Media08: Making the change from mass media to social media

Suw and I just got back from our honeymoon on Sunday, and I’m at the airport again. I’m heading to Sydney to speak at Media08.

I’m going to be speaking about making the transition from mass media to social media. Trends in audience fragmentation continue, and mass media are increasingly challenged to deliver the size of audiences they once did, which threatens their underlying business model of mass audiences delivered to advertisers. Journalists have been particularly poor in adapting to these changes as the positive sense of public service that many journalists have has soured into a false sense of entitlement. Yes, journalism is important to the functioning of a democracy, but just because we believe what we do is important, doesn’t mean that people must pay attention to us. We’re competing for people’s valuable disposable time and income against not only other news outlets but also against other forms of information and entertainment. We’re competing against not only CNN, the Telegraph, the Washington Post and the Economist but also against iPods, YouTube, Digg, the Wii, Facebook, real books, instant messaging, text messaging and MySpace messaging. Time and attention is the scarce resource that we’re fighting for, and as I’ve said before, most journalists really don’t grok this.

As journalists, we should focus on quality content, but our audiences have moved on, too often quite literally. They expect not only quality content but real, social interaction around that content. Wrap your content in a community. In 2008, that can still be a unique selling point. But this isn’t rocket science, and while journalists have been fighting over fundamentalist definitions of what is and isn’t journalism, innovators not beholden to dogmatic definitions of journalism have been creating social experiences around media. See Newsvine, which iterated and innovated enough to get the attention of a small company up the road in Seattle (well MSNBC – part owned by NBC and Microsoft) who came knocking with a cheque. But the time to gain the first adopter edge is coming to a close. By the end of 2008, savvy media and technology companies will have already moved and social media won’t be such a differentiating competitive advantage.

I’ll blog more about this over the next few days as well as blogging about conference itself.