Changing the 2015 history lesson

If you read US journalist Bob Cauthorn’s lengthy post on Corante’s Rebuilding Media, you might get a strong impression that blogs and mainstream media are a mixture that should never, ever, come together.

Ne’er the twain shall meet, in fact:

[…] Memo to mainstream media: You don’t get to blog.

You have a publishing apparatus. So you don’t get to blog. You have a broadcasting apparatus. So you don’t get to blog. In case you missed the point while you were reading up on youth slang, I’ll repeat it for emphasis. You. Do. Not. Get. To. Blog.

Not that you won’t try. Currently, there’s a rush among traditional media outlets to get into that wicked bitchin’, snaps inducing “blogging thing.” Almost all of these efforts are agonizingly misguided.

I had to read the story more than once to try and get the point of Cauthorn’s argument. I could boil it down to this: if mainstream media approaches blogging on the basis of ‘getting on the bandwagon’ to grab the youth market, they will fail.

Well, it doesn’t take a Ph.D in anything to figure that one out. Cauthorn gives an example or two of mainstream media who really don’t get it to support his argument. That argument is not only applicable to mainstream media, by the way – apply it to any individual or organization who’s thinking about ‘getting into this blogging thing’ (think of the Ketchum PR agency, for instance).

I believe more mainstream media ‘get it’ about blogging than you might think, even if what you tend to notice are the rather lame efforts some are engaging in, especially in the US.

But don’t knock it – everyone is experimenting and some will screw up, no question. That, though, is one of the great things about such an open and transparent environment in which to experiment where failure means learning not necessarily extinction. It’s not (wholly) Darwinian in its brutal reality.

I’ll mention at this point my favourite business quote, from Esther Dyson – keep making new mistakes.

So, Cauthorn’s is not an especially remarkable blog post so far. But if I ended my post here, that would miss the extremely interesting and real point that he makes – what he says in the first part of his post is really a little smokescreen – as you get into his lengthy story:

[…] For some reason, most of mainstream media doesn’t understand that blogging happens when you don’t have a printing press or a broadcast booth available, but you do have something to say. Nor do they understand that distributing the conversation is one of the most important forces alive in media today.

[…] The real opportunity doesn’t involve spewing more of the same on the street, it involves inviting the outside voices to come inside. A smart media company should become a hub for allowing outside blogs to get attention and an audience.

Now that is a very interesting idea.

Yet it’s not new. Indeed, Cauthorn highlights a terrific example in his own country – Bluffton Today, a newspaper in Bluffton, South Carolina, that has welded together blogs and the print newspaper in such a way that you cannot see the join (or weld). Just take a look at what they’re doing.

I can think of at least one other great example in the US of a community newspaper that uses new-media tools like blogs to build and develop real community with its readership – the Ventura County Star in California.

With these two, I don’t see a bandwagon anywhere.

Look outside the US. See what some mainstream media in France are doing, for example, with blogs and community relationship-building with readers (Le Monde and Libération).

Many of the comments to Cauthorn’s post are thoughtful. In particular, I did like the insight offered by Neil McIntosh of The Guardian in the UK:

[…] I say big media orgs *do* get to blog if…

(i) they realise blogs are giving birth to a new form of online journalism – one that’s more discursive, links offsite and welcomes reader annotation, among other things.

(ii) they then embrace that form of journalism, and work out which stories work well in this format.

(ii) they see their own blogs as a place to aggregate off-site content – including that from their competitors and, of course, relevant blogs written by “citizen journalists”

That illustrates the key point in this overall story. While Cauthorn might go on about the ‘DNA of blogging’ (I have no idea what that is), the extension of the traditional newspaper business into the new realm of blogs and other social media has to be part of the survival kit for any mainstream medium.

And while there is already a history lesson from 2015, that history hasn’t really been written yet.

One thought on “Changing the 2015 history lesson

  1. Thanks for the mention and “getting” what we’re trying to do, even if we’re doing it very imperfectly to this point.

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