Michael Arrington visited Toronto today for mesh, Canada's web conference, and shared his perspective on the future of media. Through the free-flowing dialogue, these four keys stood out as essential in media's evolution from traditional to social:
1. Be first. As interviewer Matthew Ingram notes, the impulse to be first is fundamental to journalism. And though whether or not bloggers are journalists is an ongoing debate, Arrington agrees: "First means that you don't need to be witty, intelligent, or insightful - if you're second, you need to be at least some of these...If I get an email forwarded from a company's internal email system with believable news in it, I'll post it as fast as I can. It's possible that it can be wrong, but it's a risk worth taking...If I write a post fast with only a few snippets, I can continue to fill that out and correct over the course of the day - that's the benefit of blogs, [the story] doesn't all need to be there at first, since it can evolve."
2. Write compelling content. The best journalists will make more money writing for themselves than by writing for a publication. Those just getting by are the ones who won't make it outside of traditional media. To do well in social media, journalists must inform, connect, and entertain: "The more people that come to read my blog, the more money that I make. So if I'm more controversial, I make more money. The more outrageous I am, the better...I could be completely wrong - in fact, I'm wrong all the time - but it's good for my business to say things like this."
3. Cultivate conversation. Both content quality and audience size benefit from active engagement. "The best content is in the comments - all I need to do is start and host the conversation...The fact that anyone can share their opinion is a great thing for the news in general." Arrington also cultivates engaged readers by converting site visitors to feed subscribers: "If I can convert a site reader to an RSS reader, I always will - they're more loyal and become more valuable assets."
4. Keep content open. The more open your content is, the more powerful and networked it will be. Arrington: "The NY Times and the Wall Street Journal could keep printing newspapers, but most others should stop going into print. All stories should be available for free without registration. Archives should absolutely be free. Requiring registration means that your content isn't indexed, so it might as well not even exist." And of course, this thread wouldn't feel authentic without going on to name names: "I think that MySpace is making fundamental mistakes - no one there understands how new media works, about how users want to open up and share data. If MySpace really screws up, there's a chance that they'll blow it. Facebook is here to stay." 'Nuff said.