a piggie in the middle on the msm vs bloggers debate

I’m tired of talking about the we media forum already. I guess the idea of the event was to bring together two spheres that need and feed off each other so that they could argue about who was going to be more important to the future of the news and media world. At least, that’s how the week felt to me. Plenty of other people have discussed the disconnect, the insular nature of various "conversations", the misunderstandings, the lack of attempts to understand, whatever…

I find myself in the somewhat awkward position of being employed by a massive news and media organisation whilst, at the same time, having a personal blog and being part of that world as well. Perhaps that gives me a viewpoint that’s potentially beneficial to both sides – I hope that’s the case so, instead of adding to all the chatter (just have a look on technorati), I’ve decided to make a list

  • many, but not all, mainstream media people think that most blogs are web based diaries about people have a cat that’s just had kittens (and some of them are)
  • most, but not all, mainstream media people don’t think bloggers produce professional, well researched, quality content (many don’t, some do)
  • mainstream media companies often enjoy huge audiences, some bloggers also enjoy huge audiences and these bloggers most certainly can and will erode some of the market share of MSM
  • one of the reasons that mainstream media enjoys these large audiences is because people know their brands but, as more and more brands emerge, and content becomes more global as it’s increasingly distributed online, those brand names will probably matter less to media consumers. So what? As Tim Ireland demonstrated at the We Media Fringe, most people use sites like google to find websites, EVEN when they know the name of the brand and search sites/indexes use the number of inbound links to a site, and the promenence and permanence of the sites making those links, to determine where a website will appear in the google listings. So what again? Try searching google for "liar" and you’ll get a page about Tony Blair as the first result – with linking being such an integral part of blogging, it’s entirely possible that mainstream media brands are or soon will find themselves moving down, rather than up, the google search results page. MSM needs bloggers to talk about, and link back to, their content, otherwise MSM’s content is going to become harder to find, audiences will disappear, and MSM will find itself in a less dominant position.
  • Most, but not all (the Guardian, which integrates blog content into it’s print newspaper is a shining example of how to do it) of MSM hasn’t woken up to the fact that adding links to blogs can be beneficial in that it helps audiences explore other viewpoints, adds authenticity, acts as a check upon reporter’s neutrality, etc
  • Many bloggers would love to get links from MSM because of the traffic, and new audiences, this can bring.

MSM will increasingly need bloggers to link to them in order to avoid the erosion of audiences that could occur as their brands mean less to media consumers and as their content moves down the google search results page. MSM would also benefit from bringing new voices and viewpoints into their coverage. The MSM audience would benefit from this exposure to new ideas as it would give them the opportunity to make more informed choices about who to trust, what to believe, and how to feel about the world around them. Many bloggers need MSM for stuff to blog about. That’s perhaps a bit contentious but, I think, it’s certainly true for many bloggers who comment on what they’ve seen in a newspaper, on television or wherever. Many bloggers would like MSM to send them some traffic and possibly pay for some of their content.

So, some suggestions from my position as a piggie in the middle:

MSM needs to stop talking about what’s wrong with blogs and start highlighting, linking to, and embracing the good stuff that’s out there. You don’t need to own and control everything to have an important role in the world. Informing your audiences that there can be and are other points of view is a good thing (does the fact that Amazon and iTunes recommends related items make you buy fewer of them?! Of course not…).

Bloggers need to stop complaining that MSM is too powerful and start thinking of MSM as yet another distribution channel, like putting a podcast on iTunes or using feedburner to make your RSS feed available. If you can figure out how to get your content, or at least links to it, on the same page then you’ll be able to offer audiences a real alternative and can use that to express your views and creativity more widely.

So how are we going to do it?


  1. Robin – if this is too long – I’d appreciate the edit.
    Hi, overweight middle-aged MSM suit here. OK quick response to We Media Global – it wasn’t what I thought I’d signed up for, but I was there and had taken three days away from home and family and if it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I tuned in for what it was. As Stephen Stills didn’t say – “If you’re not with the one you signed up for – you’re signed up for the one you’re with”. Based on that I heard fascinating and passionate people (yes – on both days), but I also heard a lot of stuff that has been ruminated upon for years – even pre-blog years. Unfortunately the organisers took a rather old media modal – people on a stage talking and people in the audience listening and “if we have time for a few questions …” Pity – I had expected a rather more free wheeling discussion and continuous participation. Perhaps the event took the wrong planning in the first place – more participants could have been involved from the very instant the event was initiated. There are those of is in MSM who do take bloggers and non-aligned journalists seriously. Incidentally, my No 1 is Sluger O’Toole < www.sluggerotoole.com>.
    There are those of us in BBC who want to improve the tools available to the audience in order that they can be active, contributing participants. I was surprised by the overall view that the BBC is some how a collection of powerful people who occupy a few enormous buildings in London. It’s not . Neither is it some sort of closed shop. Oh, yes most definitely, it used to be; but that has changed and it will not turn back. The progress has begun to create the conversation for those who want to participate.
    It will be a symbiotic relationship. Some blogs and bloggers will bring new disciplines for news/information gathering, whether that be in Parliament Square or The Diamond in Coleraine. Well connected bloggers will be a reliable source. Others will just give more and more opinion – the very thing that many in the audience complain about in MSM – too much opinion not enough information.
    And finally – the one word heard far too little during the event was “audience”. this is not just a conversation between MSM and the rest. Who should be the beneficiary of the conversation? The audience – yes even those who switch on/log on and consume with no interest in being involved – at the current estimate that’s the other 90%.

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