Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
This is the second chapter of our Rebooting Media think-tank series. In this video, our thought leaders address the question:
Do curators bring value to content creators, or are they just stealing content?
Hear media industry executives debate the pros and cons of web curation in the video and read the most salient comments below.
Curators are the new editors.
As we’re overwhelmed by an increasing number of voices and information channels, we look to curators to sort through the clutter and tell us what’s important.
“I’m one of those people who reads or watches or listens a little more than the average person. If a person wants to stay up to date on certain topics but they have a family or a job or a life, curation services can help break through and deliver.” —Jason Hirschhorn, Media ReDEFined
“A curator is an editor, essentially. You become a trusted source by doing the hard work for your audience and telling them what’s important, whether you’ve written it or not. Traditionally that’s been the role of great newspapers; now that function is being spread across the web.” —Erick Schonfeld, TechCrunch
Publishers have a love / hate relationship with curators.
Curators help to expand a publisher’s reach, but the publisher risks losing credit (and traffic). Curators who link back and republish only enough to pique interest will keep publishers happy.
“A lot of money goes into making a piece of content, and then it shows up on somebody else’s website where they are ‘curating.’ That’s one word for it, and ‘stealing’ would be another. That’s a difficult balance: we want them to put our content out there but, ultimately, if you don’t come back to us, then we’re not capturing the full value.” — Jeff Berman, NFL Digital
How does curation become a real business? Just add creation.
Curators provide a valuable service to consumers and publishers. But can you charge for someone else’s content? The most compelling model going forward will be a curation / creation mix from trusted voices.
“I’m interested in content curators that are getting into the creation game. Buzzfeed, for example, was a driver of viral content. Then they shocked people by hiring editors and journalists and breaking a story. They took content that they owned and used the tools and algorithms they had to publish it into the social feed.” —Greg Clayman, The Daily
Part 3: Paid vs. Earned Media
For more from these thought leaders and others, download a PDF of the full publication Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
In the last several years, “social” has gone from a college fad to become the fabric that connects the internet. And yet, even as it has taken over the wiring of the web, there is no established blueprint for what media companies should do with it. When my company Wetpaint began reinventing media for the social web last year, I went looking for the people who had all the answers. And I found out there aren’t any.
But there are a lot of bright, inquisitive people who have been running their own experiments and trying to find the way forward. Wouldn’t it be great to get them all together to make a new think tank for the social web?
In conjunction with the release of our new series Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web, Wetpaint and Digitas convened a group of leaders and journalists with a live audience to attack the question: “How do you retool media for a social world?”
The conversation featured five leading executives:
And who better to prompt the tough questions than three leading digital media journalists? Our conversation included Jeff Bercovici (Mixed Media writer for Forbes); Jessi Hempel (Senior Writer covering tech at Fortune); and Erick Schonfeld (Editor of TechCrunch).
The conversation, hosted by Digitas SVP Entertainment and Content John McCarus and me, covered three themes. We will be releasing the videos in three parts, listed below. I also encourage everyone to download the full published collection of perspectives prepared by these participants and others, available via PDF at wetpaint.com/page/thought-leadership.
Event videos are available at:
This piece from Jeff Berman is the second 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?
Radically. The conversation has historically been pretty much one way – media to audience or audience to audience. And it hasn’t been at scale. In the new world, however, the conversation is scaled and omni-directional. Since Gutenberg, or at least since Marconi, media has had a massive megaphone. But the audience hasn’t had real power. Thomas Paine and his patriotic pamphlets may be the exception; Paine had a voice and a platform, but it wasn’t a scalable model and it lacked speed. Today, everyone is a publisher, and there can be millions of Thomas Paines, reaching tens of millions of people instantaneously. Everyone who wants to create compelling content, or a movement, now has the tools. This is a very different world from even seven years ago.
Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?
First, if you’re involved in a one-way discussion, you’re not taking advantage of the social Web opportunity, and you’re leaving a ton on the table. Another advantage if you’re a legacy media property – let’s say The Wire or The Godfather – is that you now have a chance to stay in the conversation and continue it, so you’re alive and you remain active in the culture. You can keep the property and the franchise in front of new and existing audiences, thanks to the new digital tools. If the show is taken off the air, for instance, it can still be all over Facebook. Audiences are empowered today, and folks want to participate in the conversation. No one may be able to control the conversation, but people do want to shape it – and they can. The social Web gives them choices, and it provides options and alternatives for publishers and media players, too.
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?
Here are some powerful numbers from a recent Forrester report. In 2004, 83 percent of Internet users deployed search engines to find content. That was before the rise of Facebook. By 2010, it was 61 percent. So, we saw a drop of a quarter in a six-year time frame, the same time frame in which social media took off. This isn’t a coincidence; it is, however, a causal relationship – and it makes sense, given what we know.
On a more sweeping level, we’ve historically learned about shows to watch and diapers to buy because we’ve spoken to friends and family. Now we’re taking these word-of-mouth conversations to the digital networks. And we’re not just using Google to search for the answers; we’re going to our friends’ Facebook pages (and, increasingly, to Twitter, particularly for real-time multi-platform engagement). This is trusted referral at scale, and it’s fast and reliable. That’s why Facebook represents such a monumental shift.
But let’s not forget that Facebook is just seven years old; You Tube is six years old; Groupon is three years old; the iPad is 18 months old – so anyone who proclaims a clear vision of the digital world even five years into the future is either a prophet or a fool. Broadly speaking, you will see evolution in SMO, and a continued deep integration of social functionality. The key point here is that Facebook is a part of today’s Internet operating system, so the efficiency and reliability of social sharing and peer reviews is going to increase big-time. In other words, the 83 percent, which fell to 61 percent, will fall even further as the social Web grows.
Finally, I’m especially interested in what Apple does with TV, and what will happen when Web TV is connected at scale and social functionality is built into the experience. The ability to share in real-time straight from whatever screen you happen to be viewing will meaningfully change the way we choose what content we engage with and how we engage with it.
Q: How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?
There’s an apparent conflict out there right now. The brand world has never been more crowded than it is today. And yet it’s never been easier to build a massive new brand. The reason? As the universe gets more crowded, brand-building tools are being disintermediated. Spotify is a good example. All of a sudden, it’s skyrocketing, in no small part, because its offering is social. The same is true for LivingSocial and Groupon. These businesses have exploded like we’ve never seen before largely because of social functionality. People find it easy to share their experiences about the products, and they like having others show them the way to the marketplace. This is authentic social content.
Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?
The old axiom that you have to fish where the fish are holds true so it starts with platform ubiquity. We’ve seen this already with the explosive growth of mobile, and it’s just going to intensify as a necessary success factor over the next decade. For the vast majority of publishers, you will have to empower your audience to experience your content where, when, and how they want.
For startups, this is in their DNA. But the recent history of media suggests such change is not easy for mature publishers. You simply may have to cannibalize profitable (but declining or soon-to-be-declining) businesses to build for the future. That, or risk watching a newcomer come along and eat your lunch.
Jeff Berman is the General Manager of Digital Media for the NFL. He previously held a series of positions at MySpace, ultimately serving as President of Sales & Marketing. Prior to entering the digital media space, Berman was Chief Counsel to United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and a public defender representing children charged in the District of Columbia’s adult criminal courts. He also held an adjunct professorship at the Georgetown University Law Center.
To download the complete report, please click here: “Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web”
This is the first 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.
As Don Graham, Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company, recently remarked on-stage at a conference of leading CEO’s, the media industry as we have known it for the last 100 years is collapsing. The basic structure of our industry – content creation, packaging, distribution, and monetization – have shifted so substantially that the rug has literally been pulled out from underneath media’s business model.
A new model must be created – and the DNA of the medium itself has been irreversibly altered so that it is now innately social.
And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, I’ve found that even the brightest and most well informed strategies are able to tap only part of media’s new nature and capture just a slice of the industry’s remaking.
At a time like this, to get a complete picture of the territory ahead, there is nothing wiser than integrating perspective from the best and brightest people in the publishing world. And, over the course of the last several years, I’ve been immensely grateful for those leaders’ intelligence and vision.
So, I thought it was only fitting to help create the ultimate social network – one that will enable our industry to share the smartest ideas as it remakes digital media.
That’s what this compendium is all about.
Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web brings together eight of the most thoughtful influencers and offers their most cogent assessment of the new online relationship-building that is helping to connect people in absolutely unprecedented ways.
Together, these eight contributors reinforce three dominant themes:
Building a media brand on the new social Web means that publishers have to meet consumers where, when and how they want. It’s all about user-driven pull, and publishers need to offer experiences and establish relationships that may not be on their own terms.
Facebook is a transformative platform driving new personalization and connectivity across the upstart social Web. We are still waiting to see all of what Facebook ultimately becomes, but we know it represents a once-in-a-generation paradigm shift.
Any way you look at it, search (as we know it) is declining. The open sharing of social networks, and the power of social endorsement, are seriously altering what consumers look for on the Web, and how we’re engaging with content. The search algorithm has lost out – big time – to the will of the audience.
But the most powerful insights are in the essays that follow from each of our eight contributors.
Wenda Harris Millard, President of Media Link LLC, advances the notion of a new personal recommendation engine on today’s Web.
I have already learned a lot from each of these people and their pieces, and I hope you do, too – not only to build your own ideas, but to help our industry move forward. To that end, I invite further conversation with me, and with our contributors.
The digital dialogue is so essential as we all work to re- invent publishing for 21st century audiences.
To download the complete report, please click here: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web