Sunday, May 07, 2006

We Media

Last week the We Media conference took place in London. It was organised by media Think Tank 'The Media Center', along with Reuters and the BBC. It's remit was to

bring together the trailblazers of the connected society - the thinkers, innovators, investors, executives and activists seeking to tap the potential of digital networks connecting people everywhere.

Without the buzzwords, it was a conference to look at the changing face of the media and the impact of new methods of content creation and distribution, in other words, blogs. To this end, before the conference they commissioned some research to look at how much blogs were trusted, compared with mainstream media and and government. That research would have been great, had they not asked the wrong question, namely 'how much you trust each of the following institutions to operate in the best interest of our society' rather than 'what credibility do you percieve the following institutions to have', as Jeff Jarvis points out.

According to Jarvis there were lots of kneejerk reactions to the issue of how the blogosphere will affect mainstream media, but it would also seem that some interesting discussion happened. The Technology Editor for the BBC Website has been blogging about the event, and his final post summarises what he thought came out of the conference. I've just quoted some of the best bits:

One overwhelming issue that emerged out of the We Media event was the continuing divide between the mainstream media and the blogging community.

The two are talking to each other, but all too often this conversation descends into a war of words. Both sides have a tendency to adopt a defensive position when challenged, and this in turn leads to a dialogue of the deaf.

The world is changing and as we head in a participatory future, everyone involved in the media has to be open to sharing knowledge and experience.

In a period of uncertainty and rapid change, those who succeed may be the ones who find ways of tapping into the wisdom of the crowd.

I think it is fantastic that people at the BBC, the mainstream media giant in the UK are thinking like this, and that post sounds an awful lot like an embracement of Web 2.0 ('tapping into the wisdom of the crowd'). There are a whole load of clever ways the mainstream media and the blogosphere are working together. A great example is the new BlogBurst service, covered here on TechCrunch. Basically, they are an agency which buy content of blog owners, and then publish it on mainstream media websites. That way the blog owners get money and exposure, and the mainstream media gets quality content at a much cheaper price than they would normally get it.

Another idea, also on TechCrunch, is Waxxi, a new participatory podcast system, with which people can host podcasts, and anyone can sign up to contribute. The first podcast is with Scoble and Shel Israel (authors of Naked conversations), but think of the potential if the concept were applied to more mainstream people. As well as Prime Minister's Question Time in parliament, there could be a Waxxi PMQs, with people from the country ringing up, and everyone downloading the result. A Web 2.0 approach that would really enhance democracy and create valuable content at a low cost.

So, there's lots of stuff going on which we can be really proud of. It is clear that not only is it a bad idea for there to be a battle between blogs and mainstream media, but that such a battle is completely unnecessary. They can both help each other, enhancing each other greatly, and for that reason we can be sure that in 2050 the mainstream media and blogs will both still be thriving. It's just they will probably just be refered to as 'The Media'.

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