Rafat Ali just put up this video of a discussion from the Online Publishers Association in London last week: me v. Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times Company. Unfortunately, it starts a little late (missing my start to the discussion). and ends a little early (just as Larry Kramer, ex of CBS, is talking about Dan Rather).
At the start, I reacted to a presentation by Jeffrey Rayport, high-IQ industry consultant, who tried to present a new architecture of media that on the one hand I endorse but on the other hand wanted to turn inside-out. Rayport talked about owning audiences still and I gave the predictable if obnoxious blogger argument (joking that I was daring to speak for all mankind) that we’re not an audience and we don’t want to be owned.
Rayport set up boundaries and talked about going over those boundaries — inside out, from media to us; outside in, from us to the media — and I argued against that architecture, saying that he was making the mistake of still putting media at the center when, in fact, the public is at the center and media should see itself at the edge, serving us.
I talked about Yahoo as the last old media company to look at the world this way (along with all the older media companies): ‘We control content. We market to get you to come to us. Then we feed you as much advertising as we can, until you leave.’ That’s the centralized model of media. I contrasted this with the decentralized, distributed model embodied by nobody better than Google: ‘We go to where you are and put service and advertising there. Your pageview is then our pageview. And we have enabled you to do what you want to do. And we can all do more of it.’ I argued that media companies should ask WWGD — ‘what would Google do?’ (and, yes, Google is the new God).
That’s when Martin objected; the videotape picks up there. Raftat says:
This was at the OPA Global Forum last week in London…I was sitting behind Martin Nisenholtz, the CEO of New York Times Digital, and recorded this with my Nokia N80. It is a nuanced argument, something which doesn’t really come out in this video, or Martin’s argument there. Here is my read on it: Martin thinks Jeff Jarvis is the extreme in this journalism vs bloggers debate–especially when it comes to mainstream news sites working with bloggers and aggregating and pointing to them, working with them, and bringing them onboard–and was trying to point to a middle ground, something which he thinks NYT is doing, when in fact Jarvis is that middle ground, if you peel the layers behind some of his hyperbole. Either way, it is an important argument, though some of it is pure theater, done for the sake of it.
Yes, it was theater. But Martin and I agreed (via Treo-to-Blackberry exchange right afterward) that we were also disagreeing about something more fundamental or at least refreshingly different from the old blogger-v-msm debate. We were arguing about the centralized-v-distributed architecture of media. Martin is arguing that some media brands — yes, the Times — are worth coming to. He supports the outside-in model and sees The Times as ‘in’. I say that they all — yes, even the Times — must look at new ways in which we can do more. Yes, I do think mine is the middleground for it’s about working together in new ways that were never possible before to do more than we ever could before. (And, yes, I just ignored the blogger slaps. I say on the tape that I dream of the day when I can go to a conference and not have that old spat; it’s so tired.)
: Howard Owens responds.
In it, you get to hear Martin Neisenholtz reveal just how little he understands blogs, and how trapped he remains in Big-J thinking about what blogging is and its role in the mediascape. It’s a little surprising that a major media leader would still hold those views. Martin seems fully invested in the false dichotomy that there is a bloggers vs. journalist competition, rather than seeing the ecosystem as it exists. The telling point is his comment to Jeff Jarvis that “there is absolutely no check on you.” At least Carolyn Little gets it. “Bloggers help keep us honest,” she says. And the message Neisenholtz needs to hear from that is that bloggers keep each other honest, too. In distributed media, there is no us and them; it’s all we.
: Oh, and I will respond to Martin’s stock insult in the video that I’m a blogger not a journalist and so I don’t do journalism here, only opinion. Well, while I was in London for that conference, I went out and reported this piece about the Conservative leader’s web strategy and this one about a new online talk channel and this one about big changes at the Guardian (exclusive, as we used to say, meaninglessly) and this one about innovation at the Economist and this one about the new Telegraph newsroom and structure (for the first time on video, we used to brag, in big old media).
It’s conferences that are about only opinions, often wrong.