The Next Media Company

May 25, 2009

The title of this blog is the same as one appearing today on Chris Brogan’s thoughtful blog.

After a brief intro he offers the following:

The Next Media Company Manifesto

Here’s what I believe might (emphasis mine) need to be true about the next media company:

  • Stories are points in time, but won’t end at publication. (Edits, updates, extensions are next.) (10)
  • Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff. (10)
  • Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc are a flow. (10)
  • Everything must be portable and mobile-ready. (Mobile devices need to evolve here, too). (10)
  • Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly. (5)
  • Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue. (8)
  • In-line content marketing, clearly delineated/disclosed/explained is one revenue stream. One of many. (8)
  • Contributors come in many shapes: onstaff, partner (how pros like TechCrunch link to Washington Post), guest (for love and glory only), and conversational come right to mind. Who else? (7)
  • Value-add services are another revenue stream. Why not book hotels and flights from my travel magazine directly? Why not buy how-to information on marketing from AdAge or FastCompany? (6)
  • Collaboration rules. Why should I pick the next cover? Why should my picture of the car crash be the best? (5)
  • Everything is modular and linkable. Everything is fluid. Meaning, if I want the publication to be a business periodical, then I don’t want to have to read a piece about sports. (10)
  • Paper isn’t dead: it’s on demand. (9)
  • Do-it-yourself publishing is next for us all. At first. (10)
  • We will all audition for mass physical distribution. (10)
  • It won’t matter (mass physical distribution) to us, lots of the time. (8)

I rated each item in the Manifesto from 1-10 (10 being the strongest agreement), and you’ll see that I support many of Mr. Brogan’s intriguing suggestions. But not all.

First a comment on his lead sentence. A manifesto is generally defined as a “a public declaration of principles and intentions” and a call to action. I don’t think that the word “might” has any place in introducing a manifesto. With it, the more appropriate title would be, “Some Thoughts Towards the Next Media Company.”

That aside, I see the major conflict between Brogan’s second point, “Curators and editors rule,” and his tenth point, “Collaboration rules.” Are these not contradictory? One of the key debating points about the media these days is exactly who rules. While we all welcome that the Internet has opened up so many opportunities for new voices to be heard, there’s a growing recognition that no one can possibly follow all the voices available, hence the need for curators and editors to guide us and catch errors of fact or omission.

So here too I stumble on his fifth point: “Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly.” The use of the new verb “wikified” implies to me that Brogan is suggesting that I should have access to his restaurant review and be able to anonymously change or augment his content. I’m all for separate authored comments, but if I want to forge a reputation as a restaurant reviewer, I don’t want to write anonymously and give others the freedom to change what I’ve written. Takes us back to the curators and editors. They must rule.

In last week’s The Economist there’s an excellent analysis of the changes in the media business, specifically the news side of the business. The article focuses on the value of aggregators, such as the Huffington Post. Surely aggregation and curration can be used interchangeably?

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