Jim Long - Web Video, Content Marketing, Social Media | Verge New Media

The End of Innocence – Why Social Media Is the New Corporate Media

Let my start by saying that my career in media has been paying the bills since 1988.  So I firmly embrace corporate media, advertising revenue and all media endeavors that enjoy commercial success. The lure of a life in TV (i’m a news cameraman by trade) was its combined appeal of an adventurous lifestyle and comfortable livelihood.  This is what prodded me to take my plunge into TV news.  But as with many things in life, my timing was off.  I came up in the ranks of cameramen well into cable’s affront on broadcast dominance,  admiring the legendary lenslingers before me, or more precisely their glorious tales of lavish travel and limitless budgets. Those were the glory days of TV news, and I got to see the vanishing apparitions – the vestigial remnants of those times.

Disruption Past

As a child of cable’s disruptive power,  I understood that challenge, that shift, that imperative for change.  So when blogging, podcasting and social networking emerged on the radar screen of my consciousness,  I wasn’t prepared to grasp their nascent and then unrealized impact on mainstream media.  Not until an unlikely series of events prompted the purchase of an iPod, did I come to realize that great numbers of people out there were dissatisfied with passively consuming mainstream content and advertising.  They were out there creating their own content and speaking to each other and were quickly becoming disintermediated.  With revolutionary zeal, web-preneurs sprang up like weeds creating platforms empowering people to share content and ideas.  Brands, of course, took note and migrated their messaging and their spending from TV, print, radio to the then “new” media.

Join the Conver$ation

This media revolution made YOU Time magazine’s Person of the Year back in 2006 – and was at once an empowering energizing force, but at the same time, made me fear for the future of my career.  Back then, it was all about the “conversation”.  As a brand, one couldn’t just stumble in and “sell”, one had to honest, transparent, conversational.  As social media has matured,  I get the sense that we have moved beyond that – and now we’re back to where we once were.  Brands just want access to us and the transaction remains the same.  Look, I understand that companies need to make money and that investors need to get returns on hopes of 10x exits.  But i’m struck by the rapacious speed with which social media, its adherents, and platforms are pursuing the buck.  Ironic to me, considering that it was dissatisfaction with traditional media and “push” advertising that in many respects gave rise to social media.

It’s strange, but I still haven’t completely shaken my nostalgia for the salad days of old media as I begin to feel twinges of longing for new media’s simpler times.  When old media was king it was advertisers buying access to passive audiences.  Now, marketers are paying to become part of this:

Power Shift

The mantra of the Social Media Club, “If you get it, share it” has been modified by “ninjas”, “gurus”, and “experts” in the field with the following addendum: “for a fee”. Meanwhile, tech/Web 2.0 headlines point to leaner, meaner more competitive times. Here are some trends pointing to a shift in social media from being people-powered media to corporate driven:

In a move akin to ABC News recent staff slashing, popular, free social network platform Ning is free no more and has cut its staff by 40%.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How Facebook shares private information with third party companies is being scrutinized by Washington now, prompting one Senator to urge the FTC to get involved.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Twitter has announced “sponsored tweets” prompting some to point out – if companies were using Twitter right, they wouldn’t need sponsored tweets.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Pepsi passed on Super Bowl ads this year in favor of a $20 million social media campaign, and it’s probably not just about meeting new Twitter and Facebook friends.

So while this post may seem wistful, and perhaps critical of the direction that “people-powered” media has taken – none of this should be terribly surprising and it is perhaps inevitable. I still believe that successful, profit-motivated media can coexist with the community/individual driven kind. For my part, I’m just trying to stay ahead of it all and finding my place in this ever evolving landscape.

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  • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

    Nothing wrong with wistful. The spirit of social media or “people-powered” media is being dampened by profit-driven interaction. Forced connections aren't good nor natural. To me social media is all about organic connections and interactions creating a loose (but strong) community. As things go mainstream, the bandwagon gets awfully full…

    • newmediajim

      nicely said!

  • http://twitter.com/jdlasica JD Lasica

    Hi, Jim! I share your wistfulness for the simpler days of yore, but not your conclusion (or overly dramatic headline – a good old media trick tho!) :~)

    We've always known Facebook and Twitter were businesses, not playthings or open-source projects. If they tip too far in the direction of commerce (which Facebook is dangerously close to), we – the social media masses – will take our status updates and tweets elsewhere.

    I also don't think it's a bad thing that corporations are slowly joining the conversation. Yesterday I tweeted out a complaint that the Mets game was being blacked out in San Francisco by DirecTV. @DirecTV pointed me to a different channel and I got to watch the game – totally cool. The point is, corporations are joining the conversation and listening to what we have to say, but they're not driving the conversation. That's the essential difference.

    • http://twitter.com/newmediajim Jim Long

      First and foremost JD, I'm glad you stopped by! Fair enough on the headline ;) I think we the social early adopters may or may not venture elsewhere, but the “masses” will likely do what masses do..which is stay put.

      As for corporations joining our conversations, some are doing it genuinely and honestly. Others have very good social media responses, but the rest of the links in their customer service chains are broken. See my post “Social Media and Customer Service – Long on Promise, Short on Delivery”

      In fact one of the most lauded social media darling firms – one that makes all of the conferences – recently received an unwelcome distinction from Consumerist.com. I agree that companies are learning how to listen. But I do think some are doing it better than others, and ultimately it's not to be our friends, it's to get to our money.

  • http://twitter.com/emerigent/lists/memberships Emeri Gent [Em]

    IMHO there are two factors at work which I consider important.

    1: Mindshift
    2: Enclaves

    They are personally important to me because they both take my mind off new corporate media and in so doing serve to return lost innocence which I recognize is being lost in the klondike search of new media gold.

    The promise of raising the bar on societal consciousness is a collective loss of innocence, but I also see tiny pockets of change which are not mainstream and these reveal themselves when I switch off my attention span for new corporate media.

    This is not a darkness for in this awakening are the media embryos of a bright future. This involves the principle of LESS MEDIA IS MORE. I try to employ that – my though thinking out aloud here could also benefit from that :-)

    These two factors are both forms of boundaries, cerebral and social. I find value in thinking through my own thoughts a mindshift is at best a unique personal experience due to open minded discovery.

    I find value respecting the tribe but not belonging or affiliating myself with one social grouping, and this leads to additional value of discovering people who different to me, to a shared experience equals the transformation by embracing diversity, but if I am sharing to a set a pattern, then I view that as sameness.

    Mindshift
    There is no need for me to beat the drum of groupthink here because I think how one shifts one's own thinking is a personal choice and it is so easy to refer to people as “couch potatoes” or “groupies” or “herds” – but that kind of attitude I have found is a self-limiting belief.

    A “mindshift” is where we encounter media that changes our mind, disrupts our own thinking. Such disruption happens when we embrace uncertainty and personal humility, but what we are told today is to grab people's attention.

    Personally, I must learn to manage my own attention, and since I utilize the online space to learn rather than to earn, I do not have a dog in the race and that helps me because I can then substitute a new cognitive challenge for traditional entertainment (of both new and old media).

    What I cannot understand is how I benefit from having thousands of followers (cognitive dilution) or creating a tsunami of sharing (cognitive obligation). A mindshift is emergent but social media is for the most part organized media. A gathering crowd is not the same thing as mindfulness. If all we do is move in and out in a sea of media waves, we might as well consume new corporate media !!!

    If I feel obligated to share that is peer pressure, if I am just following the same path that becomes blind obedience. So I don't see my life as a shift in public or corporate media but a shift in my own personal thinking. Mindshift is a personal individual choice, not a market niche or a social grouping.

    Enclaves
    I am a poor participant of the social media club because I view it as an enclave, the kind of convergence that we find in people forming their own cliques. I find when we join our particular groupings we insulate ourselves in our enclave and then convince ourselves that this is a new way rather than an instinctual behavior.

    I always view myself as a guest rather than a participant of any social enclave, but to foster a “new” people-powered, I think we have is to move laterally outwards and reach touchpoints where one finds intelligent media life forms that have seemingly not really been touched by the world.

    This I attempt to do via Disqus for my own personal exploration – but it means jumping from social groupings and islands of excellence into new territory that can be unfamiliar to me.

    An enclave effectively attracts people to you based on the premise that media is about attention and shared content. I view culture and content as monarchy, but I view context as “We the People”, the very thing that can challenge or even overthrow the monarchy that is “culture is king” or “content is king”.

    In this regard I do not take followers on any of my current twitter accounts. I want to diverge out into the world on my own rather than converge via conversation or building up a tribal followership.

    IMHO my attention can easily be crowded out and that in my mind is the single greatest loss of innocence, without speaking about the role of new corporate media interest on putting a price on the value of our attention.

    Having written this, I want to deconstruct my own thoughts but if this is presented as an opinion to be commented upon, then there is no personal value for me for I have simply wasted my time.

    Then what I have thought out aloud here is not innocent and it is not emergent. It is either egotistical (trying to change John Long's mind) or ideological (trying to change an enclave or someone's mind). Media innocence is not a form of publicity, it is an act of individual inquiry.

    [Em]

  • lauralorek

    Hi Jim,

    Corporations have definitely taken a greater interest in social media, but they will not be able to control it. Just take a look at United Breaks Guitars or Jeff Jarvis' experiences with Dell.

    The companies that learn how to interact in this new media world will succeed, but as far as I can tell, many companies bring their same old, same old practices into the social media conservations and that just doesn't work.

    As far as the traditional TV, newspapers and magazines are concerned, they have not yet evolved to the creatures they will become. For the most part, they are still elitist institutions in the one broadcasting to the many format. Most in positions of power in media still do not understand that they must listen to their customers and audience and interact with them.

    • http://twitter.com/emerigent/lists/memberships Emeri Gent [Em]

      Laura, I am making stuff up and I want my intellect to be no more complex than a traffic light – if it sounds like Jeff Howe or Seth Godin then I did not mean to resonate with Crowdsourcing or Tribes memes. What I am exploring here has more to do with this:

      Space
      http://www.thespacereview.com/article/960/1

      This article is about how the cosmos and its relationship with earthling superpowers. What I am seeing in cyberspace is the rise of virtual superpowers – but what I am not seeing emerge is a change of attitude regarding dealing with space and uncertainty rather than terra firma and the known.

      Google is a superpower that concerns itself with space, so I am resonant with them, there are other virtual superpowers who deal with this new space like the past dealt with land, people containment and domination but they are not my concern. There are plenty of interesting people who do understand this emerging space and I want to discover them.

      The mindshift here I guess, is how we individually deal with this virtual space and the enclaves is no different to the way human beings disperse themselves on a beach.

      Yet the virtual world like the cosmos is not something that one needs to make space in, for there is already a tonne load of space which is infinite or at least to whatever load capacity is feasible to create. I don't need to find my own space on a virtual beach, there is no beach because there is no land here.

      Just like the cosmos, just like the human brain, the virtual space is a great unknown. My modus operandi then is to say that I don't have any idea of what this thing is but it is being continually defined and redefined as we speak. Let the definers define it for it gives rise to property.

      If I am saying anything here it is that social media transmutes into new corporate media, what we have not explored is “spatial media”. The moment someone is concerned about what “Emeri Gent” means, my own thought process is over, it is dead. There is nothing to explore, it has all been predefined.

      That is what the moniker online I use represents “Emeri Gent” = Emergent. It represents the last bastion of my own freedom, in a world which treats spatial discovery as an RFID tag.

      Don't worry about what I have written, I don't know what I am talking about and whatever I write, someone else is sure to have written it. The next frontier of the human race is dealing with the cosmos but we have a model of that cosmos in the virtual space.

      A mindshift is my mindshift because I am glad that I have things to discover and find out rather than define or solidify and I must learn to treat enclaves like planets in the making and then look at this as spatial rather than social media.

      It is then IMHO best to ignore me or whatever tributary of thought that flows from my cranium, otherwise I am going to end up doing thinking that is no different to the books I read or the impulse to financially survive that comes with making a living. Come to think of it, I could do well to learn how to read.

      This is not an explanation but a personal exploration. The question that drives my thinking today is How do I handle this emergent space?

      We need social media superpowers because they address the needs of a societal convergence and we need people like Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow to come forward to create a mindshift how we make the most of this new emergent space.

      The rise of social media superpowers is no different to the rise of the industrial age or prior empires, it is going to happen because this is how it has previously happened. The British Empire did very well with divide and rule, the enclaves they created served them well, but freedom is an outward motion (a spatial one).

      The reason I liked Jim's use of the word “Innocence” is because it is we who individually decide this at the level of our own given selves. It is a bit like Jiddu Krishnamurti talking about what the I is and in the end he relates it to the cosmos. I am at the opposite end of discovery than Krishnamurti, I am a newbie, I am at the beginning of my own journey.

      I know nothing (other than conditioned learning) than whatever pours out of my own imagination. To learn how to do that, I don't need to look into the vastness of the cosmos but simply how a child looks with wonder at the world – that look is IMHO the innocence I think we most commonly look for. So please note, I am still making this stuff up as I go about thinking in the moment these thoughts arise . . .these thoughts are merely touch typing.

      [Em]

    • newmediajim

      Laura,

      Firstly, my apologies for taking so long to respond, and thank you for visiting my blog! :) I dig the whole Jeff Jarvis/Dave Carroll/Kevin Smith power to the people thing. But have you taken a look at Twitter's new “Business Center”? Clearly they are positioning themselves as a business friendly platform, which is great, but it sort of supports some of the ideas I've laid out here. One of the most nefarious features of this toolkit is “Open DM” which allows an angry customer the ability to DM a brand even if said company doesn't follow you. Companies, even the “transparent” social media savvy darlings, want the whole public Twitter bashing to end. This is a vehicle to make that happen. They're really not all that interested in the whole public discourse thing. THEY are becoming broadcasters. In many respects I don't blame them. I've seen social media superstars issue what amount to threats to brands they are displeased with. You may want to check out my post “Social Media and Customer Service – Long on Promise, Short on Delivery”

  • http://tomnotes.blogspot.com tmurphy

    Jim, the big difference between now and then is that the medium for communication was highly restricted both technically and regulartorily. For media companies to make out like bandits all they had to do was own the means of communication. (To paraphrase Marx.)

    Nowadays, it is simply not possible for any entity to 'own' the internet. What you do see is old school corporate thinking branding their patch of the web and relying on a vast bulk of people who still have the habit of thinking that they only need a single source of news, or social relations and so on to carry on thinking that way.

    For example, no matter how big Facebook will get there will be always plenty of room on the internet to conduct one's affairs without ever having to sign up for one of their accounts.

    Corporations and consumers are still very much trapped in the post WW2 command and control model of business which knocks on into the field of communication but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we haven't even scratched the surface of new ways of doing and thinking about things on the web and very importantly how that activity will affect what we do and how we behave off the web.

    Corporations can go on corporatizing as much as they like as they are more than enough people who have been habituated into being corporatized and good luck to them.

    What I think is more important than an internet 'land-grab' (while technically not infinite there is no sign we are going to run out of space soon which makes the whole owning thing quite absurd,) is attentiveness and relevance to how people really want to live their lives.

    • newmediajim

      Hey Tom! I agree that they can't really own huge swaths of the
      Internet, but they can own ar data, and monitor our consumption
      habits. This is what brands want access to. So by that measure, not
      much seems to have changes.

  • http://citizenreporter.org Bicyclemark

    I hear you about the onslaught of the commercial world trying to capture us like they captured us back in the hayday of television and radio. As you point out, there are lots of cases and areas where they are fully pushing to do just that.
    But the great thing about the internet is that they are late to the party, lagging behind, and struggling to be down with what people are really doing on the net and why. They can make commercial twitter accounts but we the twitter users know how to spot bullshit, and we will be able to, if we want, weed out such crap. Same has always been true about blogging. Readers decide is someone is lying or trying to sell them something as opposed to just communicating or starting an honest discussion for the sake of understanding or some other not-for-profit reason. That said.. this definitely requires savvy users, people need a good media education to prepare themselves for the world of online media where not all is what it seems.

    I take comfort in the fact that, as Gilbert once told the jocks at the pep-rally at Adam's College: We have news for the beautiful people, there are alot more of us than there are of you,”

    • http://citizenreporter.org bicyclemark

      Oh wait.. I think Louis said that line.. after Gilbert grabbed the mic from the Coach.

    • http://www.seoconsult.co.uk Mack

      Social Meida or TV, nobody can make aware users to buy their products until the products is on it mark standards…….same case apply to bloggers, when we visit blog, we come to know whats real to whats just trying to become a real

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  • http://twitter.com/LPT Laura P Thomas

    I wouldn't fret too much yet about “the rapacious speed with which social media, its adherents, and platforms are pursuing the buck.” As other commenters have noted, if they don't do it the right way, the audience will turn it off (not follow or “like” them). As much as brands might look to monetize social media and gain access to the audiences there, the spirit of social media is still untamable. I was reminded of this recently when searching for a large global soft drink company in Facebook. This company has done a great job leveraging fan work and seemingly taking corporate control of their brand representation in FB, but that singular page so touted as a good example did not return at all in my initial search results – many other “rouge” pages did, however. Even adjusting my search to the more proper name of the drink returned results for pages worldwide that I know were outside of the strategy that company has outlined for their Facebook presence. The lesson to me being a reminder that corporations like the one I work for may have the best laid plans, but the audience still remains firmly in charge in social media.

  • http://mediafunnel.com Derek

    Speaking as one who was dissatisfied with the so-called old media (and its constant stream of ads), making the jump to digital media made me feel as if it was somehow different. But it didn't take long for me to think “Same old same old.”

    However, I've built a great network of people via social media, something I wasn't able to do with old media, and I find that I share so much more of what I read because of how easy it is. Which means that brands that get my attention with great content will benefit from my info-addiction. The one thing I do dislike is the propensity to bring the 'push' model into social media – but I can see how companies believe that still works, as those who don't work in digital media don't see the distinction (yet).

    • http://www.searchengineoptimisation.com Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

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  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

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    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

  • Phil

    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

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    Social media is revolutionary in terms of advertising, as it provides a wider platform to engage directly with customers which was never possible with print or old media.

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  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    I had these same thoughts, and wrote about some of them recently. In that exploration I found that yes, there’s a stronger corporate presence dominating the conversation – but not completely. I found that I was looking at the sources at the center of the bubble and that the voices I miss still exist. I just have to look at LOT harder. It’s not as simple as searching iTunes for my favorite topic. I have to go old school, and plug into the People. Which turns out to be more fun.

  • http://twitter.com/dreamtownvp Eve Greiner

    Great blog post and running counter of social media activity. Is the meter accurate? If Facebook is sharing all our private information (and we know that they are), then they have become a not so cloaked stool pigeon to those handing them big bucks for that information.

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