Musical Chairs: How Bloggers, Mainstream Press, and Analysts Start to Look Alike

Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of AR and PR professionals, and one gentleman from an agency indicated of an interesting phenomenon that was happening among some press –they’re starting to act like analysts.

Mainstream Press acting like Analysts
Apparently, some press are demonstrating their subject matter expertise in some areas, and are interviewing analysts and vendors but publishing the findings as their own insight –at the coaxing of their management. The gent suggested that some press are evolving to be more like analysts, forming their own opinions with the story. This isn’t anything new, we’ve seen editorial columns do this for decades, take Mossberg, for example.

Analysts act like Mainstream Press
While some analysts would find this downright encroaching, I embrace this type of change, why? Well, many analysts are starting to act more like press, with the advent of blogs. Aside from myself, there are many other analysts that are using blogs to respond to industry news, in fact many analysts have been doing this for sometime. Some press pick up on this, and directly quote off the blog posts, saving a typical phone call. Take for example respected analyst Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research who regularly publishes his take about changes in the mobile and social world, in this recent blog post, he gives his take on the new iPhone software, there’s enough info for a reporter to glean quotes without a call.

Bloggers act like Analysts
On the flip side, blogger Louis Gray, and Marshall Kirkpatrick day in and day out flex their analytical chops over the social media space writing from their blogs. They dissect products, find out what makes them tick and publish their take (often with recommendations) that many follow.

Bloggers become Mainstream Press
I get a real chuckle out of “blogger” Robert Scoble (friend and former colleague) who wails about how Tech Blogging has failed us. To me, this is ironic, while he uses the consumer tools like blogs/video/twitter, he’s actually more akin to mainstream media. As the VP (management) at Fast Company (mainstream media), he has access to the technology leaders, CEOs, and has a total readership greater than many local newspapers. Of course, we know Robert had a humble start, but now, large media brands are either hiring bloggers, or encouraging their journalists and editorial staff to use these tools.

Mainstream Press become Bloggers
For effect, let’s examine Kara Swisher, whose roots stem from traditional technology reporting with the Wall Street Journal. Over the last year, she’s amplified her coverage on blogs and with her FLIP camera, covering events as she always has, but is primarily getting her take on things through her irreverent and entertaining blog. While more akin to an editorial coverage, she now leads the conversations on techmeme, interacts with bloggers, and in my mind, is more like an A-list blogger –not mainstream media.

Finding: Business models influence intent
It’s interesting to see how people get paid, for example, Mainstream press relies on subscriptions to newspapers/magazines, as well as advertising. Analysts have clients who they provide council and research for, and bloggers often monetize from ad networks and sponsorships. Analysts don’t need lots of eyeballs to monetize. Often, I’m pre-briefed before press or bloggers, yet I don’t break news. I do end up working a lot with the press, who are often on deadline to get the scoop or a unique take. Some bloggers often seek to break news (Techcrunch), yet some choose to hold back to then discuss it amongst themselves.

Conclusions
While the individual duties (and business models) highly differ between the Mainstream Press, Analysts, Bloggers, they are all starting to look alike as they adopt social media tools. In the end, if we took the mediums away, and just focused on the type of content that is being published, we’ll start to see the differences of the roles, it is interesting to see how all the viewpoints start to emerge into the online dialog.

This is an expanded riff, based off my previous post of how bloggers and mainstream media look the same, this post is now inclusive of analysts. I’m curious on your take, are you seeing coverage (esp in tech) start to merge into one gray ball of discussions? What place do you think I should play?

  • Paul R. Grant

    It was kind of inevitable. Give the punters the tools to publish and suddenly there is no mystery. Give the punters access to information that was once only privy to the elite, then they are experts too.

    We are all social beings (some more than others), and so we are all simply adapting to the new social platform available to us. Consequently there are suddenly a lot of ‘experts’.

    Reminds me of when the ‘webmaster’ was a mysterious and highly-paid job, of course now a primary school kid can make a website.

    I think the space that needs expertise and insight will continue to be the one of ensuring measurable results… ROI is always going to be on the mind of business leaders, regardless of the platform/technology trend. So as social media (as we know it) becomes passe and people start interacting with wearable computers… companies are still going to want to know “How do I make money out of it, and should we do it?”

    You certainly provide a lot of informed insight into what works and what doesn’t amongst the technology marketing trends, which differentiates your blog from a lot of the ‘saw-this-and-commented’ blogs. Journalism is certainly at a crossroads, and there is a lot of noise out there. Quality content is still not that prevalent.

    My guess is convergence (your grey ball) might finally happen soon… that would be a good place to play I think, as it becomes less about the ‘web’ and more about the content.

  • Thanks Paul, I agree there is a lot of noise out there. It’s important to look for the islands of unique and clear thought in the sea of numbness echoes

  • Pingback: émergenceweb : blogue » Blog Archive » Liens pour le 25/07/08()

  • Very helpful analysis (or is that journalism?) as always, Jeremiah. What’s interesting is how this connects up to the trends that are remaking the larger news media model and making mainstream news organizations adopt social media tools more and more.

    These trends are now familiar but worth repeating. Concentration of major media in the hands of a few “content masters” like Rupert Murdoch and Time Warner. The thinning of the ranks of beat reporters and journalists as they are let go. The focus on promoting news personalities as “brands” like the up-and-coming Erin Burnett on CNBC, which the NYT covered recently. And the increasing use of social media features online by news orgs like USA Today and Fast Company and on air by the likes of CNN.

    Business fundamentals are no doubt behind the major changes. But it goes beyond that. The need for compelling content that can build and keep an audience is also a key driver. That’s what’s behind the focus creating bigger personality news brands we’ll tune in to as well as adopting social media features that will engage us. On this last point it seems they have little choice. The thinning ranks of journalists at the major news organizations creates a gap that has to be filled. In this way, social content doesn’t just make sense; it makes business sense.

    The lines are indeed blurring whichever end of the chain you look at it from. The point you’re highlighting about how the roles themselves –of analysts, journalist, blogger–are blurring too is an important part of the picture. It helps connect the dots further. Gracias.

  • I agree, looking at media, a blog is just the natural progression of technology and written expressions. I think blogs are great, and everyone seems to have one these days, however most have a very low readership. I think the 80/20 rule is going to apply to readership and number of blogs out there.

    I am going to say yes to the grey area. I mean i was researching a competitors web launch and once their Press Release was on Techcruch 1,000+ people just wrote about it. It wasn’t new information but just a simple wash and recycle of information. However with saying that there is something of value in this type of recycling. Just like the AP and traditional newspapers.

    We all enjoy small and very niche blogs, some of those blogs will wash and recycle information which we may never have seen if they hadn’t. We sometimes rely on others to provide us with our information, and if they have to get it from larger sources i.e Techcrunch then they are adding value to someone out there.

    So the question should not be is everything merging into a gray ball but is there added value being created. I would argue yes to some extent.

    What role do analyst play, and where should you play? Good question, I would say just research and give structured view points on topics like you are currently doing. Gray or not, analyst are adding real valuable information to the ball. I look to sources like you as the unbiased and level indicator of the market and media trends.

  • Josh

    Very thoughtful commenting/reporting/analysis. I see compelling content sitting a few categories, from breaking news, to perspective opinions, to understanding through analysis. There’s potentially enough room for all the players to segment –and slowly creep into other areas.

  • mathew

    Thanks for the confirmation on where to continue to play in the ‘Gray ball’

  • There are still mainstream news organizations that have NOT embraced blogging and incorporating social media into their content and reporting. Yes, many of those organizations are now in the news for massive layoffs and some of the curmudgeons who have been averse to change are heading out the door, but there is still an embedded culture, particularly in the newspaper industry that feel like all of that dilutes the news and does not “add” much value. I have fought with these types for years. That said, are there consumers out there with no interest in what others think about it? Those who only want the news “dictated to them” much like the newspaper model of 100+ years that is failing miserably in today’s media landscape? Maybe, but they are not the majority and likely not the demographic sought after by advertisers. The problem here is the avoidance of integration. Who said it has to be all or nothing? This blog makes that point.

  • Thanks Angela, well fortunately for you, you’ve got a blog.

  • Tools like Twitter and HARO let journalists ping their network of contacts for nearly instantaneous participation in stories as they unfold. These tools level the playing field in that years ago, most of these contacts would be anonymous and off the record, so it would be difficult for a newcomer to penetrate the circle.

    This growing, invisible network of influence is evolving in nonobvious ways. Today, while citizen journalists may start to act like analysts, there also appears to be a trend towards payola: maybe not cash, but certainly items of value appear to be exchanged for blog post mentions. (Remember the BlogHer tchotchke bag? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.)

    This is in the early stages; but when the extent of paid placement hits the public consciousness many of the so-called curmudgeons may be proven right.

    For example, this practice hit the Guide Michelin recently when they issued a “Bib Gourmand” award for a restaurant in Belgium that hadn’t even opened at the time of publication.
    http://connectme.typepad.com/news/2005/01/is_your_editori.html

    In the media world, there’s a Standards and Practices document that clearly outlines what practices are and are not acceptable. Perhaps analysts and bloggers alike would benefit from releasing such a document, before outside forces make them do something even more draconian.

  • Hi Jeremiah, Interesting post.

    I agree that when it comes to written words, that many groups are converging. But that has always been the case. I’m old enough to remember when paper-based newsletters (typically $295 for an annual subscription) were a thriving publishing segment. They had characteristics of both the analysts (analysis/opinion) and the IT trade rags (journalism) of the day. When the newsletter business started declining (mainly due to the early Web), some of the newsletter editors/writers morphed into analyst boutiques.

    For many analyst firms the written word was never the central selling point. For some firms like IDC it has been about selling market share numbers with a little analysis. For other firms like Gartner it has been about getting ad hoc consulting via subscription-based inquiry services. Neither of these businesses is easily duplicated by written words. Does the rise of social media and the blurring of distinctions between different producers of written words impact these types of analyst firms? Certainly. But less so than some might expect (or hope in the case of tech executives who just wish all analysts, especially Gartner, would crawl under a rock and die).

  • Good post Jeremiah, but I’m not so sure its utilizing social media technologies that are the force behind this. Instead, IMO it’s the “up your game” effect of now living in a world where original content, storytelling, personality and perspective count for more than who you work for.

    The more agile bloggers (Scoble again led the charge) and the less-ostrich-like traditional media (have you noticed Fast Company is a social media site that happens to publish a paper magazine?) and the most insightful analysts like yourself and Charline Li are all heading towards the same sweet spot in the venn diagram: thought leader is a bit pompous, but fits the bill in the online world.

    Here’s a question for you assuming I’m right in the above: what are the responsibilities, rights and ethical constraints that should define the societal role of “thought leader”?

  • Bob, (and all)

    Ethics is a very good subject to bring up here, simply because very vew people know that there are ethical standards in journalism. I did a small survey a few months back of journalists and PR pros regarding their knowledge of these standards and was surprised to find that less than 95 percent had any real knowledge of their existence. So I refer you to http://www.spj.org/ethics.asp.

    That set of ethics began development in the 70s and has evovled since then, and I think it needs some revision now, in light of the growing blogosphere.

    If social media advocates were to embrace these ethics, we might see the rise of a truly valuable source of information.

  • Pingback: Blogger Relations « 11th Hour Brilliance()

  • Pingback: Literary journalism & the Web: the newest “new journalism”? (Part I) « James McPherson’s Media & Politics Blog()

  • Pingback: Blogging News Catch-Up: 8/28/08 « This Marketing Life()

  • Pingback: Business Opportunities for the Evolved PR Agency()

  • Pingback: Blogging News Catch-Up: 8/28/08 « Chris Thilk()