Posts about davos07

Davos07: Media discussion notes

Some notes on the media discussions at Davos:

* I remain concerned about the lack of innovation in the news business. Too much of the discussion was a rehash of what we’ve heard before: blogs v. msm, print v. online, falling news budgets, objectivity, professionalism in journalism. Insert scream sound-effect here. This was the year when big, old media realized there is no going back — in the year of the collapse of Knight Ridder and Tribune, they realize that there but for the grace of a stockholder or two so they go. But too many of them haven’t yet realized that the only path out of this is brave, bold, strategic innovation. They can’t even buy the new kids anymore because the kids are worth more than $1.5 billion. I still heard too much argument and depression when what we should be seeing is cooperation and optimism. If I had any message at Davos, that was it.

* There was a lot of talk about passion (no, not that kind). Arianna Huffington said that what separates bloggers is their passionate determination to dog a story; this is why she called Nick Kristof at The Times very bloggish because he has not let up on Darfur. She said that bloggers have obsessive-compulsive disorder while reporters (or more likely, their editors) have attention deficit disorder. Some editors resented this — ‘we have passion, too’ — and some agreed. I think the media determines much of this; for in scarce space on paper, you can’t afford to keep pushing a story few care about while online, you have unlimited space and the definition of ‘too few’ changes.

* I heard a lot of discussion of brands, especially from one magazine editor. The big media people believe that their brands are their power, and perhaps they’re right, but this editor also sees that the definition of their brands must expand to include their writers and their readers (that is, you are defined by who creates and who collects around you). Being a collection of brands vs. one big brands may be the way of the future: those brands rub off on the big guy as much as the big guy’s brand rubs on on the rest (which is how media has worked: you were hot because you worked at the Daily Blatt but soon the Daily Blatt may be hot because you work with it).

* I hear more talk about rewarding those amateurs out there who contribute news. Bild, the giant German tabloid, pays its “reader-reporters” (not a bad term, the more I think about it) and YouTube is getting ready to share revenue with its producers. I had a long talk with an entrepreneur about new distributed ad models to support the new media of the people.

* That damned objectivity fight came up a few times. I’m too tired of it to even bother recounting more of it. But I will quote one European editor who said that journalists should not consider what they want the world to be but instead to merely explain the world. That strikes me as another way to say “objective,” and I find it disingenuous, for reporters and editors crusade precisely because they do want to change the world and that is the basis for much of their editorial decision-making; now they simply need to admit it.

* We keep thinking of news as a product. John Battelle quoted someone (sorry, can’t remember who) saying that news people have the same problem Microsoft has had as it switches from a shrink-wrapped to a service business. Journalism is and always has been a service, only we made the mistake of defining it by its packaging.

* I also argue that journalism in the future isn’t a product but the product of a network: an ongoing, distributed service many contribute to. See a later post about Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s view of the elegant architecture of distributed information services.

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Davos07: Social entrepreneurship

One of the great things to see at Davos was the collection of social entrepreneurs there. I didn’t get to meet enough of them or blog about them; a regret. But Nick Kristof writes about them today (sadly, of course, behind the pay wall).

. . . .But perhaps the most remarkable people to attend aren’t the world leaders or other bigwigs.

Rather, they are the social entrepreneurs. Davos, which has always been uncanny in peeking just ahead of the curve to reflect the zeitgeist of the moment, swarmed with them. . . .

“The key with social entrepreneurs is their pragmatic approach,” said Pamela Hartigan of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which is affiliated with the World Economic Forum. “They’re not out there with protest banners; they’re actually developing concrete solutions.”

When I travel around the world, I’m blown away by how these people are transforming lives. A growing number of the best and brightest university graduates in the U.S. and abroad are

Guardian column: The YouTube campaign

My Media Guardian column this week is about the YouTube campaign: the Presidential candidates (and their foes) using YouTube to fight for the White House. (Registration-free version here.) When I met YouTube founder Chad Hurley at Davos, I thanked him for changing the world — for putting the final piece into place to allow everyone to have a voice, bottom-up. I didn’t anticipate how quickly the powerful would also recognize the power of this medium, as they try to stop talking to-down and instead talk — and listen — eye-to-eye. I wrote about this on Buzzmachine about a week ago but because I’m cross-posting this on the Davos Conversation blog, I’m including the column here:

The revolution will not be televised. It will be YouTubed. The open TV of the people is already turning into a powerful instrument of politics – of communication, message, and image – in the next US presidential election. Witness: Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards; Republican Sam Brownback; and more candidates just announced their runs for the White House not in network-news interviews, nor in big, public events, but instead in their own online videos.

The advantages are many: the candidates may pick their settings – Edwards in front of a house being rebuilt in New Orleans; Clinton in a room that reminds one of the Oval Office. They control their message without pesky reporters’ questions – Edwards brought in the video-bloggers from to chat with him; Brownback, a religious conservative, invoked God and prayer often enough for a sermon; Clinton was able to say she wants to get out of Iraq the right way without having to define that way. They are made instantly cybercool – I’m told by the Huffington Post that liberal hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich is carrying around a tiny video camera so he can record messages in the halls of congress; and Democrat Christopher Dodd has links on his homepage to his MySpace, Facebook and Flickr sites, making him come off more like a college kid than a white-haired candidate. But most important, these politicians get to speak eye-to-eye with the voters.

Internet video is a medium of choice – you have to click to watch – and it is an intimate medium. That is how these candidates are trying to use it: to talk straight at voters, one at a time.

Clinton said she was launching a conversation as much as a campaign and wished she could visit all our living rooms, so she is using technology to do the next best thing, holding live video chats last week. Beats kissing babies.

Of course, this can also be the medium of your opposition. When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the race for the Republican nomination, conservative detractors dredged up video from a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in which Romney espoused downright liberal stands on abortion and gay rights. They used YouTube as a powerful weapon. So Romney used YouTube to respond. He appeared on a podcast made by the powerful blog Instapundit and the campaign videotaped the exchange and put it up online, a story that was then picked up by major media.

But beware making a fool of yourself. This is also a medium ripe for ridicule. There is a hilarious viral video of John Edwards preparing for a TV appearance and primping like Paris Hilton, set to the tune of “I Feel Pretty”. Every campaign nervously awaits the embarrassing moment that will be captured and broadcast via some voter’s mobile phone; it was just such a moment that lost one senator his election and with it the Republican majority in 2006. Hours after Clinton YouTubed her video announcement, there were parody versions trying to remind us of the scandals of her husband’s administration. I, too, fired up my Mac and made a mashup comparing and contrasting Clinton’s and Brownback’s videos, counting her issues and his references to culture (read: religion), life (read: abortion), and family (read: gay marriage).

And there lies the real power of the YouTube election: candidates won’t be the only ones making use of this revolutionary new medium. Citizens will too. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released a survey revealing that much of the electorate is not just watching but is using the internet to influence politics: in the 2006 US election, 60 million Americans – almost half of internet users – were online gathering information and exchanging views, Pew said.

More than a third of voters under the age of 36 say the internet is their main source of political news – twice the score for newspapers.

More significantly, about 14 million Americans use the “read-write web,” in Pew’s words, to “contribute to political discussion and activity”, posting their opinions online, forwarding or posting others’ commentary, even creating and forwarding audio and video. They aren’t just consuming information, they are taking political action. And now that almost half of America is wired with broadband, they increasingly consider watching internet video to be watching TV. So the influence of YouTube will only grow.

We should only wish that this will diminish the negative influence of old TV with its battle and sports narratives of frontrunners and underdogs, with its simplistic soundbites (though there’ll be plenty of that on YouTube, too), and its nasty campaign commercials (though YouTube will have its dirt as well). But, hey, revolutions take time. And we are watching the seeds of one sprout right before our very eyes.

Davos07: Newspapers’ global cooling

Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of the Guardian, watches the first session of the International Media Council at Davos and, observing the moguls of news meeting the moguls of new, finds a parallel:

There have been many such discussions over the years – but few with such a concentration of high-level engagement from the people running so-called old media organisations. The discussion was unfocussed and (as always) inconclusive. But it’s a bit like climate change. Five years ago a lot of time was wasted listening to the deniers. Now there are very few: The nature of the problem has dawned on everyone – and an industry which is notoriously uncollaborative is actually getting together to find some solutions.

Yes, I think 2006 was the year when all big, old media realized they were screwed if they didn’t utterly change their models and perhaps still screwed even if they do.

And I like this parallel. Perhaps it shows that there is a master plan, after all: Just as we need more trees to balance all that damned carbon, we stop killing them.

(I’m catching up on reading blog posts — let alone news — from my week in Davos. The irony of the conversation is that with unmissable things happening from 8a to 1a, one has no time for reading news and comment on it.)

Davos07: Arianna and Jeff at the end

At the final night’s soiree, Arianna Huffington and I taped a quick farewell from Davos, summing up our reactions to our first Davos.