BlogWorld Insights #2 – The US vs. Them of Media

Picture courtesy of "Not the First Noel" via Flickr

Picture courtesy of "Not the First Noel" via Flickr

It was during the follow up to the opening Keynote at BlogWorld Expo 09 when this idea came to a head.  On the stage were big hitters of both new and old school journalism including:

Brian Solis – PR and Web 2.0 mega celebrity

Jay Rosen – journalism professor at NYU

Hugh Hewitt -  American radio talk show host

Don Lemon – CNN anchor and journalist

Joanna Drake Earl – President, New Media, Current TV

The discussion entitled, “The Death And Rebirth Of Journalism” focused much around citizen journalism, it’s benefits to media, the problems due to it, and where to go next.  It was a heated discussion (Lemon – the only “traditional” channel there – who I was incredibly impressed with) fueled on by the media-blitz of Balloon Boy the day before.

I took away three major points from this session (according to my notes):

1) Blogging and Micro-blogging allow the individual (viewer) to choose what they find is important in the world news feed.

2) Traditional media is still focused on a cost structure model – hence why they will highlight “minor or pop” news stories to gain exposure = costs.

3) Distribution issues of news – does the world view (CNN, NBC, Etc.) these major hubs of distribution as “the” most credible for news/current events?

And so – a question started brewing in my mind with regards to this:

“Why wouldn’t CNN or another traditional media player:
1. Put together a “journalism” training class (i.e. how to write, how to quote sources, etc.)
2. Encourage their most “raving fans” to take these classes
3. Turn them loose as “certified” citizen journalists
4. Reap the harvest of “on the ground” stories, well written, and sourced by sending them to editorial?

Imagine, in my case being a huge Keith Olberman fan, MSNBC taps you on the shoulder and says to you:

“Matt, we’d really like you to become a MSNBC citizen journalist, take a couple of basic classes on composition and source citing, write/film/video all the news you feel is news, and then joint publish it with our editorial staff.  It will be great exposure for you as a blogger, bring you a ton of readership, and get your local stories out to those who want to know about them.”

Sounds like everyone wins right?  Not so fast…

In the next session I actually got to pose this question to Robert Scoble who (kind of) answered it after I pushed him on it.

<Paraphrased> “We don’t need big media.  That’s the beauty of social media.  The big brands are dead in the water.  No one “watches” that anymore.  When I was with Fast Company magazine my blog readership didn’t go up at all.  I have 50K twitter followers that are reading my stuff anyway.  Why do we need to “teach” any kind of journalism?  The kid with a $1000 camera can be a video producer on his own.”

Disappointment… Not only did he trivialize the idea I suggested – he actually called a Spade a Spade.

It’s US versus THEM – New Media vs. Traditional – and be damned the idea of actually working together.

Tweet of the day on this subject – “RT @saulcolt: People keep talking about old media & new media…we need to start thinking of just “media” and make it great. #bwe09 via @erin_bury”

I don’t think it would have been so black and white if I hadn’t attended a fantastic keynote the night before by Chris Brogan.  I had never read much of paid Chris alot of attention until he brought up my all time favorite author Tim Sanders - and his book “Love is the Killer App.”  In this book Tim talks about becoming what he calls a “Lovecat” by fulfilling 3 simple tasks.

1.  Share your Knowledge

2.  Share your Network

3.  Share your Compassion

When I sat listening to Robert speak about the question I had presented, it struck me that, “Collaboration for these guys is absolute Bullshit – although it would be in the best interest of the consumer.”  It’s not about “how do we get the BEST news to the public”, it’s about, “do them come to my site, your site, or who’s site to read my “take” on the topic.  It was truly truly disheartening.

In the Dachis Group whitepaper, “Social Business Design”, Peter Kim explains this legacy system of “Us vs. Them” excellently.

“Us” Vs. “Them.” Competitive strategy drives businesses to hunker down behind the physical walls of an office and the virtual walls of a brand. Customers are seen as “targets” whose participation is limited to handing over money. Competitors are seen as “enemies.” Suppliers are viewed as “necessary evils.” This approach to business may produce short-term results, but at the expense of true collaboration and long-term results – everyone benefits when these relationships are viewed as an ecosystem of related collaborators rather than competing interests.

It’s humbling and often-times disheartening to come to this kind of realization.  That the “Us vs. Them” mentality prevails even with supposedly forward thinking companies or people.  Could you imagine the result if someone of the stature of Robert Scoble gave “how to video worthy of the national news” seminars?  Or if an editor at CNN did webinars on “how to write copy like a NYU journalist?”  I think the PR alone would be worth any words of wisdom that your competitors might pick up.

Many will agree with Robert and say that, “the audience you’re looking for isn’t watching CNN” and I will disagree.  Especially at an event like BlogWorld it’s easy to get caught up in the whiz-bang, what’s next society and forget that 90% of Americans still turn on the television or read the Washington Post instead of the Huffington Post.

Collaboration could possibly be the cure all to what ails us – but until we dump the “Us vs. Them” mentality and start operating from a level of abundance (and strict ROI) I think we have a long way to go.


  1. LOVECATS RULE! Disheartened is a great word choice. Hard to believe that most of our “old schools” of thought, media including, are stuck in the days of the barracuda.

  2. Brent Stack says:

    Great post Matt! My big takeaway from the keynote was that media is no longer vertical ( ie. tv talking AT you ). Media NOW is horizontal. US talking to each other. WE are the new media. You had me up until being a “Keith Olberman fan”. Are we talking about an entertainer or as a journalist?

  3. To me, the folks who do “us vs. them” are also missing the game. Bridgemakers will always beat wallbuilders.

    I’m glad we’ve started a new friendship. I’m on the us side. : )

  4. Chris,

    Thanks for the comment, and I completely agree with you that the bridgemakers are the ones to watch. It’s disheartening however, to see these “leaders” in our circles that practice this type of mentality.

    Brent – Sorry that you can’t support my Olberman feelings, however I won’t hold it against you. I really like your thought on “horizontal” media however… that’s good thinking.

    Amanda – you are right my dear – however as Chris pointed out above, and as a fellow Lovecat – we know it’s not always easy, but it’s the way we live!

  5. Matt, great post! I wasn’t able to make it to BlogWorld, so I really appreciate you bringing all this info back.

    I have to say, this US vs. THEM mentality makes me a little sad. I have heard a lot of it recently; the debate whether new media or traditional media is “better”, who is sharing “real” news, etc. In my opinion, it’s all a little exhausting.

    I definitely agree: collaboration is crucial. Also, interesting that Lovecat tasks all begin with “SHARE.” Hmmm….