In yesterday’s post, I described new media’s foundation in conversation, the preference for dialogue over monologue. Today’s principle is closely related. Conversations are only truly conversational when they are collaborative. If anyone controls the conversation, it ceases to be one.
But for traditional journalists and marketers alike, the notion of giving up editorial control can be challenging. Many print veterans, for instance, have difficulty accepting the idea that good editorial content can be provided by readers volunteering their work. As one prominent B2B publisher put it earlier this year, “people who write for free will give you exactly what you pay for in the long run.” (Ironically, he made this statement in a presentation he was giving for free.)
Behind this perspective is a bias to professionalism. In this view, journalism is a complex product that can only be produced by trained career journalists who are paid for their work. It’s their job to write, the readers’ to read, and the advertisers’ to pay for it all.
But in the social media era, roles and responsibilities are not so clear-cut. When journalism’s role is seen as enabling conversation in a community, the journalist’s voice is no longer privileged. Others may speak with as much or more authority and insight, and without needing payment to do so.
The print veteran’s tendency to discount contributions from users is amplified by the form of those contributions. In keeping with the nature of online media, they tend to be decidedly unprofessional: incomplete, unpolished, and personal—in other words, conversational.
To survive in the new-media era, journalists must not simply accept user-generated content, but enable it; they must aim to collaborate in the conversation, not to control it.
Tomorrow: The personal vs. the corporate.