Louise Story writes on page one of today's New York Times about people with cameras in Times Square spreading marketing messages through social media such as flickr, youtube and myspace.
She wonders if all these citizens will all this freelance journalism are not just become inexpensive shills for the ad people. Story writes, "down on the ground, new technology has given low cost, face-to-face
marketing campaigns something of a cutting edge as consumers spread
their messages on the Internet."
Well, yes and no, and as I see it, mostly no.
People would be inadvertant tools if they would do what marketers would have them do and as Story implies they do: just spread the word as it is given in a robotlike manner, keeping the intended messages intact.
That's just not what happens. People take their pictures, record their video and audio clips and write about their experiences. They do it mostly in forst person present. They may take a stunt or billboard in Times Square and ridicule it as the lamest thing they've seen west of Long Island. They may risk digital imperialism and remix their recording for their own creative tastes. They may post a blog about the idiocy of a stunt or event they witness.
On the other hand, if the marketers do something entertaining or unique or really interesting, they may find social media's word of mouth singing their praise in awkward harmony.
The point is the marketers don't get to decide. The people do. And word of mouth influence will be determined, not by companies, but by commmunities.
Now, I respect the New York Times more than any other newspaper. But they seem to be continuously short-sighted nay sayers when it comes to analysis of the social media space. Two months ago, it was the time Andrew Sorkin, snorting in a uniquely one-sided argument that the YouTube acquisition indicated the history of the dotcom bubble was being repeated.
I'm beginning to suspect that the explosion of citizen journalism is making these renowned leaders of traditional jornalism uncomfortable. This is ironic to me, because if the Times wishes to maintain its leadership position in coming years, it needs to embrace the social media as a source and distribution system for news.
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