nextMedia: Old models and new ideas

I moderated an interesting new-media panel today at the nextMedia conference in Toronto, with Leonard Brody, CEO of Vancouver-based “citizen journalism” outfit NowPublic.com; Jon Dube, who heads up digital media operations for CBC News (and runs Cyberjournalist.net), and Mark Lukasiewicz, vice-president of digital media for NBC News and a former Canadian print and TV journalist.

The topic of the panel was “Adapting to Digital Threats and Opportunities,” and I started by asking all three panelists whether they thought it was one of the most exciting times to be in media or one of the most terrifying times — which, as Jon quickly noted, was a bit of softball. All three said that it was exciting because of the limitless possibilities of new media, although Jon admitted that while it was exciting for him, it might not be so exciting for people who fear that their jobs are threatened.

I also asked whether the panelists felt that Canadian media entities were behind their U.S. counterparts when it came to embracing new media opportunities, and if so why. Jon said that he thought Canada might have had a harder time getting started with some new ventures, if only because the population is smaller and there isn’t the advertising base to support a lot of new ventures. Leonard said that he thought Canadian media giants were much more hesitant, and that at least U.S. broadcasters and other media entities were trying new things.

On the topic of “citizen journalism,” both Mark and Jon said opening up their organizations to more interaction with viewers was something they were very interested in — and Mark said that was the primary motivation behind MSNBC buying Newsvine.com. Leonard said that existing media outlets were still struggling with the idea that to a large extent breaking news and the function of adding analysis or context to that news have become separated, and in many cases the breaking news is occurring through outlets such as NowPublic and Facebook.

Leonard also made the point that journalism is a skill and a craft, and that much of what we call “user-generated content” is not very high quality, and that while the distribution models might be changing, there is still a need for journalists to package news and analysis and make sense of it for people, and to pick out the best of the UGC. Mark and Jon both said that while TV and other media might be changing, and the distribution models were being disrupted, that the need for people with skills to tell compelling stories or make sense of things was still there.

The panel closed with a question about what each of the panelists would tell journalism students. Mark said he would tell them to learn how to write, Jon said he would tell them that and also tell them to learn to think critically, and to think outside the box and be flexible enough to adapt to these new media models, and Leonard said he would advise them not just to learn how to write but to learn how to market themselves and their skills — in other words, he said, get a blog.

Some more video tips for marketers

Kevin Nalts is a marketer who currently works for a Fortune 100 company as a consumer-product director, and moonlights as a YouTube comedian, one whose channel is in the top 10 in the comedy section, with more than 24,000 subscribers and over 1.2 million channel views. He also writes a blog called Will Video For Food.

Nalts wrote a column recently for Advertising Age in which he gave marketers some tips on using video and YouTube — a nice counterpoint to the recent piece by a “viral” marketer who wrote a post over at TechCrunch about how to manipulate your way to the front page of YouTube.

Mashable’s Open Web Awards begin

Steve Spalding over at How To Split An Atom reminded me of something I’d been meaning to mention: Mashable’s new Open Web Awards have begun. It’s kind of like a crowdsourced award program, in which people get to nominate and then vote on the entrants in different categories such as Social Bookmarking or Photo Sharing. More than 20 blogs are taking part in hosting the awards and taking nominations, including Steve’s blog and some others you might have heard of such as Techdirt, MG Siegler’s fine blog ParisLemon and WatchMojo from Ashkan Karbasfrooshan.

Universal CEO: I’m not bad, just stupid

Being the CEO of a giant record company has to be a pretty uncomfortable place to be — and not just because the whole industry is going to hell after so many years of being a cash cow, a complaint Universal CEO Doug Morris makes in this Wired piece by Seth Mnookin (although it takes him many more words to make the point).

What really makes it obvious the kind of spot Morris is in, however, is that rather than come out and admit that the industry deliberately stonewalled new technology and/or tried to sue/lobby/legislate it out of existence, he chooses to paint himself and his fellow labels as idiots.

That’s quite a choice, isn’t it? That must be (on some level at least) what Morris decided, since he can’t honestly expect anyone to believe that the industry really wanted to get on board the whole mp3 train, but couldn’t find anyone to do it for them — or couldn’t determine who was snowing them and who really had the answers.

“That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do.”

“We didn’t know who to hire,” he says, becoming more agitated. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”

As more than one person has pointed out on a media-industry mailing list I belong to, this is complete and total bollocks. Record companies had people who knew the train was coming, and who had plenty of ideas of what to do — one of them left a major label and went to work for Apple, eventually helping to create the lunch-eating machine that would hand the record industry its own innards on a platter: iTunes.

Nice try, Doug.

Could open be a competitive advantage?

As the Wall Street Journal reported today (in a story that remains behind the soon-to-be-demolished pay wall), Verizon has announced that it will open its mobile network to any device that meets a certain minimum standard — although it says it will continue to offer “locked” devices through its retail network. Like Cynthia Brumfield at IPDemocracy, I think this could be a pretty huge development.

It’s unclear whether this means that Verizon will be joining up with Google and its Open Handset Alliance/Android platform proposal, although Adam Ostrow at Mashable says the carrier was rumoured to be joining even before this latest announcement. In any case, Verizon’s move seems to suggest that being open is becoming a competitive advantage for companies in relatively mature markets such as mobile. That said, Om Malik seems somewhat skeptical of Verizon’s motives, and says open access could prove to be expensive.

As Adam notes, Verizon has clearly decided to forego short-term revenue gains in return for what it sees as longer-term benefits. An interesting choice. And when could we expect someone like Rogers or Telus or Bell Mobility to do the same kind of thing in Canada? Approximately never.