January 12, 2007
Old Media & New Media Collide at CES
So prevalent to me at this year's CES was the contrast between the old and new media. They have been colliding for a few years now, but it was more the us and they conversation. The us and they worlds, meaning journalists continued to do their own thing, skeptically watching the blogosphere operate from afar while bloggers simply jumped in and started reporting on the fly, often beating old media to the gate.
I operate in both worlds and have for awhile now. The collision isn't a new thing in 2007, but mental acceptance for me was something that really hit me at CES.
Why? Because for the first time, I was in a situation where I was hanging with a group of old journalism pals, many of whom I've known and worked with for 15 years. As with all communities, it was more of a comfort zone thing, i.e., I subscribe to X community and there is where I shall stand. Many people feel this way.
Every year since as long as I can remember, a handful of PR and marketing types, and trade & business journalists have gathered in a divey blues bar in old Las Vegas after-hours on the last night. The party often started late -- very late -- after every other large company sponsored cocktail reception closer to the strip.
We drank beers sans glasses, wore faded jeans, danced to grunge music in a darkly lit room to some local blues band and later talked about technology, philosophy, industry gossip, music and publishing. This year, an after party not anything like it, but with many of the same people, moved to a hotel suite.
At the same time, the PodTech BlogHaus was having an evening bash in the Bellagio, a mere ten minute cab ride. Eager to get to stop at both parties and engage with both worlds (and both lives), I tried to drag a few people along.
I introduced the Gadgettell guys to John Dvorak and he eventually left with them to the BlogHaus party - success!! I had this confusing tug because the events were being held on the same night and I found myself wanting to be in both places at the same time, not because I knew they would both be great CES parties, but because I felt like I belonged to both communities.
Said one, "This is my clan." He was right and it made me think about the word clan for a minute. It is such a great word and has so many meanings and for me at least, brings a number of conflicting visuals.
So I felt this tug -- in both directions. This very strong tug, almost a cultural one, is not that dissimilar to the way Doris Lessing talks about her own cultural tugs between her two lives: Africa and England. "Am I African or am I English?"
I went through the same thing when I moved back to the states - "Am I American or am I English?" JUST as I felt on that very night, "Am I part of the old media clan or the new one?" I'm part of both and many have followed, i.e., Berlind, Farber, Foremski, Gillmor (both of them), and it will continue.
Because publishing is undergoing such a dramatic shift in such a short period of time, it is no wonder -- right or wrong -- that everyone lives in "fear" of an unknown new outcome. It's dramatic, it's staggering, it's overwhelming, it's career and life changing.
We're at the start of a new year, a year that will bring more change. A great example is the Seagate sponsor (a large publicly traded storage company) of a blogger "tent" that housed new media in a major hotel on the strip.
When we go through these feelings of incongruity and discomfort, as many of us will continue to do, it only means we are going through a life transition. As with all things, transitions included, we have the choice of deciding whether we'll turn it into a positive force or not.
We always have a choice of how we calculate data and the meaning we give things. Upward or downward. Hollywood and newspapers have been choosing the downward path for awhile now and sadly most won't come around until its too late.
As we as an industry go through this ongoing transition, there will be even more pain and discomfort........institutions are coming to an end, we're seeing bankrupties, acquisitions and major career changes for those in their forties and fifties with families to feed and mortgages to pay.
While I felt a familiar energy in the press room to previous years, a few of my old media friends disagreed. "It's not what it was," they argue. "I can't even find a place to sit, every slot is taken, and people are sitting on the floor."
This could partially be because we're experiencing a mini-bubble. And sure, there are certainly more people covering the conference from a variety of different perspectives than we had years ago, and most of it is in real time. (print, online, video and audio)
The same issue applies to press conferences. One friend who writes a couple of columns, produces two radio shows and a TV segment didn't have a seat or even an ear at a recent press conference because the room was overflowing. "Who had my seat?" she asked.
Her point was: if anyone can be a producer or a reporter, then a blogger with an audience of 100 can get a seat and someone with a reach of a few million gets squeezed into the back and is unable to file a story as a result.
Many bloggers are garnering more respect than they did a year ago. And it will get better and much more interesting, but before it does, there will likely be more pain and discomfort on both sides as the two collide. The goal should be continued collision, but in a positive, enriching, supportive and complimentary way.
Update: I just discovered Jeremiah's post that discusses the same issues.
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I loved your anecdote/allegory about your journalist friend who showed up to the press conference and later asked: "Who had my seat?" After all, her organization's large audience entitled her to that, right? That nicely sums up the disconnect between so-called old and new media. Journalists for large media outlets easily grow accustomed to being treated like royalty by CEOs, PR reps, and marketing execs. That used to be a perk of landing a job with the NYT or CNET. Now it's just a bad habit that threatens the careers of many a 'hardened journalist.' So-called new media empowers writers and videographers since they no longer need the distribution channels of large media outlets to get the word out, but it also places more responsibility on career journalists to be relevant, engaging, and entertaining and to get to the press conference early, regardless of whether they work for the WSJ or themselves. Had I been standing next to your friend at the press conference when she asked who had her seat, I would have said: "Welcome to the New World."
Posted by: Allen Fear | Jan 13, 2007 3:14:55 PM
Allen - here here. I think many of my journalist pals from the old world can resonate with this.
Interestingly enough, those who have moved to OR are participating in the new world, don't see the difference between then and now. There were bad journalists then and there are bad journalists now. Same applies to the blog and podcasting world.
That's the way one major trade editor I know sees it. And those who have crossed into the new medium just say, "its just a new medium, embrace it." I think its complimentary and hope the collision AND this dialogue continues.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Jan 14, 2007 4:25:24 AM
Yeah, the problem with being "old media" is that you're just too old to go party hopping from the Wynn to the Belagio. Darn those upstarts for not co-locating at least in the same hotel!!!
Seriously, there are a lot of confused media folks out there. It's not just magazines/newspapers vs. bloggers. It's also old-guard CE media vs the "new" technology and computing folks. And let's face it, if you're hanging out in the press room at CES -- or the Bloghaus at the Bellagio, sucking down free coffee and looking for your next freelance gig or some free bandwidth, you're in the wrong place anyway.
Spend some time combing the halls of the show instead. All sorts of oddities and waypoints were on display, from the back alleys of the Sands to the thumpa-thumping of the North Hall. But there were a hundred new and different things out there, pointing the way to all sorts of new directions in tech.
For example, anyone who was lazy enough to just parrot the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray press releases, without seeing what was on display in the Asian pavilions missed out on a neat story.
Posted by: Jim Louderback | Jan 14, 2007 10:05:34 PM
Jim, I agree, but the hall wasn't open after 6 p.m.
Neither was the press room.
The BlogHaus was, though.
Posted by: Robert Scoble | Jan 16, 2007 11:52:15 PM
Yeah, and I'm still mad at myself for setting up those 7:30am breakfast meetings, and missing the late night action in the Bloghaus. What was I thinking!
Posted by: Jim Louderback | Jan 18, 2007 12:57:26 PM