Institutions Or People?

That’s the real choice for new media. Some are beginning to see how news needs to be channeled online with a personal touch. We use the web normally for peer-to-peer interactions: emails, Facebook updates, instant messaging. To go from that world and seek news from an august “institution” is alien to the intimate nature of the medium. It won’t work. But there is an obvious alternative:

There has been much talk about the need for journalists to establish a “personal brand” that transcends their outlet. Some news personalities now play a strong role on Twitter and Facebook, but they often get little institutional support for this, and such participation and engagement remain merely part of a narrow web traffic strategy.

But what if news outlets decided to flip their model, so that the editorial staff was not subservient to the brand, but the “brand” became a platform for talent? What if news organizations confronted the reality that nearly all media will be “social media” a decade hence?

The main reason for news organizations’ resistance to this is that it reduces their power to control what they produce and whom they publish. No one gives up power willingly. Some indeed will have to have it pried from their cold, dead, newsprint-covered hands. But by then it will have become an illusion anyway.