Yesterday was the blogging panel at Davos. Jay Rosen was the moderator and the panelists were Orville H. Schell, Loic Le Meur, yours truly and Hubert Burda. You all already know Loic and Jay I'm sure. Orville is the Dean of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and was at the Media Leaders discussion the day before too. He's got some great perspectives and his positive and insightful view on blogs was encouraging. Hubert Burda is the CEO of Hubert Burda Media, one of the largest media conglomerates in Europe and I was extremely impressed by his positive and open view on blogs and media. In other words, we had a great panel.
Jay kicked it off by saying that we were going to ignore the official title, "Will Mainstream Media Co-Opt Blogs and the Internet". ;-)
I explained that blogging meant a lot of things. There was the technology of blogging, the act of blogging and what journalists were talking about most of the time. I explained the power-law and asserted my position that the head of the curve, or the more popular blogs, were like an amplifier and that I agreed with many people who believe that the "tail" or the more personal blogs was where most of the interesting stuff was going on. I talked about Ross Mayfield's layers and the idea that a lot of interesting sources could be filtered by special interest groups, through a social layer and to the amplifier where maybe they can connect, merge with mass media to a certain extent. Because of the the media orientation of the panel and the audience, we decided to focus on the impact that blogging had on journalism and media.
Loic said he thought blogging was like "open sourcing" himself. Which I thought was an interesting way to look at it. He used his metaphor about how he thought blogging will do to the traditional media what Napster did to the music industry. He clarified that he meant that it would allow people to share information peer to peer instead of going through traditional distribution. The difference was that people could more easily create content for blogs than music.
Mr. Burda had a lot of great insights and talked about how collapsing business models and changes were all part of the game and that he and the others needed to let go and adapt. He made a point that he would be interested to see more blogs focusing on things like science instead of typically popular stuff like politics.
I think we all agreed that the ability for blogs to talk with and become one with the audience was key.
What was interesting was the number of people from the mass media in the audience who still seemed to think that blogs were either just poor quality news or that bloggers were just wannabe journalists. One person from a newspaper said that she thought blogs would just become incubators for journalists. I (emotionally) asserted that the mass media and blogs were not the same. Many bloggers (such as myself) are blogging, not for the money, but for a passion which embodies what I believe is part of the heart and soul of journalism. We are not encumbered by the pressures of advertising, marketing and the burden of having to sell print media. It's insulting to think that all bloggers just want to be journalists for print media. I pointed out that big media had a role and that their ability to protect their journalists from litigation and to fund particularly expensive investigations and stories was something we can't do, but the notion that we're just little versions of them was absurd.
Jay chimed in and pointed out that blogs are much more similar to the spirit of the "freedom of the press" referred to in the US constitution. IE citizens with presses.
I'm on a narrow band connection so I will add links after I get to a wifi connection.