13 June Taking part in a panel at the NMK Forum 07 (sub-titled ‘What Comes After Content?’) in London, looking at how traditional media companies are managing to integrate aspects of social media interaction into their activity, including around debate. The other panelists are Jem Stone, BBC Future Media & Technology; Tom Bureau, (soon to be former) UK Managing Director, CNET Networks; Meg Pickard, Guardian Unlimited; Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner, Factual, Channel 4 Television; Paul Pod, co-Founder, TIOTI (Tape It Off The Internet); and Ashley Norris, co-founder, Shiny Media. The panel, entitled 'Media, Publishing & Advertising: Old Guard, New Tricks' and chaired by Mike Butcher, asks:
How is so-called MSM (Mainstream Media) facing up to the new wave of interest in social media? Is it absorbing social media strategies or ignoring it? What does social media mean for the bottom line of big media? And how do the social media startups view their efforts?
The other panelists are Jem Stone, BBC Future Media & Technology; Tom Bureau, UK Managing Director, CNET Networks; Meg Pickard, Guardian Unlimited; Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner, Factual, Channel 4 Television; Paul Pod, co-Founder, TIOTI (Tape It Off The Internet); and Ashley Norris, co-founder, Shiny Media. My brief position statement follows:
[The panel has now taken place and this post will be updated accordingly.]
Social media is the latest of many fads that have swept the media industry in the last 15 years. This doesn't mean it isn't a phenomenon, or a trend which can be taken advantage of, but it is over-hyped. Previous fads have included CD-ROM and CDi, interactive editorial, portals, push content (Pointcast, etc), WAP sites, syndication, and documentary-style content. The other current fads don't need elaborating.
To the extent it exists, the desire to engage with media using social tools is a product of the disappearance of other forms of social or civic engagement, which have left the media, brands and celebrities as the last vestiges of authority. But the allegiances are double-edged, as the media is also seen as untrustworthy.
It is also a product of our more confessional culture. The social networking trend is currently driving technology, and is not a product of it. For instance, confessional and emotive culture pre-dated the rise of the Web, with a key point being the Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana and the responses to her death. (Would people growing up in the 50s have created social networks online if the Web had existed then?)
The media industry needs to better understand these trends so it can more effectively leverage them, and see what the next trend will be. (It also needs to understand its role in enhancing these trends.)
To the extent it is possible to leverage them, the media industry needs to work on the nature of the conversation it is facilitating, learn from what works well in real world interaction, consider how to use editorial more effectively to shape these conversations, identify which characteristics of these services will bring out the best from users, and use design and technology to create services that fit into people's lives and with which they can easily understand and engage.