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NYT: No, No, NO!!!

By - January 21, 2007

The approach the NYT takes, editorially, to describing “user generated content” (what I prefer to call Conversational Media) is so dismissive, so backhanded, it makes me want to scream. Here’s how Richard Siklos defines it in today’s paper (the piece is entitled “Big Media’s Crush on Social Networking”).

User-generated content is basically anything someone puts on the Web that is not created for overtly commercial purposes; it is often in response to something professionally created, or is derivative of it. So, it could be a blog, a message board, a homemade video on YouTube, or a customer’s book review on Amazon.com.

Richard and his editors so deeply want to believe that conversational media is dependent on “professionally created” media. But it’s not, any more than it’s “not created for overtly commercial purposes.”

Certainly, conversational media will comment on packaged goods media, and lord knows the reverse is certainly true these days (The Times is the biggest commentator of them all, it can’t get enough of covering this space.) But there are so many examples of great conversational media that is both commercially driven and entirely independent of “professional media” (in our industry alone, there’s Om, there’s Matt, there’s Mike, there…and, and, and….), that making such a sweeping statement seems either ignorant or simply wishful thinking. Harumph.

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17 thoughts on “NYT: No, No, NO!!!

  1. Oracep says:

    You are right on the money John. Democratising the right to write is a blogging no brainer. But established newspapers think they don’t have to explain themselves to anybody, especially their editorial method. But as Antony Loewenstein said ‘where everyone has a blog, there will be a premium on sober analysis, skilled editing and authoritative comment.’
    Coning algorithms objectively rate and rank that comment. http://www.oracep.com

  2. What I suspect you are seeing here is the emotional reaction of a journalist facing the potential end of his career. For so long newspapers were predicated on this notion that the number of people who could create content were few and far between, but for anyone who reads history knows this to be a bunch of cobblers, a mere piece of sales puffery offered by the newspaper chains to justify their position.

    The place i’m currently working is still trying to get it’s head around the idea that everyone is creative, that everyone has a voice, and a desire to use it. The elitism of some people just astounds me.

    At the end of the day it’s all about communication, the desire of people to feel that they are part of community by chatting with their peers. Any technology solution that empowers people to chat with their peers is going to do well, anyone foolish enough to attempt to hold on to some vision of people as couch potatoes set to receive broadcasts is going to fail.

    You know this, I know this, but it still hurts each time we encounter yet another power broker going through the emotional trauma of realising that there is a world change a’happening. What are the five stages of grief again? =)

  3. Smudge says:

    So John. Why don’t you bring it up with your liberal buddy Pinch.

  4. Dempsey says:

    Please register conversationalmedia.com for yourself now.

  5. Erik Dafforn says:

    Sort of sweet how the article can be dismissive of UGC then invite us, via its “+ share” feature, to post the article to Digg. “No, thank you” indeed.

  6. Daniel says:

    Some people argue that without newspapers and professional journalists bloggers would have nothing to blog about… and I agree that this is a stupid notion, if there were no journalists bloggers would just take their place in gathering and spreading information, the market always has a self-regulatory mechanism. free markets do, anyway.

  7. Trogdor says:

    Absolutely right, Daniel. Free markets tend to be self-regulatory. Journalists seem to believe that information simply couldn’t be spread if it weren’t for them – that somehow they alone are irreplacable.
    That’s ridiculous, elitist, and frankly, rather silly. Journalists are truly afraid of the masses having millions of printing presses, because it means checks & balances, which they’re not used to. It also means that if they want to keep their job, their quality of reporting (by whatever measures) must go up.
    And that goes against everything they believe, in terms of their place in the world.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Who are Om, Matt and Mike? Can you provide some links?

  9. Salman FF says:

    There was a great quote in the web 2.0 summit discussion with Sulzberger, where he is trying to make the point about the high cost of maintaining a news organization like the New York Times. He says something to the effect that: “It costs a lot of money to send Thomas Friedman over to Iraq.” It reminded my of the way proprietary software vendors would describe how costly it is to maintain and debug “great” software. Contrast that to the open source way: Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow… and thus inexpensive.
    To Daniel and Trogdor’s points, Conversational Media seems to be about ‘given enough bloggers, all local events/opinions are part of the global conversation (or something to that effect :) ) (i.e. A Thomas Friedman wouldn’t have to travel as often. He is just PART of the conversation.)
    It’s just so hard to change an entrenched model and mind-set, when your business depends on it!

  10. Tim says:

    conversationalmedia.com is registered by Hammock Publishing ;-)

  11. Suds says:

    Professional journalism? They wish. Exactly what is a professional journalist anyway. Professions connote a standard of performance. You could call lawyers, doctors and accountants professionals because they have to meet standards set by the profession or the government. But any asshat can be a journalist. And just because you get paid for writing an article does not mean you are a professional. That’s why there is no such thing as privilege that protects the identity of their sources – even though they like to imagine such privilege exists. So just where does NYT and Sultzburg get off saying there is something superior about traditional media. In my estimation there is distinctly something less. Namely they are absolutely beholden to their print advertisers. Read any print publication and you better learn read between the lines to make sure it isn’t simply some PR escapade by a fortune 1000 company. One way to know what’s up is to look at their advertisers. Isn’t it curious how the articles in every edition seem to correspond so positively with the advertisements and the advertisers. Just a coincidence? Ha ha. So all this “professional” stuff strutted about by the media is just so much BS. Professional my rear. Don’t forget who hired Jason Blair and a number of other fakes: NYT. Give me the bloggers any day. My granny can read the dead trees. By they way, when is the NYT going carbon neutral? When hell boils over I guess. Give me the bloggers. I trust the people who don’t have an agenda, or are not afraid to say what their true position is, or have actually done something other than take write articles. For the most part bloggers know a lot more about what they are talking about because they are the actual doers, not the fly-over, deadline driven, advertising hungry stooges that constitute 95% of the traditional press. Wowie, a journalism degree from Columbia. I’d rather read the blog of an engineering degree from University of Phoenix any day. I don’t need some editor in New York or LA figuring out what is worthy for me to read, what is appropriate for me to comprehend, what is a suitable point of view for me adopt. In fact, the main media is today generally lot of losers, sore losers, who are not only far less professional than your average quality blogger, but also far less credible. And by the way, the big name journalists are a bunch of conceited #$*&’s too. Journalists are not the only ones in trouble. The next group that’s going to get their butt handed to them on a platter are the broadcasters.

  12. MattKoll says:

    As I was reading Siklos’ article yesterday I reacted the same way to that identical passage, thinking, “that’s rediculous. Of course user generated content can be commercially driven, and no, it isn’t always dependent on professionally created media as its impetus.”

    Having said that, there is no need for being totally dismissive of the journalistic profession. The model is changing, the balance is shifting — but there is still a very important role for people who are professionally trained, skilled and experienced in ferreting out what’s going on of significance, and reporting on it in an accurate, illuminating and engaging way.

  13. Richard Siklos says:

    I wanted to respond to a couple of points raised: You can take issue with my definition of user-generated content in the column but I don’t speak for the Times or the newspaper industry or the whole MSM (though I recognize that’s a conclusion people can and will occassionally and eagerly jump to).

    Second, about that definition, I actually wasn’t trying to be flip or dismissive. To clarify, I don’t agree that Matt and Om are user-generated content because they are indeed “overtly” commercial and, yes, “professional” ventures (if you are referring to the Matt and Om that I think you are). When I say user-generated content is “often” in response to something professionally created, that is not meant as a slam against bloggers or any other form of user-generated media. That was simply the context of the article–why big media companies are coveting social media.

    Your definition of “conversational media” is interesting and I suppose debates can be held over whether it is exactly the same as “user-generated” media. To my eye, it’s not.

  14. Richard Siklos says:

    I wanted to respond to a couple of points raised: You can take issue with my definition of user-generated content in the column but I don’t speak for the Times or the newspaper industry or the whole MSM (though I recognize that’s a conclusion people can and will occassionally and eagerly jump to).

    Second, about that definition, I actually wasn’t trying to be flip or dismissive. To clarify, I don’t agree that Matt and Om are user-generated content because they are indeed “overtly” commercial and, yes, “professional” ventures (if you are referring to the Matt and Om that I think you are). When I say user-generated content is “often” in response to something professionally created, that is not meant as a slam against bloggers or any other form of user-generated media. That was simply the context of the article–why big media companies are coveting social media.

    Your definition of “conversational media” is interesting and I suppose debates can be held over whether it is exactly the same as “user-generated” media. To my eye, it’s not.

  15. Richard Siklos says:

    I wanted to respond to a couple of points raised: You can take issue with my definition of user-generated content in the column but I don’t speak for the Times or the newspaper industry or the whole MSM (though I recognize that’s a conclusion people can and will occassionally and eagerly jump to).

    Second, about that definition, I actually wasn’t trying to be flip or dismissive. To clarify, I don’t agree that Matt and Om are user-generated content because they are indeed “overtly” commercial and, yes, “professional” ventures (if you are referring to the Matt and Om that I think you are). When I say user-generated content is “often” in response to something professionally created, that is not meant as a slam against bloggers or any other form of user-generated media. That was simply the context of the article–why big media companies are coveting social media.

    Your definition of “conversational media” is interesting and I suppose debates can be held over whether it is exactly the same as “user-generated” media. To my eye, it’s not.

  16. Calvin says:

    I think what the NYT clearly fails to grasp is the breadth of “user generated media”. It ranges from non-commercial paintings on the wall of the digital cave like 13 year olds video taping themselves kicking each other in the nuts, to professional blogs like John’s, Om’s, Mike’s etc…

    The main difference I see is that the latter three have “only been around a few years” compared to the NYT – but heck – it started out as a regional rag years ago, didn’t it!

    This reminds me a bit of the music industry with the 4 major labels and the “indies” – perhaps John, you all need a moniker (professional + blog + media = plebedia?)

    Har-har

  17. Martyn says:

    I have to agree but I found the irony that your article only existed because of the NYT amusing :)

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