Mainstream versus the bloggers, us versus them

Bloggers and mainstream journalists need to come to agreement that they are not each other’s enemies and that the gap between them is more related to economics and the insistence of legacy media companies to milk the status quo than it is to whether one is after the other’s job or calling. It’s certainly not personal

This theme — that the bickering and sniping is misdirected and destructive — is being presented in the wake of the Online News Association (ONA) annual conference. Susan Mernit (brilliant light that she is) surveyed the blogosphere at the end of the conference and found little that was helpful:

Susan sez: Maybe it’s because I work with people in the industry, but I think most of the smarter people in online news grasp the sea changes going on–my sense is that the problems are not (just) about the people, but about the profitable, hard to refocus legacy businesses called print media that publishers are loathe to abandon till the money goes straight down the drain.

Also, it’s ironic to see some of the condescension now flowing the other way.

She’s spot on. I work everyday with people eager to move the rock forward but are held back by the corporate requirements of public companies. The creative energy is there, but it’s generally stifled.

This theme was echoed in comments to Rafat Ali’s piece yesterday (referenced below) by John Granatino, Vice President / News and Operation at the Providence Journal:

Tried-and-true methods of publishing are still making excellent money and profits, but audience interest in declining. Thankfully, some entrepreneurially minded individuals are trying new ideas and building new products. Over time, many of their best ideas will prove out in the marketplace and traditional publications will adopt those products and methods. Many of the worst ideas will die, but at least they were tried. The ideas that thrive will bring huge rewards to their creators, as we’ve already seen in the latest round of M&A activity. This is a story as old as business itself.
While I agree with John that there are individuals within the mainstream trying to innovate, I just cannot believe that real change will come from within. This is not some wild belief that I carry; it’s based on my day-to-day experience in dealing with people in media companies, especially those in high places. The essential problem is that there just isn’t time for the “story as old as business itself.” We cannot play “business as usual” in the face of these types of disruptive technologies.

The constant anthem expressed in this blog is that collapse will come upon the mainstream like a thief in the night and that one day soon, these same high placed executives will wake up and everything will be gone. You may think I’m overstating that (because, after all, they’re still making a lot of money), and that’s fine. I think what’s happening in our culture is far bigger than most people realize and that our economy is a lot weaker than most suspect. I would love to be proven wrong.

I have been guilty of flaming the fires that separate, and I accept any criticism that comes along about that. In real life, I’m much more into bringing people together than in dividing people. The anger and passion expressed here isn’t intended to be personal. But mass media is dying, and I have a lot of friends embedded in the bowels of the ship who deserve a seat on the lifeboats. Every day that goes by in which legacy media companies refuse to invest time, energy and resources into new business models is another day with the lifeboats firmly attached.

So while some mainstream writers take potshots at bloggers (e.g. Forbes), and bloggers bite back with their own brand of condescension, the collision course with the iceberg remains locked into the ship’s steering mechanism.

Perhaps the real enmity is between those with eyes to see this and those without, regardless of their position in the media world. This, I think, is what’s being expressed by Rafat, Jarvis and others when they lament the lack of passion for change in the agendas of conferences such as the ONA.

Cory Bergman’s take

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