Truth is in the Shadows


In the 1960s, I remember being told not to trust anyone over 30.

Now, we don't know who to trust.

This article about Peter Young, "the jet-setting terrorist", is a fascinating look into the collusion that exists between the media and those who seek exposure for their ideas and causes.

A quote from the article:

"The unspoken conspiracy that you speak of, that exists between journalists and those seeking publicity is very real. If you have a story that provokes—real or not—they have the time. Give them the promise of traffic and a little plausible denial and you’re in. I’ve received tremendous insights from Trust Me, I’m Lying and your Creative Live course. I got to work on The Jetsetting Terrorist the day after finishing the latter. Your point that there is a harmony of interests between journalists and those who wish to hack the media is very powerful, and has proven true."

Here's an example of how this works. Two reports about the same thing. Two very different messages.

Cancer Rates Soar by 6000% Near Fukushima Site, New Reports Show

Why the Cancer Cases in Fukushima Aren't Likely Linked to the Nuclear Disaster: An increase in thryoid cancer may just reflect the intensive testing of children.

Who, then, can you trust when it comes to messages that are delivered by various media, whether newspapers, television, social media or your neighbor next door?

I am convinced that you can only trust yourself.

You have to do your own research, just like a journalist, with your "BS" meters set on "extremely high" if you want to find out what really is going on. Then you have to decide without really knowing whether you are right. This means we must hold fast to our values, and, never buy totally into whatever any person or media is telling us.

As I wrote about Marshall McLuhan yesterday, everything now is marketing and sales. And as one of Seth Godin's best marketing books taught us, All Marketers Are Liars, because they tell stories.

This is the story that NBC and Brian Williams wants to go away because next year's presidential election is an opportunity rich environment for the manipulation of the "news". If you remember as you read everything about the campaigns of the candidates, that every writer, producer and media coordinator involved is trying to communicate a message, not the news, but a message intended to obscure unpleasant realities about themselves and their intentions, and, expose the perceived weaknesses of whomever they decide needs to be put in their place.

Just remember.

Truth is in the shadows.

Follow Me

If you aren't using Twitter, you should.

It is the 21st century telephone that enhances all the other social media that people are involved in.

It is conversational. It isn't like these others that are more like going to a committee meeting. Too much information to get through.

Quick and easy, and once you get it, you'll see how it can lead to expanding your network and your influence.

Follow me at @edbrenegar

Thanks very much.

Quick Takes: Going Local

Seth Godin has an idea about how you can introduce your business to everyone in your community. It is a low-cost, high-impact idea.

Why not start a local newspaper?

I know you are thinking about the paper that arrives at your driveway in the morning, that you spend about five minutes scanning and then tossing it in the recycle bin. That isn't it.

I've been writing for our local newspaper off an on for the past ten years. When I first began I was asked to make a presentation to the top 50 managers in the company. Here's what I said then.

 “Newspapers are windows on a community… There is no other place in a community where the whole community can talk to itself. …Newspapers are the only place where all the voices of the community can be heard. “

I was both wrong and right. 

Newspapers are windows on a community, a place where the whole community can talk to itself. At least it was ten years ago, not any more. Or, at least newspapers as they have historically existed.

What happened? The center of communities shifted from an institutional based model to a relationship based model.

Newspapers are community institutions that interpret for the community what is important for them to know.

Today, online communication tools make it possible for people to find the information they need, and to share it with people that matter.

I do very little work in my home town as things have worked out. But my twice monthly column has given me a presence in the community that would be impossible to buy. And as of this month, I'm no longer paid to write it. The newspaper can't afford the coffee money they pay each month. But I'm still going to write for them because the people who read the column are why the column is important.

Yesterday, I walked into the Starbucks a block from my office to get a cup to go. I saw one colleague having a meeting as I walked in, another friend sitting at the bar in an intense conversation, but it was a woman I recognized by couldn't remember her name who waved to me. We got reaquainted, and she introduce me to her friend. Her friend knew me because of the column and was planning to attend the workshop I'm giving - Leading from the Middle - during our Lessons in Leadership even on January 20. I asked her what she did. She told me about her business and invited me out to see it. The next thing I did, because what she told me sounded interesting, was, "When I come out, let me interview you, and I'll write a column on what you are doing. It sounds interesting."

If you start a local newspaper as Seth suggests, you will have a world of opportunities to tell stories about other people. Every person's story you tell becomes your story too. And they are connected to you forever. It is an act of graciousness and kindness to tell other people's story. It is another example of the ethic of giving that informs actions like my Johnny Bunko 7th lesson - Say Thanks Every Day. (BTW, voting ends Jan.15.)

When you start a local newspaper, you are starting a paper, you are creating a tangible connection to your community. You are making your business into a more important node in the network of relationships that exist in your community.

Read Seth's piece again. If you do this you are setting yourself up for a dramatic increase in business once we get through this recession. Plant the seeds now, harvest later.

Quick Takes: Mass Media - Mass Destruction

Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation ...

It is not just about the music industry. Television is feeling it. Radio is feeling it. Magazines are feeling it. Newspapers are feeling it. Movies are feeling it. Books are feeling it. Even websites and Blogs that act like mass media are feeling it too. What are they feeling?

The end (as they have known it to be).

This points to the continuing shift from communication that is information delivery to information interaction.  If you are a media company, and your audience doesn't think your opinion matters, then why listen to them.

If you are a media company and you interact with your audience, then they will point to the kinds information that they want. It's obvious still time to listen.

Read the whole post

HT: Chris Brogan

Quick Takes: Another Cue to the Growing Conversation

Doc Searls points to a posting by Terry Heaton who points to a posting by Jeff Jarvis who is commenting on this report on the shift in advertising usage .  Here are a few quotes.

Terry Heaton:

Nielsen has released new data from its "engagement panels," and it's not good for the status quo. Only one-third of the 1,000 panelists could recall any TV commercials they had seen, and 21% of viewers could not correctly recall at least one TV program they had viewed. ...

I have never been more convinced that the business model of television is at serious risk and that broadcasters who continue to believe that their real competition is the guy across town (see Steve's excellent piece below) are on a one-way path to the tar pits. It is not a time for same-old, same-old, and reaching for revenue in a multi-platform delivery paradigm alone is not going to produce enough revenue growth to offset losses to our incumbent businesses.

Local information is rapidly becoming commoditized, and that's our core competency. You can't scale a content business in such an environment; the economics have to come from elsewhere.

Veronis Suhler Stevension Report:

Total communications spending expanded at a CAGR of 5.9% in the 2001-2006 period to a record $885.2 billion, driven by strong gains in alternative advertising, marketing, and institutional spending
While consumer media usage dipped 0.5% in 2006, institutional time spent with media increased 3.2%, according to the first-ever analysis of business media usage patterns
Overall communications spending is projected to grow 6.4% in 2007, exceed $1 trillion in 2008, and post a CAGR of 6.7% from 2006 to 2011 
Internet advertising is expected to become the largest ad segment in 2011, surpassing newspapers

While communications spending growth accelerated in 2006, outpacing nominal GDP for the fourth time in five years, consumer media usage declined following two consecutive years of decelerating growth, according to exclusive data released today by Veronis Suhler Stevenson ...

Jeff Jarvis:

The report also says that our total media usage is declining, though what’s interesting to me is that part of this, they say, comes from efficiency and that’s an important concept in the morphing of media: The internet exposes the inefficiencies of old media for both “consumers” and advertisers. The internet makes direct connections. Note also in the report that we are taking in less ad-supported media because there is more media without ads and also, again, because we can connect directly to information around advertising.

Doc Searls:

The vector here is not toward more advertising online. It’s toward less advertising overall, and a less “mediated” world.

This is a world where The Media will only be part of the mediated picture. Consumers will always be legion, but with producers and intermediaries becoming legion as well, what makes the rest of the picture? The short answer is anything. This should be good for the economy, as well as civilization, even as it threatens every institution that ever called itself “media”.

Me: The conclusion is that what is happening is that people don't need institutions to manage their interaction with people.  All they need are tools and a desire to be in conversation.  Whether it is a blog or a Facebook site, people more quickly, more efficiently and more effective can find out what they need to know.

Smart businesses will understand that bringing their customers into conversation with them, not for the purpose of advertising their products, but for the purpose of making them apart of their organizational community is going to be a key to the future of their business. 

When reading any media derive content, ask yourself, "Is this a monologue or a conversation?" Do they really want to know what I think? Ask them? If they respond, they maybe, just maybe, a conversation is starting.

An Additional Thought: It isn't that by abandoning the mediating institutions of the media from our interaction, that we are abandoning structure all together.  The difference is that whatever organizational structure we need is developed in service to the conversation, rather than as the controlling structure of the conversation.

An application of this perspective is to the political process that we are now in.  The parties, their media consultants, their fund raisers are all working over time to organize the conversation that they want with us. Just look at these two reports from yesterday.

Modern road to the White House 'verges on insane', say Gingerich.

US public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll

So the cue in all this is that the conversation happens out of view of the media, because they are still focused on an institutionalized conversation that they control, rather a genuine conversation in which they take part.

Why and How Local Journalism Must Change

The world of print journalism has changing.  Last year I submitted an article to a start up magazine.  The owner/publisher has decided that it isn't feasible. He couldn't get enough advertising to even start. The same dilemma faces local news outlets, whether it newspaper or television.  Those highly mature organizational systems are under threat from the outside, and from an outsider that they have been slow to understand. That outsider is the Internet.

Two recent blog postings point to the changes happening.

First read, Doc Searls recommendations for How to Save Newspapers.  These are wise words from one of the Cluetrain gurus.  My own assessment is that journalism has attracted the wrong people into its service. Too many of them are issue driven. Too many are looking to create a story. Too many of them are posers. They pose objectivity when they are clearly biased.  As a result, there is a not only a disconnect with the reading public, but there is a real issue of integrity.  It goes to my contention that I've held for a long time that local newspapers are where the whole community comes together to speak to one another. It should be essential reading for everyone in the community.

The second read is from Terry Heaton who writes about a television station in Nashville, TN. that experimented with live streaming on their website severe weather coverage. The experiment was a success from a visits point of view as 11,000 people/ a whole rating point, went to the site looking for information on the storm.

How, you ask, did they manage a whole rating point worth of viewers without promoting it on the air? This is the web’s law of attraction at work, and it’s something most broadcasters completely miss. The online “audience” is not the on-air audience, and people are a whole lot smarter than we think. They know where to go, because that’s what people do on the web. They discover things on their own and through word-of-mouth.

In this case, WKRN’s has been online for over two years, and it has a considerable following. Not everybody shows up every day, but that’s not the point. It has gained that audience through a steady commitment to quality and service, and it’s there when people want it or need it. In other words, it draws users to it instead of blasting how great it is. It’s evolved into a social network of sorts, because people carry on weather conversations in the comments. This is what I call the law of attraction, and it’s a critical factor in the growth of Media 2.0 applications.

What local papers and TV news outlets must understand is that people's behavior patterns have changed. And changed dramatically. What they expect from local news has changed, and changed dramatically. With the rise of citizen journalist, local bloggers, and weekly competitors who feature only local goings-on, local journalism is no longer what it was, even ten years ago.

Terry is absolutely correct. Loyal watchers of the evening news are not the same people visiting the station's website to get the same information.  This diversity is the wave of the future.  It is why I suggested to the publisher of this tabled magazine that maybe he should consider starting it online so it can find a audience that is not specific to the local community. We'll see where that conversation goes.

The "WE" who Condescend to the "THEY" and the Personal Media Revolution

Terry Heaton doesn't like the terms "user-generated" or "consumer-generated" content.  He says,

Could there be anything more disrespectful to the people formerly known as the audience than to reference them this way? Users? Consumers?

As I read this, I thought about a criticism that I received from from a magazine publisher to whom I had submitted a couple articles as proposal for a column on leadership.  He's a professional journalist. I am not. He thought my work "condescending."

What disappointed me about the comment was that it said nothing about the articles I submitted, only about me as a person.  The material was beyond their subject matter. I know that now. But the executive editor of the magazine and I had previously struck up a convivial relationship. He liked my ideas.  But the publisher did not.  Instead of saying why my ideas were not right for the magazine, he  criticized me as a person. This judgment rendered without ever speaking to me or having any interaction with me.

Terry Heaton points to a JD Lasica's DarkNet blog and book who uses the term Personal Media Revolution to describe with what is typically called "user-generated" or "consumer-generated" content. He writes

...what’s going on is that people — those formerly known as the audience — are taking matters into their own hands. The revolution is a real one, and it’s against, in part, the people who come up with terms like “user-generated” or “consumer-generated” content. They’re not users. They’re not consumers. They’re people!

We make these condescending terms, because we still think of us as an “us” and the audience as “them.” In the Media 2.0 world, we’re all the same, and that’s the key to unlocking creativity in building platforms of information service.

It is this sort of phenomenon that forces me to think that increasingly success will be determined by how well one handles relationships.  When a professional journalist accuses an amateur writer of being condescending is it not more an example psychological projection than a logical, rational fair-minded critique of another person's work?

Increasingly, the distance between the haves and the have-nots is diminishing.  The "We" and "Them" is turning into "Us".  This will require a different relationship ethic requiring humility, openness, and the affirmation of talent being the traits that characterize professional relationships.

After having done eight to ten different sample columns for the magazine, I decided that I could not write like they wanted me to, and ended our discussion.  I was disappointed because their readers will not get a broader perspective of leadership than what has been the case for a generation or more.  And in all humility, and without condescension, the world of leadership is vastly different than it was a generation ago.

So, the idea of a Personal Media Revolution makes sense to me, and I am glad to be a part of it.

Inside the Columbia School of Journalism

Hugh Hewitt has written an interesting article about his visit to the Columbia School of Journalism.  Hewitt sets up his visit as a study of "old journalism" trying to reinvigorate itself.  It is an interesting look from one of the top bloggers of the blogosphere.

What new CSJ dean Nicholas Lemann is trying to do is reminiscent of what Ron Heifetz writes about in his under-appreciated book, Leadership Without Easy Answers.  Heifetz makes the distinction between technical change and adaptive change.  Technical change, in essence is just tweaking the system as it exists.  In this case, maybe starting a MA program is just a technical change.  An adaptive change is something different, deeper, more behavioral.  It goes to the recognition that the problem with contemporary journalism isn't techniques, but philosophy and behavior. 

Hewitt's article points to the virtual consensus of CSJ students about various social/political issues.  In other words, there is no diversity at the fundamental level of perspective.  There may be gender and ethnic diversity, but if each person thinks the same way, the value of that sociological diversity is lost.

Journalism's current troubles are more than the lack of ideological diversity.  It is also the slow adaptation to social changes that have been brought by technology.  The Mainstream Media can complain and sit in judgment of people like Hewit and other bloggers who challenge journalism's status-quo.  Their complaints fall on deaf ears if they are unable to provide content that people want to read.  In this case the market rules.

Finally, what this ultimately points to is the difficulty that elites have in adapting to new circumstances. When the basis of your elite status evaporates, you better take a quick long look at things, and change.  Adapt or die.  Tweaking the system won't do it.

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Where the conversation is going

One of the blogs that I read with great fascination is Chris Anderson's The Long Tail.  I can't say I always understand his perspective, or even agree, but I am always stimulated by his innovative take on things. His posting - Standing out in a commodity crowd - is very interesting.  Here is the portion that caught my attention.

It's just that I'd rather choose my own editor to select the articles of highest importance to me (including those the mainstream media choose not to cover at all, or just not well). In this case that "editor" is a network of bloggers, not whomever decides what makes it to the front page of the newspaper. This works so well that I suspect I'm actually reading more articles from mainstream media, and from a broader range of it, than ever before. It's just all via blogs, which microchunk and remix the information in ways that make it more useful to me.

He speaks of pre-filtering and post-filtering .  Blogs serve as a post-filtering that gets him to the precise material that he will most interested in reading. And since he is reading 150 blogs a day - quite a commitment - he is getting not just one editor's perspective, but 150.  He writes,

What all these blogs that have earned their way to my feed list are doing is adding value to commodity information. The ones I'm reading do this in at least one of three main ways:    
    1. Add value with a unique perspective or analysis.    
    2. Add value with unique information.    
    3. Add value by providing a unique filter/lens on content available elsewhere.

This is an important insight.  It is a tangible representation that a Cluetrain conversation is not just an idea, but is now functioning.   

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