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New Media Shame?

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At BlogWorld and other such conferences, we’re completely immersed in all the geeky new media stuff we know and love. But BlogWorld is only a few days every fall and spring. The rest of the time, we’re scattered across country and around the world where most people don’t understand what we do or why we do it. Perhaps that is partially our fault. For most of us, there’s an element of new media shame in our lives – and until that changes, we’re still going to have a hard time being taken seriously.

In the New Media Closet

Despite the fact that new media is a part of most people’s lives, we still hesitate to admit it. “Oh, yeah…I’ve heard of Farmville,” we say, even as we sneak online during the work day to water our crops. “I’m a writer,” we say, because we’re afraid that blogger doesn’t sound professional enough. “I’m occasionally on Twitter,” we say, though our definition of occasionally might be different than most considering that we average 50 tweets a day.

If you want the best example of new media shame, just look at online dating. I believe it is Match.com’s commercials that report that one in five relationships now start online. One in five! That’s 20%! Yet, people don’t like to talk about it, as though it is somehow shameful to fall in love with something that you’ve met through an online dating site. People lie about how they’ve met, or if they do  admit that they’ve met online, they say so with a  bit of apprehension, nervously hoping that those who are listening don’t freak out. “Oh, how did you and Joe meet?” “Actually…believe it or not, we met online…” This is usually followed by lots of justifying factors. We talked for a long time first. My friends told me to check it up. I signed up as a joke, but it worked out. It’s better than meeting in a bar.

Why do we have to justify it? If we meet someone at the grocery store or through mutual friends or even at the bar, we just say that and everything is fine. Meeting online is still somewhat shameful, though. And I’m not sure why?

This isn’t just about online dating, though. I consider a lot of you out there my good friends, even though we only see one another in person once or twice a year – if at all. There’s an element of shame to the new media world in general, as though it isn’t kosher or we’re doing something wrong. It’s a constant reminder to me that the new media world, even as it is becoming more mainstream, is still on the cutting edge of how we relate to one another, promote products, share news, market ourselves, and more.

Proof of that is perhaps the fact that the words blog, blogger, and blogging still get the red squiggly line in my (albeit older) version of Microsoft Word.

Stand Up, Be Proud

The only way we can change this, make it less shameful to be a part of the new media world, is to stop hiding in the closet. We have to stop considering blog a four-letter word if we want others to give us the same respect. I’m as guilty as the rest of you. When someone asks me what I write, I rarely admit that I’m a blogger unless pressed. In the back of my mind, I always cringe, thinking that people are going to envision me pouring my heart out about what I had for lunch on my LiveJournal.

But here’s the thing – if they are thinking that, their perception isn’t going to change unless I correct them. And I’m the perfect person to do that, just like you are. We are successful business people making money as bloggers and social media marketers. We all have stories about how we’ve helped readers or met really amazing people online, as well as the cool opportunities we’ve received, like interviewing celebrities in our fields or getting free products to review, simply because we have a popular blog or a high Klout score. If we attribute that to blogging and social media, rather than saying we’re writers or website owners or whatever more “acceptable” term we use, the perception of the new media world might start to change.

I’ll start. My name is Allison, and I’m a professional blogger and web content writer. I’ve met past boyfriends through online dating websites. I use Twitter regularly. I like to check-in via Foursquare and Gowalla. Some Saturday nights, I would rather chat with my online friends than go out to the bar. I think online gaming is cool. I have a Facebook app on my phone. Most of my work meetings are via conference call on Skype or webinars on GoToMeeting.

And I love my new media life.

So it’s your turn. Feel free to tell us here, but what is more important is that you get outside of the BlogWorld community and start standing proud as someone who’s immersed in new media. If we all talk about it more with a sense of pride, the perception will start to change. And who knows – you might connect with others who love new media also, but who were also afraid to admit it publicly.

Was May 1 a Traditional Publishing Fail?

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Here on the BlogWorld blog, I already wrote a bit about how social media is changing the face of historical moments. I know that a number of people found out about Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter or Facebook, and even though I live in Washington, D.C., I opted to stay in and chat with friends online instead of partying on the streets, like so many chose to do in this and other cities across the United States. I think it’s really interesting to see how people all over the world are still talking about this historical event – and social media makes that possible.

I think there’s a deeper question here for those of us in the publishing industry – was the announcement of bin Laden’s death a fail for traditional media?

Yes. And no. At least, in my opinion.

How Traditional Publishing Failed

Before newspapers or magazines around the world even had time to yell “Stop the presses!” new media sources were deep in the analysis and reporting of this story. I’m a Twitter girl more than I am a Facebook girl, but both exploded with the news, with bloggers everywhere feverishly typing to post on the topic. Some of the interesting things I and other members of the BlogWorld team noticed:

  • Someone posted Osama bin Laden is DEAD as a page on Facebook a long time ago, asserting that the terrorist was never going to be found because he was dead. I’m not sure how popular that page was in the past, but as of right now, it has over 466,000 likes and TONS of comments, pictures, etc.
  • A man who lived in the neighborhood unknowing live tweeted the whole thing. At the time, he had no clue what was going on, but he happened to be awake and on Twitter, so now we have a first-person account of what was happening from someone who was really there.
  • Osama bin Laden’s Wikipedia page was updated before President Obama even spoke. Someone added a death date as May first, then someone else edited it to say that his death “was announced on May 1,” since there were rumors flying around that he had been dead for several days.

These are all things that aren’t possible with traditional print media. With a newspaper or magazine or even a static news website, there’s no feedback, no discussion, no life and movement to the story. Traditional media is not about conversation; it is about presenting the facts…and although those facts are important, without room for conversation, they’re not as attractive of an option to most people.

And then there’s the issue of speed.

This announcement was made on Sunday night, well after many people were actually in bed already. At the BlogWorld HQ, Rick picked up both the NY Times and the LA Times – NY made no mention of bin Laden’s death, while LA did. On the East Coast, it must have been just too late to reprint the morning paper.

Did your morning paper cover the story?

This is a problem that doesn’t effect new media. Blogs and social media accounts can be updated around the clock, and while some sites might not have had a story posted right away, they certainly didn’t publish for 24+ hours without addressing the news of his death. That’s essentially what happened with the NY Times though – it was over a day later until they printed a story.

How New Media Failed

As much as I love new media, the kinks aren’t completely worked out yet and perhaps never will be. There was a LOT of misinformation floating around – it would start as speculation or a joke and escalate until people thought it was the truth. Kinda like a massive game of telephone. That’s often a problem with new media – with thousands of people blogging about a topic or posting about a topic on their social media accounts, you’re bound to get one or two that don’t check their sources.

Not that you’d do that ever. You’re a good blogger, just like me. You and I never make mistakes.

Traditional print media? Well, they make mistakes too sometimes, but they have entire fact-checking departments. Plus, they have time to craft their stories, so they aren’t in a rush to spew out as much information, correct or otherwise, as quickly as possible so that they can be one of the first with breaking news.

Amber Naslund said something on Twitter that night that I thought was really interesting (and true, in my opinion):

@AmberCadabra: Dudes. Social media didn’t “win” to break the news. This isn’t a race. I’d rather have a prez that’s methodical and sure, thanks.

I agree, because while I can be as terribly impatient as the next person, I would hate for the president to get the facts wrong. Speed isn’t always the best.

So did new media win? Did traditional forms of publishing fail? Is this another nail in the coffin for newspapers and magazines? I’m not sure – but it certainly is interesting to see the evolution, isn’t it?

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