If there’s one thing we learned at the NMX conference in Las Vegas this week, it’s that the gulf between “new” and “old media is still pretty big. Bloggers complained about the mainstream media’s lack of respect and a few traditional media folks (current and former) tried to get across how newspapers, TV, magazines and news sites work (or don’t work). It didn’t seem to take, but we picked up a few pearls of wisdom and some trends worth watching.
Here’s our executive summary in case you didn’t make it to the conference, or spent most of your time schmoozing by the bar.
Traditional media should learn from bloggers, up to a point
Many bloggers think what they have to offer mainstream publications is their content and voice. It’s not, at least not usually. While big traditional outlets such as The New York Times, Bloomberg and ESPN are increasingly willing to give space and prominence to individual voices, their business is trafficking in content that appeals to the broadest audience possible. We heard a lot of advice to bloggers along the lines of “be an expert.” Its not bad advice, but many bloggers are equally good at something else that’s in demand: cultivating a community.
Pitching those skills might be as tough as pitching a cover story to savvy pubs such as Wired or WaPo, but not to a local newspaper or alt weekly whose expertise is newsgathering, not social media. There’s no reason for traditional media to blacklist bloggers from contributing badly needed expertise, instead of just content. Too often, this is a one-way street with a traditional outlet dictating how and when a contributor can contribute instead of a partnership. Creating a social media voice, running campaigns and events and partnering with others is often left to junior marketing people at media organizations. Maybe it’s time to give a little more responsibility for innovation to the outsiders.
Bloggers should, but often don’t, get journalism
By 2013 it’s tough to argue that the journalism world hasn’t embraced blogging. Overembraced would be an easier argument to make. Not so the reverse. At NMX there appeared to be a lot of confusion over why a reporter who spends 40 hours a week covering the local school board deserves to be paid and a blogger who ruminates about [fill in random interest or hobby] doesn’t. Trust us, there’s a reason. But that doesn’t mean bloggers can’t up their game to the level of journalism by adopting the newsroom’s core values of accuracy, timeliness and impartiality.
Dr. David Perlmutter and David Schwartz of University of Iowa’s journalism school outlined some of those steps. Even as she took swipes at the media, Afrobella blogger Patrice Yursik, told her audience to create and execute an editorial calendar and put some distance between their personal and professional selves online. It seemed a tough sell: reporting means not just calling people up or knocking on their doors, but asking them questions that lean toward the uncomfortable, if not downright impolite. NMX bloggers seemed more interested in how to get free swag or junkets from companies, a no-no (if an increasingly frayed one) in the news world and a good reason to think that the Associated Press isn’t going to cede its spot to mommy bloggers anytime in the near future.
Content marketers are looking hard at the blog world. The media, not so much
Among the raft of interesting companies pitching their services at NMX, were several seeking to cement the link between brands and bloggers who can create compelling, niche content. Some were big agencies such as Brafton, and we ran into plenty of smaller shops scouring the conference for contributors and solutions to help their clients create content or get it placed in the media. But there were also new platforms such as GroupHigh, which provides data to marketers on blogs and their audiences, and PostRelease, which places sponsored posts. We’ve covered how content marketing is moving away from bland, search-focused content and toward higher quality narratives and community-building. This just reinforced it for us.