum07: Old Guard, New Tricks

  • Jem Stone, BBC New Media
  • Tom Bureau, Managing Director, CNET Networks
  • Meg Pickard, Head of Communities and User Experience, Guardian Unlimited
  • Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner, Channel 4
  • Paul Pod, TIOTI
  • Ashley Norris, Shiny Media
  • Nico Macdonlad, Spy.co.uk
  • Jeff Revoy, VP of Search and Social Media, Yahoo! Europe
  • Mike Butcher, moderator

I think I agree with Euan Semple sitting next to me. This isn’t a panel, it’s the Last Summer.

Nico: (In response to question about his criticism about the Guardian’s Comment is Free) I met Georgina Henry recently on a panel about social media, and I’m going to start writing for Comment is Free because it’s a great platform.

He says he has seen fads come and go. Media need to understand the trends. Disaggregation is going on. Many social institutions are losing their credibility. These trends are real. It needs to take an objective and rational view about them.

Mike: Can media win back trust?

Meg: Big media need to know that they have something to learn from our audiences. Gaining trust is not end. It’s a means. We need to learn from these social environments. Big media organisations don’t need to be all things to all people. We shouldn’t be trying to replace but embrace social media. Is creating a Twitter or Blogspot clone the business that we are in?

Adam: I think that traditional media are in a good place to achieve public tasks by putting participation in place. The project that I just launched is going to create the first map of public art in the UK in partnership with Moblog.co.uk. There is an underlying public task.

Jem: Lee Bryant talked about Comment is Free and the BBC and problem of social sites and news. He talked about ‘drive-by commenting’. I think that’s a fair criticism of what the BBC has done over the last 10 years. We haven’t been focused enough of why we are getting in touch with you. He quoted Maplin & Webb making fun of the BBC. “Do you reckon? What do you reckon? Get in touch with the BBC?”

He talked about sites like Flickr and YouTube. Should we get in there and moderate that? What are the rules? If we get involved, what are the risks? What are the risks to our brand?

Paul: One of the things with the BBC putting stuff out on the internet, out on YouTube, you have another layer of community. It’s getting quite complicated. Where does this stuff sit? We’re quite open to cooperation.

Jem: It’s a platform for discussion about content we produce. We’re comfortable with that. Is CBS, ITV or Channel 4 comfortable with that? I don’t know.

Tom CNET: Obviously, trusted content is our main business. A small group of users want to discuss the content. We call it an architecture of participation. We invite them to contribute the best quality content. We raise the bar quite high.

Jeff Yahoo: Two trends driving this. Broadband and technology. Anyone with iPod can be a DJ. Anyone with a computer and the internet can become a blogger.

It could centre around areas of passion like photos with Flickr. It could be about socialising with MySpace. It could be about information like Wikipedia or Yahoo Answers. It’s about providing the user the best experience.

Mike: Is Comment is Free it? Is Have Your Say it?

Meg: We’re looking to a more granular approach. People consume things. Casual users might rate or recommend. Interaction adding their comments, and then curation being the heaviest level of activity. Right now, we’re seeing one level of that. How do people move from consumers to creators on our site? How do fund that proposition? How do we encourage people to become catalysts? Certainly, this is not it.

It goes back to trust, but it’s less about being trust and more about creating relationships.

Mike: Where does the journalist sit in this?

Tom CNET: Great question. On Silicon.com, specialist site for CIOs. With a cross section of our audience, there will be members of the audience who know more. They might not have presentation skills like journalist, but they have specialist knowledge. But maybe they don’t have the story telling skills.

Users as a broad-based community are setting the agenda.

Mike: XFM has switched to user-generated programming. Does anyone want to talk to that.

Ashley: I think we’re a long way from that. I think a lot of journalists despise new media. They still believe that they are delivering the truth. New media are bolting it on. They are asking people for user-generated content.

From Shiny Media’s point of view, from the blogosphere, big media has very little respect for bloggers. Daily Mail or Sun very rarely link out. There is a thriving British blogosphere but they very rarely get linked to by big media. There has to be training of journalists.

(Yes, I’m working on that at the day job, getting more training for our journalists at the Guardian.)

Nico: Publishing tools for print don’t support links to content outside their sites.

Let’s not over-state what we can do with social media. Government is working to get back to us. They will use these tools in a real instrumentalist way.

I’m interested in a real high-level discussion. No publication make it easy for people to post. People need to see related content. People need to see content filtered through people through a few degrees of separation from you on social networks.

There was a question from the audience about whether big media saw UGC as a cheap replacement for content.

Meg quoted me in what I often say that not all content should have comments, meaning that a blog post is different from a news article. I think it’s better to make it simple to people to blog about, recommend or share traditional content than simply throw comments on everything. Meg quotes me in that a work of journalism is meant to tie together as many threads as possible, whereas a blog post teases out a thread for discussion or debate.

I also wanted to tease out my tongue-in-cheek post from last week. I wasn’t saying that journalists can’t be trained to be good bloggers but rather that many times, in the obsession with big names and branding, news organisations rush their most prominent writers to blog instead of looking for passionate niche writers who love the interaction to blog. I give props to the NYTimes for getting their wine critic Eric Asimov to blog on The Pour. It’s a brilliant blog, a great virtual tasting room.

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