Making an Impact in the Digital and Social Media Communications Era: Panel at Ketchum Global Media Network in New York


I was recently on a panel at Ketchum’s Global Media Network meeting in New York with Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor-at-Large at Reuters News and former US editor of Financial Times, and John Mervin, head of the BBC News bureau in New York, moderated by Nicholas Scibetta, Partner and Global Director of the Global Media Network. The topic was Technology and the Global Media Landscape: Making an Impact in the Digital and Social Media Communications Era.

It was a fantastic discussion which covered a lot of territory. Below are quick unedited snippets I managed to capture during the panel, sitting with my iPad and keyboard on my lap on the stage.

The biggest trend is globalization. IBM illustrates this. From 2003 to today its staff in India has risen from 7,000 to 75,000, whereas its US workforce has fallen by 30,000 to 100,000.

Quoting Ken Lerer of Huffington Post: 25 years ago it took 25 years to build a brand, 10 years ago it took 10 years. Today it takes 1 year to build a brand.

The cross-shareholdings between Russian DST, China’s Tencent and South Africa’s Naspers provide a great illustration of increasing capital flows across developing markets.

We are heading towards partisan, point of view and personality journalism. Big question for newsrooms today is how much personality can we tolerate? News organizations are grappling with this. The massive shift to partisan journalism is most accentuated in the US, far less in other countries.

Will we lose a shared platform where people can have a discussion? This can result in a skewed perspective. People are getting their information more than ever before from partisan journalists. The political candidates are only allowing supporters to interview them. Since Sarah Palin was interviewed by Katie Couric, she has only allowed interviews from aligned people.

Nicholas raised Chrystia’s excellent article in Columbia Journalism Review on The rise of private news, which raises the distinction between business news and consumer news. Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have excellent business models, and are looking for a news voice. Shifting this into consumer space, for example with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, can feed their core business model. Consumer news is looking to move into business news, which can be better monetized. New York Times with Dealbook and many others are seeking to do that.

Is social media changing what stories are run? Professional editors are looking to see what people are interested in, though still using their judgment to select what is important. There is now real-time feedback.

With the rise of social curation, people become their own editors. The question arises whether news organizations should still seek to cover all news, if everyone is using multiple sources. Should they specialize?

Jimmy Wales said that if you can do it in your pajamas then you won’t be paid for it. Just as porn is being disrupted by citizen pornographers, journalism is being disrupted by bloggers. Something that is still valuable is the impartial journalist interviewing someone in a studio. Some bloggers are journalists, others are not. A hedge fund manager asked for his best news source, mentioned not a newspaper but Michael Petty, a blogger on China.

Some PR people seem to still want to control the discussion, perhaps through fear of the shift to open.

Huffington Post has been great at building a community, getting many people who want to comment, who feel engaged with the other readers. It allows people to build their own brand.

Submitted video is useful, but it needs a professional to build a narrative. Journalists want to do the storytelling – that is the fun stuff – but perhaps there is an oversupply of this. There is a huge effort to create big landscape stories, and it’s not always worth it.