Monday, April 5, 2010

On my way to WSWA and looking forward to hearing Sarah Palin's presentation. Sphere: Related Content

Whither the Future of Journalism?

One of the subjects that come up frequently in discussions about the role of blogs is, “Are bloggers journalists?” Clay Shirky,author of "Here Comes Everybody" explains it through some insightful observations which I’m paraphrasing here (really, you gotta read this book!)…

A profession exists to solve a hard problem, one that requires some sort of specialization. They exist because there is a scarce resource that requires ongoing management. The scarcity of the resource itself creates the need for a professional class. “The old dictum that freedom of the press exists only for those who own a press points to the significance of the change. To speak online is to publish, and to publish online is to connect with others. With the arrival of globally accessible publishing, freedom of speech is now freedom of the press, and freedom of the press is freedom of assembly.” And THAT explains why the Chinese government is so paranoid about Google.

For journalists, the resource (access to the means of distributing information, news, opinion) is no longer scarce, so we’re seeing the mass amateurization of the profession. And to make matters worse, when the resource was limited, an editor’s role was necessary to determine “Why publish this?” Now, the question isn’t why, it has become “Why not?” So where previously, scarcity of the means of distribution meant journalism’s function was to filter information BEFORE publication. Now filtering comes AFTER publication (think Search, Google Alerts, RSS feeds).

Another way Professor Shirky phrases it is, “If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.” And that’s the conundrum journalism…and many other professions created from the old constraints face.

Translate this to marketing and you can see the difficulty many command and control organizations face: “in the open source world, trying something is often cheaper than making a formal decision about WHETHER to try it.” Yowza! The result, lots of 25 year old entrepreneurs eschewing the plodding slope of corporate advancement for the philosophy of “Just Do It.” Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Globalization of Groups and the Mechanics of Social Media

I recently finished Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody. The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” and have become even more impressed by him as a thought leader.
If you’re interested in how the web is transforming everything, this NYU professor puts it in terms I can grok. (See Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land for a definition.)

The key premise of the book is that the seminal function of the Web is enabling the convening of group-forming networks. Big deal? YES! A VERY BIG DEAL.

Shirky says “Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies. It happens when society adopts new behaviors.” We all used to hear about e-mail being the “Killer App.” He pulls back the curtain on this a bit further to reveal the real killer app was the “reply all” function in email. That was the very beginning of Social Media. Now anyone can connect with anyone else in a group environment that doesn’t require synchronicity or physical proximity.

The implications of this are profound and explain the mechanics of how social media like Twitter and Facebook are so awesomely powerful and influential. “The web has lowered the hurdles to doing something in the first place, so that people who cared a little could participate a little while being effective in the aggregate. Having a handful of highly motivated people and a mass of barely motivated ones used to be a recipe for frustration. The people who were on fire wondered why the general public didn’t care more and the general population wondered why those obsessed people didn’t just shut up. Now the highly motivated people can create a context more easily in which the barely motivated people can be effective without having to become activists themselves.”

Add to the mix the tendency for us to trust the opinions of peers (think the Amazon “if you liked this, you might also like this” and we begin to see the implications of how this all scales up.

We’ve created this visual to explain the (I hate using this word, but it works here) viral nature of Social Media like blogs, sites, forums et al.

The important thing to recognize is that the post on a blog or forum is just the beginning, not the end. Sphere: Related Content