Every movement begins with a moment.
Journaling or Journalism: What’s Next for Content – Opinions of a Journaling Life-logger
The SXSW audience in attendance at upper room of Parish, a saloon experience comprised of deep red hues and warm candlelight, was the same crowd I've grown accustomed to since touching down in Austin for the first time five days ago — enlightened, lighthearted, eager to listen and ready to talk shop. My first thought while sitting in the audience of Zenith’s evening panel — “Journaling or Journalism: What’s Next for Content” — was, “What does this even mean? Is journaling a code word for blogger?” Journalism, of course, needs no definition. It is this writer’s humble opinion, depending on the subject matter, that journalism is strong and thriving, particularly in the digital space where publications producing content in CMS formats resemble the informal feel of the blogs.
The panel on stage was a motley crew of individuals that spanned industries: A.J. Daulerio, previous EIC of Gawker and Deadspin and now Founder/CEO at Ratter; Alex Josephson, Head of Brand Strategy, East Coast, at Twitter; David Shing, Digital Prophet at AOL; Tom Fishman, VP, Audience Growth & Engagement at MTV; and Tony Calzareta, VP, Design and Creative at Pandora. I mused to myself that most of the panelists assembled there might not ever be caught in the same space with one another, but this session would certainly be the proving ground for great ideas.
The conversation began with moderator Bill Litfin painting the landscape and then asking: What can brands do to speak more in the tone and voice of consumers and how can they become more similar to the content creators who are out there doing great work in the digital space? The conversation quickly evolved into what most discussions on content and marketing content become — branded content, authenticity, permission and professionalism, virility, the Super Bowl, what channels to use and why lifestyle brands rule the content space. As I sat there listening to the group, all of whom were sincere and provided smart answers, I couldn’t help but think we’ve moved into a space where we are truly afraid or maybe even unable to make a mistake and to fail up from those mistakes. This is the proving ground for the homegrown content creator, the blogger, the content curator, the YouTube sensation and many others.
The outlier to this discussion was Tony of Pandora, who, by virtue of working for the music-streaming giant, had a very humanistic outlook on the content his company promotes. He referred to music as being unique in its ability to unite people and mean different things to so many. He went on to state that Pandora creates content to enrich people’s lives and the brand will continue to work to figure out delivery strategies until it gets it right. Sheer brilliance.
Point and Counterpoint
The session wrapped, and at the start of the Q&A, a young woman named Winter asked: why didn’t the session speak more about journaling and what is the next thing when it comes to content. As the panelists responded to her and some audience members got rowdy, I remembered an earlier comment made by Tom of MTV: “No one cares where your content comes from — what matters is that it’s good.” What also needs to be included in this statement is that it doesn’t matter who the content comes from either.
As agencies and brands continue to have conversations on content, we are losing precious time trying to develop strategies and processes when it is happening right in front of our eyes on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even Meerkat. There are individuals out there curating content and speaking the language of consumers, and they are operating fast and nimble enough to understand and maintain captive audiences in the millions.
The Future of Content
These individuals may not be speaking on brand, but they know how to connect and engage with audiences who marketers want to engage with and buy our products. They are the one-to-one engagement rogues among us who don't have the power of enterprise analytics platforms or the manpower of a roundtable of high-level thinkers. But what would happen if they did? What would happen if, instead of going after influencers for one-off social campaigns, brands and publishers were able to shift their thinking enough to bring these people on board, on a contract basis, in order to vet them and place them in visible strategy and editorial positions? Personally, as someone who has been blogging since 2008, I’m glad the vice president of my department at Moxie was willing to take a risk on me — not because I logged a few hours at The Coca-Cola Company and The Home Depot but based on what I was doing on my own time with my established audience. Coincidentally, he brought me on as a contractor, and 60 days later, I was hired full time.
In the workplace, we consider people our greatest assets, and yet we view content, something made by people for people, as a thing to be tackled and mastered.
Maybe the future of content isn’t how it's done but rather who is doing it — no different than F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway or any of the writers from the Harlem Renaissance. All of these literary rock stars were considered the next wave of creativity. No one sought to duplicate their specific processes. Maybe it's time that we as brands stop trying to duplicate what works and simply open our doors to the people who are doing it best — and continue to open up opportunities as the next wave of people arise to take their place.
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