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The people at Taylor Bennett and Unicorn Jobs invited me along to an event which discussed social media and how it relates to the mainstream media. The panelists were Drew Benvie, Simon Nixon of Breakingviews and Mick Fealty of Slugger O’Toole and the Brassneck blog at the Daily Telegraph.
Here is the notes that I made from the event (but I’ve cleaned up the spelling):
Simon provided an introduction to Breakingviews which drew some parallels between internet mainstream media and social media (though social media elements like the dialogue with readership like letters to the editors and opinion pieces work just as well in print). Simon acted as a chair for the discussion.
Mick started blogging whilst working as a researcher. He found that it was a handy way of tracking research on the net. Over six years later and, Slugger O’Toole was said to set the political agenda in Northern Ireland by the editor of the Irish News. The compelling reason for blogging is its capacity to get news issues out to the readership 12 -13 hours faster than print media.
Slugger now run by five contributors with much less day-to-day input from Mick.
Drew started using technology to help with his job agency-side in PR, the blog started by posting coverage so that he could read it when he got home. Over time, he gradually became aware of the community of readers that went to his blog.
Everyone on the panel is a blogger, but are they are a journalist?
Drew said straightaway that he is not a journalist.
Mick said being a journalist is not whether you right for a mainstream media title, instead its about how they use the technology, does the writer have a good nose for a story? Mick is a member of UK advertising network MessageSpace, whilst there are bloggers taking a professional approach, there aren’t the revenues there yet for the majority of its members.
How do the panelists go about agenda setting?
Drew started off by looking at news feeds, looking at other bloggers and mainstream media, now he also tracks keywords including client names and industry topics. Drew reads some 200-plus blogs about public relations. PR has moved past press releases and is now about infiltrating the feeds of key journalist. Bloggers offer an ideal opportunity to do this.
Mick said that all the stories in Brassneck and Slugger O’Toole are peer-to-peer stories. In terms of advice for PROs, they need to know who it is that they are reaching out to and to do it in a conversational style and keep it brief. Group emails don’t work, instead even a url to story thats interesting is fine.
Are blogs replacing old media?
Drew: He has received double the amount of requests from clients to get in blogs compared to even six months ago. Blogs may not be killing mainstream media but is certainly strangling it.
Simon described blogs as being live and rough around the edges. Mainstream media is absorbing the ways and methods of online media and bloggers in order to survive. As the media has brought blog content into the papers as columns. The web has become a cheap way to run a fast-failure development process for new content.
Mick: Things are going to change, the primary driver is disaggregation, where the consumer has become the new editor. A major challenge for mainstream media is that it is not in constant touch with audience
Are journalists more professional than bloggers?
Drew: Admitted that he is careful about what he writes as he doesn’t want to get sacked for anything that he says online. However he would still like to see snarky content like The World’s Leading… when it was running.
Blogging sped up the response. Bloggers can post instantly
Mick: bloggers and commenters can deliver a rapid response, but they need to play it straight. A recent survey by IPSOS MORI found that bloggers are more trusted than journalists by consumers. Pew Internet found that 57 percent of journalists stories had been sourced from the net.
The editorial time-space is putting mainstream media at a disadvantage, they end up with online one chance at getting a story right. Whereas a community of bloggers can digest and discuss a story to get every element out of it.
The power of the mainstream media brand covers journalist sins, whereas bloggers personal brands run the risk of being damaged if they write a dodgy story.
Is blogging and social media open to misuse?
Drew: Abuse will always happen, PROs need to be careful in their guardianship of their clients reputation, track where they can be done, media law still applies
Mick: The nature of the bloggers peer-to-peer relationship with their audience, also puts an onus on the audience and the blogger to not be passive. A good blog is like a pub and a good blogger is like the landlord who will kick out trouble-makers before it gets to be of a serious nature. From a readers point of view they need to be aware that lower orders of knowledge are being manufactured.
Mick: The real value in public relations is in audience insight, social networks are an ideal tool to gain audience insight. Currently one of the key mistakes that PROs have been firefighting too hard.
Audience member Sam Bottrell of WestLB asked Simon Nixon about how practical blogging and social media really was for financial institutions. Simon pointed out that social media presents a high level of risk for financial institutions, I pointed out that the research team at Piper Jaffray provide a list of links to interesting articles each day via Google Reader.
Justin Hayward pointed out how search had grown beyond finding information or discovery to become a reputation engine.
Post-event I caught up with Steve Waddington, had a quick chat with Drew Benvie, Ben Matthews, Jaz Cummins and Justin Hayward. More on related content here.