October 19, 2009

Takeaways from Blogworld Expo

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards of “ER” fame did his first tweet — to raise funds for the first children’s pediatric training hospital in Africa.

Bloggers, journalism, celebrities and what the future holds

JD LasicaThere was a little bit of a SXSW vibe at the just-ended Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas — a communal feeling where the goings-on in the sessions (on the whole, consistently engaging) were overshadowed by the face time and first-time encounters between longtime Twitter friends. To be sure, BlogWorld is a smaller affair than SouthBy — one official told me 1,500 people turned out for the Causes/Activism track on Thursday, 5,000 for the next two days — but from my vantage point, it seems that the social media phenomenon has rejuvenated ones of the world’s oldest and largest new media gatherings.

Twitter was front and center throughout the affair, both on screen — where rolling tweets of each session’s hashtags were displayed (though not consistently) — and as a way for conference-goers to figure out evening social plans. And cameras and recorders were everwhere — here’s my Flickr set of BlogWorld.

Below is a recap of the highlights in my field of vision (see after the jump). In addition, I just posted 8 tips for raising funds online — a recap of the Tools for Nonprofits panel that I moderated at Blogworld — over at our sister site, Socialbrite.org.

Journalists vs. bloggers: Can we please move on?

As regular readers know, I’ve been blogging about journalism, blogging, and the need for journalists and bloggers to love each other and use the best elements of both worlds since 2001, when I started this blog (then called New Media Musings). See, for example, Blogs and Journalism Need Each Other in Harvard’s Nieman Reports in Fall 2003.

So it’s now irritating, and not merely tiresome, to attend a new media conference where too many of the sessions veered into hostility toward traditional news organizations. The audience questions to and reaction to CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon (below), was a case in point.

Don Lemon

Why should bloggers want to work with CNN? Lemon should have more artfully worded his reply — “The plain truth is that my platform is bigger than your platform” — but, with the exception of a few outliers like iJustine or cross-over Twitter celebrities, that’s still true. It’s not about CNN, it’s about reach and bringing value to more people.

The notion that crowdsourced amateur journalism can supplant professional journalism, and actually do a better job — which many in the audience truly believe — is not only ludicrous but potentially dangerous to our democratic institutions. Journalism that ferrets out corruption, that takes the pulse of a community, that sheds a light on international events is hard work, something that the crowd tends to avoid. Just ask anyone toiling in overworked, understaffed independent journalism publications like Spot.us, AliveinBaghdad, Pro Publica, or the just-launched Oakland Local.

Similarly, I’ve finally found a fundamental disagreement with my friend, colleague and fellow Traveling Geek Robert Scoble. I tweeted my dismay at the bottom-line premise of his panel, How Social Media Is Changing the Definition of News: that news sites should pass along rumors and second-hand reports without fact-checking them. “The old world was i fact-checked before I published, in this new world i can correct it after the fact,” Scoble said.

Immediately after the panel, he cited TMZ’s early report on the death of Michael Jackson and the fact that no one remembers who reported it second. “It’s over. It’s over,” he told me, referring to journalism’s authentication function.

Well, no.

A rumor can circle the globe before the truth can put on its pants, and we’ve already seen examples of discredited reports cascading across our social networks (Twitter, Facebook, email) from people who should know better. (Snopes is a good place to start to fact-check rumors.) It’s a trend that will only get progressively worse in the years to come, and readers need a place to go for separating truth from rumor. I’ve long advocated that news organizations implement a widget-like tool to report on what trusted news outlets have reported, what second-hand sources have reported, and what are flat-out lies, so perhaps Robert and I are on the same page on this. But I’ve seen few implementations of this approach.

There is, to be sure, a growing tendency among the Twitterati and young people to embrace all things real-time and dismiss the hard work involved in actually picking up a phone to find out if something is true or not before passing it along. Passing along a rumor isn’t journalism, it’s what Matt Drudge usually does. Vetting a secondary report — picking up that phone — isn’t as sexy or easy as tweeting “Have no idea if this is true or not but …”

Still, fact checking will always remain a fundamental part of news reporting — whether you’re a professional journalist or a blogger looking to maintain your reputation.

Note: At Friendfeed, Robert says I misconstrued his comments.

Highlights from BlogWorld Expo

I haven’t had a chance to sort through my three days of note-taking, but here are a few snippets:

• It was great to meet Anthony Edwards, star of “ER,” after his general session. (I got several nice shots of him in my Flickr set.) We talked for a bit about how we might be able to apply social media to advance his new cause: Shoe For Africa. He did his first-ever tweet on stage — @anthonyedwards4 touting the #shoeforafrica hashtag. (Nicely done, sir!)

• Wisdom from Anthony Edwards: “As we communicate in this medium, let’s do it as if we’re seeing each other face to face. … Don’t do it with just your thumbs. Do it face to face, person to person.” That received a round of applause.

• Wisdom from Chris Brogan: “Amazing difference between building an audience and building a community. An audience will watch you fall on a sword, a community will fall on a sword for you.” I may add that to my Facebook favorite quotes.

• More Brogan, who spoke a lot about finding the heart in social media: “It’s OK to let a blog die. It’s not a kitten.” … “Tell stories. Take your ideas and make them small and compact and portable.” … “Build armies, make superfriends, equip and embed them.”

• Heard from the folks running the Chicago Tribune’s new network of Chicago area bloggers called ChicagoNow. A praiseworthy effort, with 115 local blogs, 10,000 registered users and 3.2 million page views per month. Here’s why the Tribune launched ChicagoNow.

• Cameron Sinclair: “Don’t spend your life running after Ashton Kutcher” for a social media campaign. Any fleeting bump of interest in getting a celebrity endorsement (if it’s not a sustained effort) will quickly fade.

• Hugh Hewitt on the journalism education program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism: “totally irrelevant.” I suspect he’s right.

• Ted Murphy, founder of Izea (formerly Pay Per Post): “The FTC is saying, Value is value. Whether you’re receiving product or cash, you have to disclose it.”

• Tim Sanders was quoted often: “Love is the killer app.” And good to see the #beatcancer hashtag so prominently featured on Twitter and CNN over the weekend.

• I love everything about Leo Laporte. But a keynote that says “Podcasting is dead” and “We are all now the media, congratulations!” needs some work.

• The Huffington Post surpassed the Washington Post in traffic on Thursday, Robert Scoble reported.

• One word for Thursday night’s dinner at the Italian restaurant Piero with some luminaries from the social good movement: Wow.

• There were some additional outstanding presentations, including SEO/SEM and by Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) on where enterprise trends and where social media is taking us. I’ll be referencing and incorporating those into future blog posts here on Socialmedia.biz.

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JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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7 thoughts on “Takeaways from Blogworld Expo

  1. Pingback: From “The Beach” – Maya Bay, Thailand « valuetips

  2. Thanks JD for your short thoughts on journalism.
    When it comes to news and Fact Checking, maintaining once reputation is the only way you can stay trustworthy.
    There is a reason why so many news channels are regarded as lousy, onesided and untrustworthy. It's more important to report a scandal or catastrophe as fast as possible. Facts can be dealt with later on. Whether this has life changing consequences for anyone is neglected. Once someone has been falsely publicly accused it doesn't matter how good the fact check is afterwards to clear his / her name.
    With social media everyone can create news. So your reputation is the most important thing you have. Once lost you'll hardly ever get it back. Trust is earned.
    I'd love to see blogs and news with a widget for their level of serious and honest journalism.

  3. Pingback: Comet Branding visits BlogWorld and New Media Expo 2009 – a Recap.

  4. I definitely think social media is changing things. It's allowing people to connect much differently than in the past. Not only that, the things that people are coming up with to twist them around are absolutely genius but at the same time I wonder if its a bad direction?

  5. Good review but… this statement:

    Journalism that ferrets out corruption, that takes the pulse of a community, that sheds a light on international events is hard work, something that the crowd tends to avoid.

    Doesn't that apply to folks like Rick Sanchez at CNN who was passing on unverified rumors about Rush Limbaugh? And wasn't the corruption at ACORN ferreted out not by “journalists” but by two blogger-types?

    Maybe when journalists actually start caring more about the truth and less about their Authority, which they haven't earned, the hostility to legacy media might cease?


  6. Rob, you're welcome to your opinion, and I agree that arrogance remains a big problem in traditional media, but I suspect that any media organization that doesn't conform with a wide swath of the public's political views, however truthful and fact-based, would still incur their wrath.