Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a transglobal teleconference on the Future of Media here in San Francisco along with a link to a concurrent session in Sydney, Australia. Despite some audio/visual problems with the link between the two sites, the content of the sessions was thought provoking and painstakingly honest. To hear leaders in the field admit to not really knowing what's going to happen is both refreshing and a bit scary. But that's the reality of where things are at today.
Because of the richness of the evening's content, I'm going to split my reactions up between a couple of posts here on LCB and a couple over on e e learning.
One of the topics that came out in nearly every discussion was that of trust, the role it plays in media today and how it will be even more a factor in the future. Mike Linksvayer (CTO of Creative Commons) and Andy Halliday (CEO of Ourstory) got the evening rolling by positing individual authenticity as vital to success in the flattened internet empowered global marketplace. Sensemaking becomes the real challenge according to Halliday in a world in which, as Linksvayer put it, "90% of everything is crap." We come to trust individuals, and to a lesser extent brands, who we know because we've connected with "their story." Communication has always been about viewing and understanding other peoples’ stories and finding shared experiences according to Halliday.
Chris Anderson (Editor of Wired Magazine and author of the new book The Long Tail) and John Hagel(author of The Only Sustainable Edge) were lively and provocative. In an exchange that Moira Gunn later characterized as "Chris getting about $8000 worth of free consulting out of John" they discussed the intersection of their two books and what it means for media. As to the matter of authenticity and trust Anderson shared that in the new world where "Hollywood is being challenged by YouTube, the recording industry by MySpace, and the media by the blogosphere" all people will have to make decisions on are reputation, quality of expression and expertise. Hagel felt that in a world of more and more content, filtering services and infomediaries would be in greater demand. These filters will be judged on their ability to deliver what a customer is looking for. "I like what you do. Send me more" is one way he characterized it.
The third panel included Dr. Moira Gunn (TechNation on NPR), Ray Kotcher (Global CEO Ketchum PR), and Craig Newmark (Customer Service Representative and Founder Craigslist) continued the trust theme in response to a question regarding old media versus new media from Mark Jones (IT Editor, Australian Financial Review) who was chairing the panel from Sydney. They also all felt that much of the characteristics of success in the past will remain true for the future although they may be amplified. Newmark pointed to the runaway success of Craig’s List as evidence that building a trusting community is more important to commerce in the 21st Century than the technology upon which they are delivered.
Kotcher added that while in the past public relations firms could help clients avoid talking about negatives, today “there is no were to run. Your story is going to come out. Your good stories and your bad stories. ”Transparency is a reality in today’s world and the only answer is authentic and honest communication.
Gunn told the story of how Compaq computers came to have such a strange name. When Compaq was about to go to Wall Street for it’s IPO, the tradition of the day called for having the appropriate number of notices in the Wall Street Journal before you’re IPO would be considered legit. This usually took companies a minimum of 12-16 weeks. Compaq did an analysis of words that would catch a reader’s eye no matter the context. Compaq was one of two such highly visible words (the other happened to be Iraq!). Thus they affixed the “q” to their name andexecuted their IPO in 3 weeks.
Gunn then suggested that the game is still the same in building trust both with the market and the general public. But now it’s not a matter of notices in the WSJ, but having enough presence in at least 3-4 diverse media before you will be taken seriously. She held Martha Stewart up as the model. With multiple TV shows, books, videos, an online recipe database, Podcasts, videocasts, magazines, retail products for the home, a line of house paints, DVD’s, greeting cards, furniture, wedding planning services, an online florist shop, and a home architectural design group, Martha is everywhere. Even in the face of her conviction on obstruction of justice charge, Martha is still one of the most trusted names out there.
So there’s one synopsis of the Future of Media conference. In the next day or so, I’ll summarize the discussion what the impact on media business practice and what changes in the media will mean for society.