I like to think that my colleagues and peers are smarter than me, work harder than me, and with the exception of Craig Newmark and any L.A. Weekly reporter, are infinitely better looking than me (I tried to post my photo but TypePad kept replacing it with a picture of an engorged Ferret, which bore an eerie resemblance to my High School Yearbook portrait.)
I still believe this to be true – at least the “smarter” part anyway. But in the past few days I have come to realize that in the world of modern media and the new journalism, there are far more questions than answers among experienced communicators and journalists. There is awareness of great change yet uncertainty over its meaning. They know things will be different, they’re just not sure if they need to care before they can start living off their 401Ks.
Filling the “Conversation Gap”
This week my business partner, Linda, delivered a presentation to a group of public relations and marketing professionals about blogs, RSS (content sydication) and podcasting. We figured blogs would be the shortest section – everyone knows the power of blogs by now, right? Instead, blogs took up the bulk of the presentation, with these pros asking sincere questions about what a blog is (“is it like a chat room?” one person asked), whether they are important and how could they possibly be used in communications – in “real life.”
RSS blew the group away (“What will happen to PRNewswire?” someone said.) By the time Linda got to podcasting the audience was spent, and many went home that night either to start their own blogs or curl into a ball by the fireplace and quietly weep.
At the same event, a reporter told us that while she knew what a blog was, most of the other reporters at her paper were either unaware or unconcerned. Those that knew about blogs were anxious about their careers, wondering if they could last long enough before blogs, Craigslist and other factors cost them their jobs.
“With so much discussion on so-called PR blogs about who’s blogging, who’s using RSS, who’s podcasting and all the cool new web 2.0 tools coming online every day, I’ve found there is a real gap in the conversation. It sounds like you’re going to answer the inevitable ‘so what?’ question that those who have yet to drink the Web 2.0 Kool-Aid seem to ask either directly or with blank stares.”
Abandoning the Echo Chamber
We talk about Big Media being in an echo chamber (especially in relation to early coverage of post-9/11 Iraq), but I have seen the echo chamber, and we are it.
Most PR people and journalists don’t read the PR and journalism blogs, only PR and journalism bloggers do. We talk to each other and wax poetic about Web 2.0 in a world where our colleagues are still trying to master their Outlook inboxes.
And you know what? That’s just fine. The online community is still a community, so it’s logical that we would spend most of our time talking to each other. We need to learn, too.
So let’s not stop – but as we move ahead, let’s also work extra hard to educate our colleagues (yes, that also means our competitors, just get over it.) Let’s keep asking ourselves “What does it mean?” and “What is it good for?” before proselytizing our gospel to the great unwashed.
It’s easy to get swept up in the early adopter vortex and look at blogs in our rear-view mirrors. But remember what those mirrors say: “Objects are closer than they appear.”