At WeMedia 2005

I’m attending the WeMedia conference today and will be live-blogging in this entry. Watch the site for constant updates as I will keep adding to this entry.

It seems there are two clear camps here: the new media adopters and the traditional crowd. They can easily be identified based on whether they have laptops in front of them or not. It creates an immediate delineation line as the blog crowd obviously has a backchannel to use whereas the traditional media crowd does not. That’s another facet of WeMedia: always connected, enhanced knowledge through immediate sharing of data.

We News Panel

The AP showed a few familiar citizen generated clips of the Tsunami, the London bombing, the WTC bombing and said they started to use contributions as a way to get speed to market.

“Technology is fundamentally changing the business and if we don’t adapt, we will loose that audience” – Richard Sanbrook, BBC

Discussion of class disparity and availability of access to the internet channel. The United States are behind on this and it seems that there is little leadership in terms of moving forward on this.

Keynote: Al Gore

“TV dominates the flow of information in America… The most prominent casualty [of changes in the marketplace] is the marketplace of exchange of ideas…

It is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the strangeness of our times.”

He sees three basic tenet of the marketplace of ideas:
1. Open to every individidual with no barrier to entry
2. Depended on meritorcracy of ideas
3. Accepted rules of discourse presumed that all speakers were trying to find general agreement

Talks about how television is not a two way conversation (leading up to current.tv pitch, I’m assuming).

“News divisions are now seen as profit centers and used to pursue the agenda of the corporation they are owned by” He then goes on into media manipulation by the White House and current state of coverage (no real news but rather entertainment).

He now is talking about how private control of the TV airwaves is a problem for democracy (gives example of moveOn being shut out because advertising is the only way to get one’s voice on the air(because their ads were not accepted while the White House’s ones were).

Current.tv is about enabling a two way conversation in television.

He stills see TV as the dominant medium of the next few years and closes with a plea to ensure that Internet access remains free and open.

We, Inc.

Discussion of business and media. There is a lot of discussion about the potentials of the Internet as a new channel but, as Scott Rafer, of Feedster, points out, they are “on a higher socio-economic bracket… People aren’t able to find the tools to hear independent voices.”

Craig Forman, GM of Yahoo!, is asked by Jason wether Yahoo! is a media content creator or an area that content producers can work with. He talks about the hotzone, which is independent content and flickr (also owned by Yahoo!) and how the community self-organizes around new tags.

Jennifer Feikin, Director of Google Video, sees it as organising information based on user-generated content. Sees it as “just the beginning”. Lots of talk about Google Video and how it makes video content more readily available. Google’s long term aspiration is to also facilitate video on demand and be able to charge for it (this seems reminiscent of the initial Microsoft model (circa 95-96) of trying to get a vig off every transaction on the Internet)

Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News still sees the Internet as not on par with TV right now. “There is no 60 minutes of the internet. There are very few stars, no compelling storytelling… ”

There’s discussion of a generational divide. According to Heyward, the main reason traditional media is slow to react is that they still have very large audiences, ie. the people who are over 40. He also believes that opinion from journalism on the blog is probably antithetical to the philosophy of CBS news. It’s not something he wants his journalists to engage in.

The most successful writers in the blogosphere, according to Rafer, are the people who are willing to come out and tell where they stand before covering a subject.

Citizen media revenue opportunities: Scott Rafer sees it on the same size as Ebay. Jason Calacanis sees it as 20% of traditional media. Craig Forman sees the revenue opportunities as a mediator between creators, advertisers, and audiences.

We, Invest

Brad Burnham, of Union Sq. ventures, sees the real money being in the coordinate of activity, not in the activities themselves.

Brad Feld, of Mobius Venture: “Computers and software suck… from a venture perspective, there doesn’t seem to be a foreseeable end to it… The challenge is… how to find out what people are interested in and how to organize all this. ” He talks about how Google has demonstrated the value of automation.

Brad Burham counters that Google (and also goes into Skype) is partly based on automation but also based on an underlying human network. The next question he has is whether you can sell a network.

Brad follows up in agreement that scalibility is essential to the model. User attention is an essential part of monetizing traffic.

Following on a view from Rafat Ali that content is not an investment play for VCs, Feld follows up that money is in things that are not easily reproducible.

Burnham: “It is so easy to get to market [for a media company] on the net… that is hard to find something that is monetizable.

A lot of the value within the tool is in the community. It’s getting to be very hard to see the difference between a media and a software co. As the cost come down, the price of delivering a service is so low that you can support it with adsense or another ad model. A media business paid for by the person who wants to have a conversation with the person receiving the service. ”

Feld: Pays credit to web 2.0 and the web 2.0 conference as a geek gathering; “On the east coast, we have a conference where people are talking about something that I, as a technologist, really don’t understand. You have a dynamic where you think they’re coming together but culturally, they’re diverging more than ever.”

We, Marketing

Rick Skentra, topix.net CEO, talks about the value of word of mouth and how the message for the blog world must be different than the message for other traditional media.

Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads.com, talks about how there is no more We in the WeMedia. There is now a personal relationship between bloggers and their audience. Marketing messages in that channel are counter-productive.

John Bell, creative director of Ogilvy PR, talks about the challenges of moving away from a control-focus message.”What we’re seeing is an opportunity for companies to be more transparent and there is still a great split within our customer-base… Some clients are nervous but at the same time, they’re seeing things change and want to get there…”

Fernando Espuela, CEO of Voy, is targeting the latino market with community empowerment tools and marketing it through a non-traditional approach by launching the brand before launching the product.

I asked a question on pushing messages instead of working within the message from the customer. Copeland mentioned how jobs are at risk. Skentra looks at using the people out there as a large focus group. Bell likes the idea of companies that will engage in such a way.

Discussion now goes to Dell-Hell and the Jarvis discussion. Skentra looks at it as an opportunity for companies to adopt a human face and responds to markets. Rubel ask whether companies are allergic to this. Bell says size has nothing to do with it. “… and it goes beyond blogs. For example, BP did a good job when they relaunched their brand as beyond petroleum but they made sure they were not only more transparent but were also walking the walk.”

In Us We Trust

This discussion is focusing on trust and how to get it.

Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman PR, has been talking about how levels of trust in institutions has fallen. However, one has to wonder whether this trust has eroded as a result of greater transparency which showed that the trust in those institutions was based on very thin ice to start with.

Collaboration Cafe

The goal of this session is to foster dialogue (think bloggercon for traditional media types) and discuss the concept of collaboration. Some of the ideas that were covered included active listening, discipline in caring, demonstration of passion, and general engagement, allowing for vulnerability.

Last Thoughts

The conference was very interesting and I got to meet a lot of fascinating people. The most interesting thing to me, sitting here as a media outsider, was that most of the people at the conference still believe they can have full control of the messages distributed online. This, in my view, is a major fallacy in their thinking as it is becoming clearer and clearer as time goes on that there is very little one can control on the Internet. The only way you can impact the direction of a discussion is engaging into it.

See Also

See also the Technorati Tag wemedia, the We Media tag wemedia and the WeMedia blog for more coverage of this conference.

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