It’s about trust

It’s about trust

: Ross Mayfield riffs on Tim Oren’s riff on the unbundling of media — accelerated by news scandals like Rathergate (my riff here). He focuses on the issue of trust.

Someone pointed out to me today that Rathergate is unfortunately an adversarial event. Most blogged to death and fact-checked ass issues are because identities are so strong.

Brand can get too strong. That makes Rather want to own the story — rather than get to the truth. You see, if he wanted to get to the truth, he’d quote (or in our world, link to) all the other reports and questions and fact-checking. But he and too many other journalists think they are the trusted ones — they have the standards and reputation, right? right? — and by going to all these others — even amateurs, even mere citizens — they dilute their brands; that’s how they delude themselves. Of course, the irony is that the exact opposite then occurs: By not linking to others, by “standing by our story” in the face of evidence and arguments they ignore, these guys only dilute their own trust and thus their brands. In the end, because their brand is too strong, they set themselves up for a fall; bigger the brand, bigger the fall (see: Howell Raines).

In this new world of ours, trust — like everything else — is distributed. The bundling of citizens — instead of content — wields the wisdom of the crowd.

Ross sees that happening in wikis, of course, since he’s the leading thinker and doer in that end of this new world: “To see the future of trust in media, look how strangers are learning to trust each other by sharing control with wikis.” He also argues that the trust of strangers and the value of that trust increases with time and volume (see: Wikipedia).

I see it in blogs, too, of course. The ability for people to so quickly link to each other and add to each other’s knowledge and effort in Rathergate produces a new level of trust and credibility.

But then there’s so much sharing of knowledge that it gets out of hand and it’s hard to figure out where to start. That’s when Ernest Miller steps in to add value by summarizing it all (or for another example of the value of summary — with perspective — see Nick Kristof’s column on Kerry v. Swifties today). Imagine if everyone had also contributed to the Rather wikki.

All this does tie back to Tim’s riff: There are shifts of trust and value and new opportunities to be had in this. To obnoxiously quote my riff:

In this new distributed, unbundled, post-marketplace, molecular, commoditized media world, value can be added in many ways. It’s about relationships. It’s about relevancy. It’s about service. It’s about uniqueness. It’s about perspective.

All these riffs are rather vague. That is, in part, because it’s early and formative discussion; that is also, in part, because some of the people linking to Tim have business ideas they’re not ready to part with.

What’s so fascinating about Tim’s post is that he takes a social issue — news and trust — and measures it through a business perspective. I have always said that in the news business, our only asset is credibility. Tim is now measuring the declining value of that asset in the midst of scandal and in the face of new, trusted competition.

: Meanwhile, Hugh MacLeod looks at the employment implications of all this.