If Traditional Media is Dead, Where Does That Leave Social Media’s Current Professionals?

As I continue to contemplate the rapidly developing story regarding the death of traditional media, and the growing urgency for social media to come up with a viable revenue model, I could not help but once again draw a similar parallel with professional football.

Even though my writing to a certain extent has its elemental roots in traditional media such as print magazines, I still consider myself to be a first generation “product” of social media. As a blogger, Blog Talk Radio Host and soon to be Blog TV Host I hope that I have contributed to the acceptance and growth of social media as a reliable and entertaining source of information. At least to the extent that it has enabled me to reach a far greater audience than if I had been confined to print alone.

I of course am not a sole voice in the social media wilderness, a fact that is attested to by WordPress’ activity meter which at this very moment tells the world that there is 221,182 active bloggers on-line who have submitted 112,548 posts with a total word count of 29,500,438. Collectively, these posts have inspired 219,877 reader comments. These are just the numbers for WordPress blogs. I can’t even begin to fathom the exponential activity increase through other blogging sites, social network groups and the myriad of other social media platforms maintaining a 7/24 presence in the digitized world to which J. William Grimes had referred.

The point I am making is quite simply this, with such a large panoply of contributors if in fact traditional media such as newspapers are in their last days, what will happen with all the writers, editors and associated professionals who will find themselves as men and women without a proverbial country? Where will they likely turn to practice their craft? An equally interesting question centers on what will happen to current social media professionals?

This leads me back to football, and to the 1987 NFL Players Strike in which the NFL “staged games with hastily assembled replacement teams.” Made up of several players cut during training camp, as well as a few veterans who crossed the picket lines, these ersatz NFL caliber squads were showcased as being on the same level as the striking pros. Needless to say, no one was fooled.

When the strike ultimately came to an end, the real pros assumed their rightful place on the nation’s gridirons, with the majority of the replacement players returning to the realms of everyday obscurity. In short, the difference between the pros and the amateurs was easily clear to everyone.

In the colliding worlds of traditional and social media, the line of distinction is not as clear. Even though there are no real technological boundaries to limit the number of blogs, news sites etc., it is only a matter of time before the over-abundance of writers will manifest itself in the form of Aldous Huxley’s greatest fear and lament that truth would somehow “be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” If not irrelevance, then one of information overload.

Referencing the December 2008 article in which Twitter CEO Evan Williams was taking some heat due to the belief by many that the company is taking too long “to turn on its revenue generating engines,” how many social media executives will attempt to snag a name or celebrity news person as a means of presenting a familiar face to potential advertisers?

This of course is the point that I have tried to make with so many of my fellow bloggers who insist upon occupying the familiar and therefore comfortable confines of a somewhat singular, and yes even myopic web site in which they calculate reach by the number of visits to a lone URL address versus measuring their expanding market presence through multiple social media venues. Taking into account expertise and of course the caliber of one’s writing, some of the most amazing flowers bloom in the isolation of the desert without so much of a passing notice by the world they inhabit.

Now there are those who might be inclined to suggest that this line of thinking will dilute, and therefore “cheapen” the core principles of individual expertise and experience. However, and similar to today’s CIOs and CFOs, whose artificially established historical boundaries associated with functional silos are ceding to a more holistic or enterprise-wide understanding of operational areas that were previously off limits, social media wordsmiths must also adapt to a new and expanded reality.

To be more succinct, and while I truly do believe that content “quality” is king, being an accomplished writer merely levels the playing field. In the end, it is the intangible impact of a writer’s or host’s broad or mass appeal that will in the soon to be “merged” social media world separate the real from the hopeful, the sustaining success stories from the “I could have been a contender” lamenters.

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