Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
This piece from Lewis DVorkin is the fourth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
Q: How does the rise of Facebook change the relationship between media and its audience?
There is an interaction between the two. Facebook turns everybody into a publisher. They publish what’s important and interesting to them, and they share it with friends and colleagues; they become publishers like the media. A whole group of people is distributing content to friends and putting a value on it. And that value is important to friends. People all over are distribution channels today, and they’re editing their feeds. But as they edit their feeds, they’re editing themselves.
Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?
Publishers who adapt to the social Web need to understand that content is content. Publishers, marketers, and audiences all create content; each brings knowledge and expertise, and it’s mingling in one place. So publishers must accept this new reality. They no longer control the content platform, and they have to invite others into the process. The traditional role as media gatekeeper isn’t valid anymore. The question is how you let others participate. I think you have to clearly state and transparently label each contributor’s identity, so users can form their own judgments. In the old world, traditional media would decide who got respect and who was worthy.
Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?
Search will always be important as a way of discovery, so publishers have to continue to optimize; they can’t give up SEO. But now there’s a new layer, and that’s social media. So you have to work with tools like Twitter and Facebook to understand where the conversations are, who is spreading the word, and how to get your relevant content in that stream in a way that’s positive. There are a number of opportunities to become part of this world; and social media, which drove zero traffic in the past, can now be a significant traffic driver if you optimize content for it. The key question is how you get the edge in Facebook ranking versus Google page ranking.
Q: How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?
At Forbes, we now have a core group of full-time staff people and a core group of contributors. Most of these contributors are publishing content under their own individual names and own individual brands of knowledge. By doing this, we’re curating, and we’re extending the Forbes brand, especially with all the comments and conversations that result. Advertisers and marketers can take advantage of this extended brand, and they get to use the same tools, because they can also create content. Everyone who’s involved believes in our brand attributes – enterprise, the entrepreneur, smart investing, and doing something good with wealth that will make a difference. So, the extended Forbes brand is enabling like-minded people, people who believe in what we believe in, to share information and insights.
Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?
The economics of publishing today and going forward are vastly different than they were 20 years ago. And we’re not going to return there. Publishers must create scalable new business models for content creation and the voracious appetite for content. Staffers alone can’t meet this need, or equal the expertise of thousands of contributors. Publishers can’t control this experience either; so the trick is how to open up and still maintain brand values and attributes, while helping people feel a sense of partial ownership. Traditional media built up walls – between journalists and audiences; journalists and advertisers; and advertisers and audiences. But media is about connections. If you control the connections, it’s not what everyone wants. You can’t maintain silos; I just don’t see how you can do
Lewis DVorkin is the Chief Product Officer at Forbes Media. He joined the company after True/Slant, his entrepreneurial content network, was acquired by Forbes in the spring of 2010. Previously, DVorkin has been Page One Editor of The Wall Street Journal, Senior Editor at Newsweek, and an editor at The New York Times. He has also been Senior Vice President, Programming, at AOL, and played a significant role in the launch of TMZ.com.
To download the complete report, please click here: “Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web”