Pomo’s choice: blogging and social networking

Pomo’s choice: blogging and social networking
It was heartening to read the MediaDailyNews account of a business summit in New York on the future of blogging as a form of media. What brought a smile to my face were the constant references to subjects near to the heart of this reporter, namely that the rise of blogs and social networking hit at the heart of my definition of Postmodernism and, as such, ARE the the preferred media of the new culture.

One of the hardest things to articulate about Postmoderns is their penchant for tribes. Pomos resist the hierarchical structures of Modernism, whether they be family or community, and they certainly don’t want anything to do with what they view as an elitist news media. They gravitate to tribes, loose knit groupings of like-minded souls. While these groupings may have leaders, they are such by the choice of the tribe, not some predetermined pecking order. It’s very anarchical, and it’s why marketing organizations are having so much difficulty figuring out how to sell to Postmoderns.

The New York gathering examined this phenomenon, although not necessarily through those eyes. One attendee noted, “Maybe [blogging] is not done by journalists, but it is journalism. It’s still information and it’s still commentary.” It’s news provided by people who are trusted, members of one’s tribe.

“As keen as the panelists were about the future of blogging and social networking, a host of concerns were also noted. Blogger Clay Shirky worried about scale issues. ‘You can’t make a dinner party for six into a dinner party for 60 and keep the intimacy,’ he explained. ‘You have to find a way of subdividing the audience.’ [Ben] Smith [CEO of Spoke] also noted a huge potential downside to the proliferation of blogs: ‘You only listen to people you want to hear.’

“Anil Dash, vice president of business development for blog software provider Six Apart, didn’t necessarily think this was a bad thing, quipping, ‘You can’t get good coverage of things you care about — that’s no slight to journalism.’ Alas, at least three of his fellow panelists immediately cracked back with ‘yes, it is!’ ”

Much of the discussion, however, centered around how to sell to people within tribes. Person-to-person transactions occur within social networks, and marketers believe this will be the “new classifieds,” because people prefer to do business with their friends. Marc Pincus, CEO of Tribe Networks, thinks so. “Twenty-five percent of the U.S. population participated in a person-to-person transaction [not involving the Internet] last year,” he said, saying that there’s a huge opportunity for any company that can capture a piece of this business online.

Whether Modernist marketing techniques can “work” in this Postmodern communications medium remains to be seen, but I tend to doubt it. The new paradigm involves letting go of control, something that’s difficult, if not impossible, for Modernists to do. I like the way Tony Perkins, creator and editor of AlwaysOn put it. What the blogging and social networking era has done for these readers, he said, was reveal “the power of participating in media… the average citizen out there has something to say.” As a result, he believes every Web site will eventually have to open itself up to readers’ comments, or risk losing their trust.

Local TV stations, are you listening?

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