We are the world (sorta)

“We ARE the media,” business owner Desiree Scales told the hundreds assembled for SoCon08 in Atlanta last year. Thinking big is always advised, but that even raised my eyebrows.

Fast forward to SoCon09, the third un-conference about social media/online networking, etc., at Kennesaw State U. near Atlanta. In the past year:

–The Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, TV stations, etc., has filed for bankruptcy protection.

— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the most influential newspaper in the Southeast, has had another round of buyouts and eliminated a daily edition that served suburban Gwinnett County, which has more residents (775,000) than the state of Alaska. It also has quit regularly covering college football that does not involve Georgia and Georgia Tech, despite the many followers of SEC and ACC schools in the Atlanta area.

— Time Warner-owned CNN has instituted a daily news program to follow interactive behavior on such sites as Facebook and Twitter. Host Rick Sanchez regularly “tweets” outside the show, no doubt to bond with potential viewers. (Hey, will “hashtags” on Twitter be to the 21st century what the “@” sign was to the ’90s?)

— The New York Times, likely the world’s most prominent newspaper, had to go hat in hand to a Mexican telecom billionaire for an investment that forestalled a financial collapse.

The Christian Science Monitor eliminated its print edition.

Perhaps Scales was right. Media may now be in the eye of the beholder, as Twitter has more users than the New York Times does paid subscribers and YouTube is a partner in hosting presidential debates.

As a two-time SoCon attendee and a longtime digital nut, I’m impressed by how much power individuals now have to influence decision makers in both journalism and commerce. Companies are now hiring people to scrutinize the Web for reviews of their products and services, and CNN has added iReport to try to siphon some user-generated reports from Google-owned YouTube.

Immediacy is a huge factor. At a networking dinner, SoCon09 participant Jason Brett pointed out that newspapers once were the most efficient distributor of news and information. He then flipped out his iPhone and began streaming our conversation online to illustrate how that has changed. And “tweets” from the Flight 1549 crash in the Hudson River also bear that out.

And e-commerce? “Customers are in charge of the sales process; the power is with the buyer,” said Debbie Qaqish, a sales/marketing executive at a SoCon09 breakout session. Have a plan for sales that involves online marketing, or plan to fail.

Organizer Sherry Heyl makes some good points about speakers and session leaders on her company’s blog, as did Leonard Witt of Kennesaw State, another organizer. (New link from Witt posted 2/13/09.) And I’ve put up some fun pics and videos of the event. Hey, didn’t take any of us long, right? And if it’s important to 300 people, and to those who were turned away, it’s important to others.

The AJC staffed the event, but its story appeared online first and not in all the print editions. For some reason, I think back to the ’90s, when the federal government sought out The Washington Post and The New York Times to carry the controversial Unabomber manifesto as part of a criminal investigation. Now, the feds would just put up their own Web site. Who’s chasing who now?

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About Steve Burns

I live in the Atlanta area. I also lived for many years in Southern California. I'm into mainstream media, social media, sports, business and politics. I worked for AOL's Patch, but this is my personal blog. I'm on Twitter (@bsteve76), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. See ya 'round!
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