When I was editorial page editorial, Business Week threw me a party (for my longetivity) and presented me with a faux magazine cover of me, standing with my arms crossed, behind a cover line of The Voice Of Authority. Today, I lead (barely) a team that work both online (the Innovation & Design channel) and in print (Inside Innovation and BusinessWeek) that curate a conversation on innovation and design that is taking place within the global business community (and increasingly in civil society). It's a total sea-change in concept and execution. It's a total remodelling of what it means to be a journalist. It's a totally new business model.
And its a cleavage between what John Battelle calls PGD--Packaged Goods Media and CM-Conversational Media. He's got a brilliant analysis on his site on the subject that any in the media business or anyone who participates in media (heck, all of us) just has to read.
Here's a brief rundown and a few comments.
Packaged Goods Media (old media such as NBC, Viacom, Conde Naste, TimeWarner, Newscorp, etc.) has a model consisting of ownership or control of content; manufacture and distribution of that content and is a prime differentiator in the marketplace; and sale of that content via advertising and subscription. Period.
Conversation Media has a different model consisting of conversation between authors and audiences (where the audience is often the author) and the content is the conversation; the platform, not distribution, is key to differentiation; what is generated is a result is a service, not a product; iteration and speed are more important than process and perfection--the conversation is ever-changing and always in "beta"; engagement is the mode of interaction, not passive consumption.
This is a terrific step forward in the conversation many of us have been having over the future of magazines, newspapers, online media, etc.
My two cents here. Conversations are not equal, that is, someone starts it, a select group participate, others just listen, another small group iterates and changes. They're like wikis. There are unwritten linguistic and social rules for them. If conversation is to become the model for media, then we have to understand the role of the curator or editor of the conversation.
And just what conversations do you want to have. Building a tech platform that allows for social media doesn't tell you what conversations you want to host. We host discussions about design and innovation. What should The New York Times host?
Profits are generated within this model but how are they shared? This is the discussion going on now with Google/YouTube and Viacom. How do you value the conversation-as-content and share it? What is your opinion/creative output really worth? Right now, advertisers don't really care about quality, either in old media such as magazines or new media, such as blogs. Just the numbers.
More to come on this subject.