Can the Statusphere Save Journalism?

What follows is the unedited version of my latest post on TechCrunch, “Can the Statusphere Save Journalism.”

Earlier this month, I enjoyed an invigorating conversation over dinner with Walt Mossberg. Friends surrounded us, but for the majority of the evening, we were immersed in a passionate discussion that dismantled and rebuilt the potential future of media and communications.

It took me several weeks to deconstruct the essence and impact of our dialogue in order to share the experience with you.

While we casually discussed our most current endeavors and experiences, the dancing shifted to deep conversation, ultimately transcending into a zeitgeist for the future of journalism in the era of socialized media with one simple question, “are newspapers worth saving?”

Walt thought for no more than two seconds and assertively replied, “It’s the wrong question to ask. The real question we should ask is if whether or not we can save good journalism.”

He continued, “Think about it. Of the hundreds, thousands, of newspapers around the country, there are really only a few that matter. Good journalism and journalists, on the other hand, are worth saving.”

Indeed. Perhaps good journalists, wait, intuitive and ambitious journalists, might figure out how to survive this Darwinian state of media evolution on their own. Others may need the help of visionaries and success stories in order individually adapt to the socialization of content.

While the discussion explored the missteps of publishers and content producers and the corresponding opportunity for savvy individuals with relevant perspective combined with online social prowess, it was the persistent reverberation in the weeks to follow that serves as the outline today. It was also renewed when I explored the impact of the Statusphere on the authority of the blogosphere, as measured today.

Suddenly everything focused.

Whether it’s newspapers, television shows, or online mediums and networks, the shift is in consumption behavior, quality, relevance, and personality, not the production or distribution of content per se.

As Walt said, “there are truly only a handful of media properties in print worth saving, the rest is comprised of great journalists and recycled national news.”

So what of those brilliantly articulate, passionate, and scintillating writers whom we identify, admire and connect with in each article they share?

It’s not unlike the renaissance currently underway in the music industry. Artists are discovering that they have a D2C (Direct 2 Consumer) channel to reach fans and cultivate relationships. Those in touch with technology and the cultures of online societies can bypass traditional music production and distribution altogether.

I guess I’m saying that exceptional journalists can create their own destiny. Their future is in their notepads, ready to escape from paper to online and the real world.

It’s almost everything…the connection, once established, multiplied, and fed, is seductive and unquenchable.

Personality, motivation, determination, and the ability to embrace risk and venture into uncharted and unpredictable territory is the only way to champion change and influence the direction of professional adventures.

Stop the Presses

Believe it or not, in the overall theatrical production that is media Darwinism is playing out as the world watches. In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether or not newspapers survive. We are witnessing and building the future of media production and associated connections right here, right now.

Advertising in newspapers as well as print and broadcast media in general is spiraling irrecoverably without any hope of salvation. Subscriptions are evaporating and quickly eroding the supporting infrastructure for printing and delivery.

The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer have shuttered their print business and they’re not alone. These industry staples are merely the first to topple, triggering a domino effect that will resonate and replicate worldwide. Newspapers are swinging the axe and cutting staffs in hordes while many are also reducing their publishing frequency. The rich and influential 200 year-old history that defines the legacy of independent media empires are now writing its next features for the history books. They’re becoming an important footnote in the future of all published media as the much younger 15 year-old online medium competes for limited advertising revenue.

This is just the beginning.

According to Paper Cuts, a Web site tracking the newspaper industry, more than 120 newspapers in the U.S. have closed since January 2008 and at least 21,000 jobs at 67 newspapers have vanished. I’m sure that the number is much more dramatic now.

To get a real time glimpse into the bloodshed, TheMediaisDying on Twitter also maintains a running public account of all media properties as they announce layoffs, closures, and firings.

Hope

What eludes publishers is the very thing that can save them, the new model for not only surviving the evolution, but also thriving in the future ecosystem of publishing and connecting content with audiences—where they congregate online. The new media economy will embrace a shift in content creation and revenue generation from a top-down model to a bottom-up groundswell.

The socialization of the web is powered by not only the ability for citizens to publish and share content, but also the wherewithal and associated rewards for connecting with the real people and the personalities with whom we follow. This is paramount as publishers and journalists can learn from the ongoing documentation in the art and science of online community building.

Perhaps the reinvention of the publishing model starts with journalists, where people become the ambassadors for content and the flagship brand they represent.

Why?

There’s a direct correlation between the attention captured online and the loss of newspaper readers and subscribers as well as television viewers for that matter. Yes, many media properties are creating sophisticated web infrastructures and networks and are succeeding in attracting and maintaining visitors. Online advertising is actually on the rise and it’s not entirely tied to the recession.

The hunger for relevant, inspirational and compelling content is insatiable and potentially recession proof.

To broaden revenue horizons, publishers are experimenting with the idea of micro payments, charging consumers a few cents to view stories and also pay walls, which serve as a tollbooth between readers and deeper content. Because of the severity of revenue blood loss, new ideas are introduced, reviewed, and tested almost daily. Job cuts are the market indicator for status and progress.

Adapting vs. Reinvention

Content producers are scrambling to integrate social technologies and platforms to spur readership volume and interactivity among visitors and also between reporters and readers. And truthfully, this story is now years in the making. Maybe, just maybe, the existing model for generating, distributing and monetizing content could benefit from a Ctrl-Alt-Delete reboot.

While newspapers and publishers explore new models for reversing the downturn, the real story, however, resides with the very people whom they employ, the standout reporters and journalists who are worth saving.

Waiting and hoping are not the catalysis for reinvention however. Taking control of individual destiny is a personal choice and commitment to change and shape the outcome of what lies ahead. It requires an immediate shift from operating behind the scenes to self-championing individual compositions. The most well-known, successful and celebrated journalists figured this out long ago. And those more assertive journalists who visualize the window of opportunity today aren’t necessarily waiting for approval or for existing processes to adapt to the new world order. Time waits for no one.

Personality + Insight + Promotion + Interaction = Visibility and Community

The socialization of the Web has given way to the era of personal brands. We are all now responsible for the creation, direction, perception, and management of our online personas, reinforced by what we share and how we interact across The Conversation Prism. This is incredibly poignant for journalists as they not only need to maintain a watchful eye on their media employer but also now compete against a new generation of bloggers and content producers who do not abide by or embody the classical training of journalism.

It’s survival of the fittest predicated by what you stand for and how hungry you are to build and sustain a community around you and your work. What’s taking place right now is an incredible opportunity for good journalists to humanize their stories and project an outward extension of their persona to connect with existing and potential readers at the point of attention aperture, the window of opportunity to engage someone in their timeline. And, it’s no different than the tactics used by innovative, enterprising, and determined bloggers who aspired to create a congregation around their perspective.

This was and is, all about people and a new breed of social journalism.

To cultivate a personal brand or invest in online interaction is time consuming as the required investment is beyond your daily routine. It is however, rewarding and measurable.

Michael Arrington and Erick Schonfeld interact with readers on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to stay connected, converse with peers, and also to meet people at events local and around the world. There’s a reason why 350,000 people follow TechCrunch on Twitter.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez boasts 74,000 followers on Twitter and uses the micro medium to source story ideas and interact with viewers. Also Anderson Cooper has cultivated a loyal following of 93,000 on Twitter by sharing interesting content through his timeline. Reggie Aqui uses Facebook to interact with viewers as well.

Mary Louise Schumacher and Tannette Elie of the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel participate on Twitter in relevant conversations while also hosting and attending Tweetups to extend their personal brands online and in real life.

Kirk Yuhnke, News Anchor for Fox 13 in Salt Lake City interacts with viewers and also those who share his views outside of his home base. He’s reaching a wider audience because of Twitter.

John Byrne, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek show’s us the human side of running the editorial side of a global media powerhouse

NPR Scott Simon’s 167,000 followers on Twitter relish in his personal updates and responses.

Ryan Squire of NBC 4 in Columbus leverages Twitter followers to collaborate on stories as well as simply engaging in real world conversations.

Kara Swisher of AllThingsD and the Wall Street Journal shares updates, new thoughts, and also talks to people regardless of social stature. She’s built a global reputation through her work and insight, strengthened by her interaction across multiple social networks.

Ron Sylvester, an award-winning journalist at the Wichita Eagle, tweets directly from the courtroom. He also blogs and connects with people on Facebook.

The list grows every day. And, while many of these examples showcase Twitter and Facebook, the truth is that your community of potential viewers, readers, and stakeholders are engaging in multiple networks such as personal blogs, blog comments, Ning, Google and Yahoo Groups, Yelp, Upcoming.org, FriendFeed, and many others that surface with simple Web searches.

Journalists and reporters benefit from reminding the world that they’re real people who are learning that genuinely connecting and participating online, outside of traditional walled gardens, allows the rest of the world to appreciate who they are and what they stand for. Participation also empowers an influential group of content ambassadors who broaden the reach of personal and media brands and associated stories by willfully sharing and introducing links to their personal network.

These lessons are also critical for students who are learning about the past and the future in a real time collision of textbook cases combined with current online examples shared from peers and mentors in the field.

The Statusphere the Future of Social Syndication

We’re shifting into a rapid-fire culture that moves at Twitter time. Attention is a precious commodity and requires a personalized engagement strategy in order to consistently vie for it. The laws of attraction and relationships management are driven by the ability to create compelling content and transparently connect it to the people whom you believe benefit.

The Statusphere is the new ecosystem for sharing, discovering, and publishing updates and micro-sized content that reverberates throughout social networks and syndicated profiles, resulting in a formidable network effect of activity. It is the digital curation of relevant content that binds us contextually and through the statusphere we can connect directly to existing contacts, reach new people, and also forge new friendships through the friends of friends effect (FoFs) in the process.

Twitter, Facebook News Feeds, FriendFeed and other micro communities that define the Statusphere, are driving action and determining the direction and course of individual attention. And, it’s inducing a more participatory, engaging, and enlightened community of media literate information socialites.

Journalists must tap the Statusphere in order to earn awareness for their work and more importantly, build relationships with those who share affinities for the topics they cover. While traditional media models lived and breathed through the sharing of content directly to the existing install base, new media will thrive from those individuals who reach people where they interact and hand-deliver relevant information directly to them.

News Feeds and Timelines serve as our centralized attention dashboard and determine what we read, what we say, and who responds simply by the information that continually flows through it. We’re engaged at the point and place of introduction and bound by context and time. Noticeable content sparks curiosity and dictates our next move and subsequently the next moves and reactions of friends and friends of friends (FoFs).

As journalists, it’s now our job to identify who they are in order to establish an effective contextual network. With each new connection, journalists can appear in multiple, dispersed timelines to syndicate content across the social graph and social networks. Worthy content combined with evangelism and clever promotion will earn visibility and expanded syndication through retweet (RT), link shares, Diggs, Stumbles, bookmarks, tweetbacks, Likes, and other forms of social syndication. With each new instance of sharing, content reverberates through extended social graphs.

Content becomes a social object that inspires communication and action.

The Human Network and the Future of Socialized Journalism

The Human Network is powered by context. We learn by listening to relevant keywords to learn from others who share our interests and passions. The idea is to complement individual connections with the creation of community around your personal brand supported by your associated views and perspectives.

We identify uniquely with different individuals across varying topics, but the timing of each update we share, which serves as the disruption point, combined with the state of the extended attention aperture of friends and FoFs are perhaps the most important factors in determining the thread and viral opportunity for potential conversations surrounding content. It is the Social Effect that determines actual reach, resonance and the course for individual content.

As a journalist, it’s now your responsibility to create a dedicated tribe that supports, shares, and responds to your work and personal interaction in both the Statusphere and also at the point of origin. It’s the only way to build a valuable and portable community around you and what you represent.

Savvy publishers and content producers will also benefit from the extended visibility and vibrancy of the supporting conversations and will/should in turn, build and support campaigns and presences that promote the individual in addition to the media brand to create a dynamic and blooming human collective. Monetization is then influenced by the earned social capital and currency that is valued and measured through relationships and dialogue.

The humanization and socialization of journalism will create a viable platform for meaningful engagement that builds a new era of trust, loyalty and community around the media brand, one person at a time. Concurrently, it establishes a vibrant and collaborative highway to source and share stories by the people for the people to shape stories that matter beyond the assignment desk. Consumers are then vested in media and boast a sense of ownership and pride to have earned the opportunity to help shape direction.

Content and the reporters and journalists who produce it must migrate to the individual attention dashboard in order to trigger a reaction that reverberates across the social graph and develops individual tribes. The key is held by perceptive and enterprising individuals who can attract, build, and foster flourishing audiences, and must be empowered to do so in order to lead viewers, friends, and friends of friends back to the source of information—channeling a new source of information stakeholders from the outside in.

Helpful Posts on PR 2.0:
- Is Social Media Recession Proof?
- Facebook Now 200 Million Strong
- Twitter Traffic Surges to 10 Million
- The End of the Innocence
- The Decline of Newspaper Revenue
- The Growth of Newspapers Online? Yes and No
- Newspapers are Old News
- Newspapers Respond to the Social Web
- The Social Effect
- The Conversation Prism 2.0
- Putting the Public Back in Public Relations is Now Available<
- Twitter and Social Networks Usher in a New Era of Social CRM
- The Human Network = The Social Economy
- In the Statusphere, ADD Creates Opportunities for Collaboration and Education
- Humanizing Social Networks, Revealing the People Powering Social Media
- Social Networks Now More Popular than Email; Facebook Surpasses MySpace
- Are Blogs Losing Authority to the Statusphere?
- I Like You The Emerging Culture of Micro Acts of Appreciation
- The Ties that Bind Us - Visualizing Relationships on Twitter and Social Networks
- Make Tweet Love – Top Tips for Building Twitter Relationships
- The Battle for Your Social Status
- Twitter Tools for Communication and Community Professionals
- Is Twitter a Viable Conversation Platform
- Is FriendFeed the Next Conversation Platform

Connect with me on:
Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Plaxo, Plurk, Identi.ca, BackType, Social Median, or Facebook

Subscribe to the PR 2.0 RSS feed.


Now available:



Image Credit

Share
  • M. Hendrick

    Brian,
    Loved this point – “Perhaps the reinvention of the publishing model starts with journalists, where people become the ambassadors for content and the flagship brand they represent.” Personally, I can already see that working in the way that I consume news. There are publications, online and off, that I read specifically because I am searching for new content from a journalist who has previously impressed me with their work. For example, Mr. Mossberg himself represents the idea of a “content ambassador”, as so many of us have grown to appreciate his opinion and look to his reviews when we begin to form our first impressions of new products or services. Why? He has found a way to create a flagship brand for himself, and I trust that he can give an accurate, fact based report of whatever it is that he is reviewing at the time.

    My only real question, monetization aside, is will this further perpetuate the shift that many people are making away from strictly “fact based” news towards more “fact + opinion” style journalists and organizations? If journalists are truly creating a brand for the content they represent, could this tempt them to cater to a more specific audience, thus watering down the overall quality of their reporting? Of course, there will be those who maintain their journalistic integrity, but will consumers be driven towards reporters who more closely reflect their own value system, thus reinforcing the very idea of fact + opinion based news? From cable news to print to blogs, we’ve seen opinion creep further and further into the daily news over the last 10-15 years, and I just wonder if the idea of journalists as ambassadors of their own brand of news is going to further perpetuate the problem. Could it only be a matter of time until we all consume different versions of the same story or am I reading too much into it? Would love to hear what you think.

  • Brian Solis

    Thank Matt, very thoughtful comment. Indeed Mr. Mossberg among many others are leading the way. Good journalism must always be tied to ethics, homework, and the equal presentation of the facts to help others interpret, share and respond with their personal perspective. The difference is how journalists will connect that content to the people they’re hoping to reach. The rest is then dictated by the platforms and communities that amplify voices to those with opinions as well as those seeking them.

  • EMM

    Brian:

    A brilliant analysis. I love good journalism and know how important it is in our democratic republic.

    But as I read the accounts of writers, editors and publishers trying to find their way out of the current slide, I’ve become convinced that it will be not they but techno-and Web-savvy entrepreneurs who will find the way, an entirely new way. Those of us who have worked in newsrooms can’t seem to get the ink out of our blood long enough to dispassionately examine alternatives.

    This post will generate tremendous conversation, Brian. Thank you for putting it out there.

  • jane.dodd

    Absolutely love your piece. You have hit the nail on the head. As a business media outlets have focused on revenue generation through advertising and along the way have forgotten the need for great content that people want to read, watch, hear. Who produces that content? Great journos of course. Just today at lunch some colleagues and I (PR people in NZ) were asking if there was any leadership in the journalism profession to help them evolve in this environment. No there is not. The journo’s are the working bees and the leaders of their sector are the managers who are frantically trying to generate or retain revenue.

  • Jamie

    Brian, got to say I disagree w/you and Mossberg on this. I think it’s arrogant to say that only a few great journalists matter. There are great (young) journalists working at small papers who just haven’t made it to the Wall Street Journal yet, and may never make it. The whole process of getting to the ‘big paper’ is a combination of luck, timing, demographics and talent. I was one of the lucky ones to get to a major metro daily, but some people prefer to stay in their hometowns and do a great job there.
    What’s more, your discussion discounts the whole issue of local news — yes, so-called ‘citizen journalists’ may be able to contribute, but there’s no guarantee that these people will be impartial (unlikely in fact).
    At the same time, your argument ignores the issue of support — libraries and research staff, lawyers for defending journalists and journalism (note the jailed journalists in Iran and Korea) etc. Big papers have the dollars and the clout to do serious journalism. It’s a lot harder for someone operating independently. Of course people who work for well-known media outlets have many Twitter followers. That’s a nod to their fine work, indeed, but it sure helps that they work for brand-name companies.
    This is not to say that journalism/newspapers cannot change. Of course change is coming. I think the real issue is the distribution model. A printed paper requires drivers, trucks, delivery people, printers, presses and paper. Expensive. What if news became an online subscription? Perhaps readers could even purchase subscriptions to some mashup of news and news sources — selecting something from a local journalism source, something from a favorite blogger, local sports scores, an article from a magazine, a few columnists, the national headlines, maybe even something from broadcast journalism, etc. Readers could choose to print if they like, but they can also read on their e-reader or mobile device, etc. There’s no question about the value of news. The real issue is who pays for it. I’d argue that such a model would attract many subscribers and eventually advertisers as well.

  • Jamie

    Brian, got to say I disagree w/you and Mossberg on this. I think it’s arrogant to say that only a few great journalists matter. There are great (young) journalists working at small papers who just haven’t made it to the Wall Street Journal yet, and may never make it. The whole process of getting to the ‘big paper’ is a combination of luck, timing, demographics and talent. I was one of the lucky ones to get to a major metro daily, but some people prefer to stay in their hometowns and do a great job there.
    What’s more, your discussion discounts the whole issue of local news — yes, so-called ‘citizen journalists’ may be able to contribute, but there’s no guarantee that these people will be impartial (unlikely in fact).
    At the same time, your argument ignores the issue of support — libraries and research staff, lawyers for defending journalists and journalism (note the jailed journalists in Iran and Korea) etc. Big papers have the dollars and the clout to do serious journalism. It’s a lot harder for someone operating independently. Of course people who work for well-known media outlets have many Twitter followers. That’s a nod to their fine work, indeed, but it sure helps that they work for brand-name companies.
    This is not to say that journalism/newspapers cannot change. Of course change is coming. I think the real issue is the distribution model. A printed paper requires drivers, trucks, delivery people, printers, presses and paper. Expensive. What if news became an online subscription? Perhaps readers could even purchase subscriptions to some mashup of news and news sources — selecting something from a local journalism source, something from a favorite blogger, local sports scores, an article from a magazine, a few columnists, the national headlines, maybe even something from broadcast journalism, etc. Readers could choose to print if they like, but they can also read on their e-reader or mobile device, etc. There’s no question about the value of news. The real issue is who pays for it. I’d argue that such a model would attract many subscribers and eventually advertisers as well.

  • Pingback: Dev Newz: Articles and Resources for Professional Developers » Blogs Still Serve A Valuable Purpose

  • Pingback: Rumors of the Death of Blogs are Greatly Exaggerated | Brian Solis

  • Pingback: Taking your Brand into the Statusphere

  • http://www.nikemaxsale.com air max shoes

    Well , the view of the passage is totally correct ,your details is really reasonable and you guy give us valuable informative post, I totally agree the standpoint of upstairs. I often surfing on this forum when I m free and I find there are so much good information we can learn in this forum!
    multi-cavity

  • Pingback: Who are All of These Tweeple?

  • Pingback: Give Your Customers Something to Talk About – Chapter 6

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

Contact Brian

RECENT TWEETS

FLICKR FEED

  • Actions and Inactions by Brian Solis
  • #postcard from Waikiki
  • FOMO by Brian Solis
  • The Best Technology is Human by Brian Solis

ARCHIVE