Market Wire’s PRNN Purchase, the SM community response, and other stuff

So last week Market Wire purchased an online news service called “Press Release News Network.” A couple of days later, Brian Solis shared his thoughts on the PRNN purchase and on the Market Wire announcement on his blog. The basic gist of it was that Solis was critical of the excessive ‘social media’ angle that MW took in their announcement, and focused on the distinctions between social media and traditional media. Many of the SMNR posse consequently responded on Solis’ blog in support of his thoughts.

I’m going to boil the entire debate down in this over-simplified dialogue:

Mainstream media: Look! We are participating in social media.

Social media community: No you’re not. You’re just saying that in your marketing spiel. We are participating in social media.

Err…or something like that.

I’m not going to spend too much time providing my insight into the PRNN purchase or Solis’ response. I think that story has already been covered. Basically I agree with Brian that a release is not a social media release simply because it has some tags and links to social media sites on it.

What I am not entirely sure about is the role that news distribution services should play in the social media realm. Brian feels strongly that that Social Media Release does not have any place on the traditional wires.

Think about the situation in terms of scarcity. I think the situation we are facing now is almost a duplicate of that which occurred during the early years of the ‘Net, when the competition was between community and consumption models of the Internet. Corporate interests are always interested in encouraging a model of communications in which scarcity is easy to impose, because when scarcity can be imposed it is easier to use a traditional revenue model and monetize a system.

Unfortunately, online, strict consumption models simply are not effective. What ends up thriving is a synthesis of consumption and community.

So when Brian writes, “When it comes to Social Media, it begets an entirely new way to think about news, requiring the shift from distribution to participation,” he is talking about a shift from a consumption model to a community model of media.

I think the either/or approach neglects option C – which would be a synthesis of community and consumption; of distribution and participation. Besides, can’t distribution and participation be part of the same ecosystem?

Returning quickly to this idea of scarcity.

Scarcity is always a reality whether we like it or not. In a virtual world, the scarcity is not in the infrastructure or the products that are created, it is resides with the eyeballs of audience members.

Imagine you are at a community square. There are people surrounded you, engaged in the machinations of their own daily lives. There is a potential there to engage them because of the proximity that exists but how do you start? Do you just start talking in the hopes that someone will stop and engage in a conversation with you?

What news distribution services do is provide a platform for a communicator to grab people’s attention. They enhance the voice of the speaker in the crowded community square so that people who might be potentially interested in hearing what he/she has to say will be able to hear. Then, once they have heard and decided they are interested, a conversation can ensue.

This is what news distribution services do. They do this by forming agreements and partnerships with eyeball aggregators – to insure that a message can be widely heard. These agreements and partnerships take time and money, but that is wrapped into the core benefit proposition of news distribution services.

And once the message is hear, and then I would say participation can ensue. Distribution and participation are part of a symbiotic relationship.

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6 Comments

  1. on August 8, 2007 #

    Jiyan:

    The story of social media is one that is being written on a near daily basis, indeed. More twists, turns and plot changes are sure to come as this story unfolds.

    Thank you for so keenly understanding, and articulating the key point we were trying to make in our announcement about PRNN – that there is indeed, or at least, can be, a symbiotic relationship between distribution of news and the conversations, discussions and dialogue that social media has been designed to create. Truth is, a nugget of content must exist in order for a conversation or discourse to begin. If a news distribution service, whether its Marketwire or even your company’s web-distribution product, PRWeb, pushes the content into the ethos, and does so with an eye for and responsibility to the nuances (however subtle or pronounced) that social networks, communities, etc. require in order to begin their conversations — then, in my mind, we’ve leveraged our skillset to continue to fan the flame.

    Hopefully over time, we’ll hear less about “death to the press release” or “death to the newswire” and more of “hey, perhaps there’s a bit we can leverage here off these folks given they’ve been in the business of creating ‘communication connections’ for half a century plus.

    There’s gotta be some value to that. At least I’d like to think so.

    Thank you for your comments. Timely. And, appropriate.

    Thom Brodeur
    Senior Vice President, Global Strategy & Development, Marketwire

  2. Ether Breather
    on August 8, 2007 #

    Thom,

    Great to hear from you, and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

    I am always wary of extremist views, particularly in politics and technology ;)

    As the late Roger Silverstone once said in a lecture, the truth is that new technologies don’t really replace old technologies – instead, they converge to create a layered experience.

    Or something like that

    Jiyan

  3. Ether Breather
    on August 8, 2007 #

    By the way, I have to admit this social media thing is pretty incredible.

    I mean, when else in history could you have someone write something about somebody and have that somebody find out and write back without any direct relationship????

  4. on August 9, 2007 #

    Hi Jiyan, incredible post and kudos to Thom for getting out there and participating in the conversation.

    Apologize for not commenting sooner, I actually have been trying to get over here since the day you posted.

    Let me start with Thom’s point…no one is calling for the death of the press release per se, we are calling for the end to the bull shit – honestly. Wire services aside, it’s the PR people that are pumping this stuff like toxic waste hoping to get out there over the wire and end up miraculously on the desk of the lead WSJ reporter. We all know things don’t work that way.

    So Social Media aside, let’s fix traditional media before we start advertising new ways for PR people to package the same old crap in a new way.

    Jiyan, I love your analogies. What if we added to your idea of scarcity, visiualizing that it’s not just the eyeballs representing scarcity, it’s the attention crash, and it’s the inability to realize that something is compelling unless they directly relate to the news passing by them in order to even evaluate it.

    And in the town square example, no wire service ensures that messages can be widely heard. They do, however, provide a channel for the news to stand among them, but there is a proactive part required of the townesmen to look for the information. How? They have to be looking for something that matters to them. Key words. Tags. Referrals.

    Don’t get me wrong.

    Wire services do work in different, yet still valuable ways. But let’s be clear, it’s up to PR to be intelligent about how to make them most effective.

    My only thing here is to ensure that Social Media doesn’t end up as polluted as the majority of the traditonal media infrastructure. Remember, this entire “Social Media meets PR” revolution was sparked by journalists demanding a change, demanding improvement…not PR people or wire services.

    See, I’m of the full belief that traditional media can complement social media. But they require a completely different approach and mindset. Think about it. This conversation is taking place across the web and evolving through the comment sections of every post. That’s why the Social Media Release should be based on a social platform in order to complement its traditional counterpart. The traditional release about the PRNN acquisition could be covered by PRWeek and Bulldog and the SMR can be picked up in the blogosphere and in social networks, thus continuing the conversation.

    What if we viewed my original post on the deal as a representation of the kind of SMR I’m talking about.

  5. Ether Breather
    on August 9, 2007 #

    Brian,

    First off, great to hear from you. I can appreciate your extensions to the analogies I put out there – I think they are absolutely appropriate.

    I also agree with the general message of your response and am continuing to be amazed by the way that communications can unfold through the Web in such an acute, unpredictable fashion.

    Lets say your original post is indicative of the kind of SMR you are talking about, then the impact of all these interested entities (Todd, Shannon, Thom, myself etc.) communicating in various spaces is certainly notice of the kind of potential that social media has.

    I would simply add a couple of points:

    1. There are probably millions of people out there who would be engaged by this cross-domain thread who will never see anything. I’m not saying that the wires hit all these people but they help cut into a chunk of them.

    2. We are really the early adopters (innovators maybe?) for these new forms of communication. The traditional wires can serve an important role helping to usher the mainstream audiences, journalists, PR folks into these new forms of communication.

    At any rate, I think the bottom line is that the engagement that is happening now is moving things in the right direction.

    Jiyan

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