"Integrate or become less relevant"

The speech by Reuters’ Tom Glocer hailed by Jeff Jarvis has been published in the Financial Times (a couple of weeks after it published a snarky, fairly clueless piece diminishing blogs). It has been a long time since I thought of Reuters as anything other than a dozy company, but Glocer is pretty spot on:

First, media companies need to be “seeders of clouds”. To have access to high-value new content, we need to attract a community around us. To achieve that we have to produce high-quality content ourselves, then display it and let people interact with it. If you attract an audience to your content and build a brand, people will want to join your community. This is as true for traditional “letters to the editor” as for MySpace.com.

Second, we need to be “the provider of tools”. This means promoting open standards and interoperability, which will allow a diverse set of consumer-creators to combine disparate types of content.

Third, we must improve on our skills as the “filter and editor”. Media have always had these functions. The world will always need editing: consumers place value in others making decisions about what is good and what is not.

After all, just because everyone now has the ability to publish their own work does not make them the next Salam Pax, the pseudonymous blogger at the time of the invasion of Iraq. It is our job as media companies to find that new content gold in the pan of dust and dirt and give it a mass audience.

In the news industry, professional and “amateur” content combined creates a better product. It tells the story at a deeper level. Take the tragic Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. For the first 24 hours the best and only photos and video came from tourists. By day two, professional news organisations got to the scene and captured the horror of the aftermath, influencing the international response by capturing the sheer scale of the disaster. A pro-am co-operation meant telling the story at another level – the horror of the wave strike and the tragedy of the aftermath.

You have to be open to both amateur and professional content to tell the story completely. I believe that professional articles and photographs, if available, will generally be authoritative. But, in the first instance, they can be complemented by content created by amateurs.

We are now at our crossroads. Old media – and I now would include the first wave of online publishing – have a choice: integrate the new world or risk becoming less relevant. Our industry must not fall into the old protectionist strategies that defined the first phase of the internet. The internet was not invented just to show a replica of yesterday’s newspaper with a few banner advertisements. We cannot be the choke-hold, blocking the new creators in a bid to protect our legacy businesses.

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