2 Myths About Mainstream Media

Wow – people are really all a-buzz about mainstream media’s latest foray into the world of social media, eh? I’m seeing lots of different viewpoints and some great conversations. In fact, I’d say that social media is really showing it’s stuff right now – the community is out in full force, in one way or another, trying to figure out what it all means.

I have been a media producer, in some form or another, for going on 20 years. In my time, I’ve produced media (television, radio, print, advertising, marketing campaigns) for everything from high profile, mainstream media outlets to large corporations to mom and pop shops and local community cable. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to witness first hand what is likely the single largest transformation in the way people communicate since the invention of the telephone.

With that said, I wanted to present my take on recent events within mainstream media and some of the social media community’s reaction to these events. I present here the dispelling of a couple of myths about mainstream media, based on my observations over the past several years. Please keep in mind that this is my opinion only. The purpose here is to state my position on the matter, and open up honest discussion about it. I invite you to dispel what I’m dispelling.

Myth #1. Mainstream Media Doesn’t “Get It”.
I’m seeing a lot of defensive behaviour coming out of the social media crowd in the past few days. They are right on top of celebrities like Oprah and Kutcher, accusing them of ruining Twitter, using it as a broadcast medium only, and the one that really gets me – not understanding the “nuances” of social media.

It’s true that there are things people can learn about effectively using social media as a tool, and there are plenty of good, interesting, smart professionals out there helping people to figure it out. But anyone who thinks that a multimillion dollar corporation like Harpo has not done their homework before diving into social media with both feet is coming at it from the wrong perspective. The beef incident from a few years back, if nothing else, should prove that Oprah’s people most definitely have learned to do their homework. As for Kutcher and the rest of them, they’re all businesspeople too, with images to uphold, and a flurry of agents and publicists who have to damage control their careers if they say or do something stupid on the public stage.

Mainstream media doesn’t get it? I beg to differ in a big way. In fact, they may get it a lot more than many of us. We’ve been stuck for a long time in the same rut with social media, talking about the same stuff over and over. They are in part, starting to move the medium forward.

Myth #2. Mainstream Media is Missing the Boat.
Ooh! I love boat analogies. And my husband came up with a doozy last night. He said “Big media is an aircraft carrier. It takes a long time to turn a ship like that around.”

Let’s look at mainstream media in relation to the average social media superstar. Oprah has hundreds of millions of viewers for her TV show. According to Wikipedia, she gets 70 million page views per month on her web site. Social media superstars, even the really popular ones, are not working anywhere near that scale. Most are in the tens of thousands, and a few elite are in the hundreds of thousands.

What does that mean? Oprah’s driving an aircraft carrier. So is CNN. Your average social media superstar is driving a speedboat. He can turn on a dime. I’m not saying he’s not putting a great deal of thought into strategy and planning and image and all the rest. Of course he is. But big media is strategizing and planning and considering image too. The difference is, they are doing it on a much larger scale. They aren’t missing the boat. They are just driving a way bigger one than the rest of us. And once they get it turned around – and it’s about 3/4 of the way there in some cases – then the game is going to change for good.

So – I guess what this all means is – are you ready for things to start changing? Instead of defending the models that have been created over the past few years, how are you going to adapt your model to the changing tides? Or maybe you don’t think big media changes things at all. They’ve just shown up at the party, and are going to mix with the crowd.

What’s your take?

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  • April 20, 2009 at 7:27 am
    Mark Bell

    Great take on this, Sue.

    I have to smile though when I hear or see the phrase ‘social media supertar’. Yes, there are those who are quite popular and those who *think* they are quite popular but they all seem rather insignificant when someone like an Oprah or Ellen joins in.

    Bottom-line is that Twitter is forever changed and now that the big stars of TV and film are coming to play, there is no doubt that some of these so-called social media superstars are going to feel threatened and for many of them, their 15 minutes might soon be over. Time will tell.

    From my experiences there are too many people who are taking social media (and themselves?) too seriously anyway and having and Ellen or Oprah join them in the sandbox is just plain fun to watch. Yeah, yeah, I get that you were #herebeforeoprah-but really; who cares?

  • April 20, 2009 at 7:35 am

    I think you may have hit the nail on the proverbial head, Sue. We’re beginning to see the people that really “get it” (what does that even mean, anyway) when it comes to social media as a viable business plan and strategy.

    People can complain about the celebs taking over Twitter (I never knew there was a drawbridge to start with) and large media companies ruining social media.

    Yet all they’re doing is taking their extensive business acumen and applying it to a new space. Which, if my memory serves me correctly, is exactly what a lot of the people now complaining the loudest wanted to happen anyway? To give social media credence as a platform?

    Hey ho, the natives are restless but haven’t they been too slow in building the tree houses to start with?

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..Lazy Sundays – SuzeMuse

  • April 20, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Well I guess that makes me a rowboat and I’m looking to add a little motor to putt a little quicker. I get the job done mind you, and I’m getting quicker at it too!

  • April 20, 2009 at 10:19 am

    This is interesting to me as I’m still pretty new at Twitter, only been using it for 6 months and I love it. But, I must say that big entrances from Oprah or Kutcher hitting a million followers will make no difference in how I use Twitter or any other social media site, as I’m just not into tracking celebs’ every move and would feel the same if it was their TV show or in a magazine.

    That said, I use Twitter and other social media sites to stay in touch with friends, meet new people, learn and share and if a few more of my personal friends came onto Twitter as a result of big names being on there, all the better. I’ll still tweet in the same way I’m sure, but won’t have to nag them anymore about how great it is.

    All in all, I think it’s great that big names are shouting about it, but it’s like any other media, you don’t have to follow, just like you don’t have to buy the mag with them in.

    Paula Dauncey’s last blog post..PaulaDauncey: @carlmorris My delicious account is paula_dauncey. Hope you find some useful snippets in there! 🙂

  • April 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I completely agree with this post Suze. If particular, I think Kutcher deserves a lot of credit for grasping Twitter so well. Kutcher is nowhere close in star power and cultural relevance to someone like Britney Spears or Oprah. He is best remembered for marrying Demi Moore and playing a male bimbo on that 70s show. His Twitter following demonstrates better marketing and brand-image savvy than 99% of the self-proclaimed social media experts.

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