The Importance of Staying Relevant

originally posted on Concept Hub

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending and speaking at the UGA Connect Conference.

Of all the conferences and events I have been to this one was one of the best as far as the variety of topics covered and the line up of speakers. You can read my Live Blogging notes here.

During my session a couple of topics that are related to each other came up that I really wanted to delve into more,then I realized “Hey – That is why I have a blog!” ūüôā

I will start with the debate that occurs at most every conference of which I usually try to stay out of. On one side of the debate are the Journalists who feel they have studied proper  techniques for accurately and objectively reporting stories, have worked hard to earn credibility in their field, incur expenses to get the details of each story and in many cases risk their lives.

On the other side of debate are the Citizen Journalist, aka bloggers, who often break stories first, perhaps because they do not have to adhere to the same standards as a journalist before breaking a story, they get to voice their very biased opinions about a topic, they are allowed to be wrong, argue their side, and then change their mind, and they are stealing attention.

The similarities between the two are that they both have to work hard to earn their credibility. Bloggers aren’t handed an audience in a pretty gift wrapped package. Both incur expenses in time, effort, and money to get the story. Perhaps Journalist incur more, but they are doing it for a revenue generating organization whereas bloggers are always in it first and foremost for their passion. I am not saying journalist are not passionate – after all this is their full time chosen career and lifestyle, but it also pays the bills.

Which leads me to what I feel is happening in the divide of the attention economy. Considering there is a back door relationship between bloggers and journalists in that they both get information and leads from each other I think the core of the conflict is who is getting the most attention from the public. Whoever gets the attention, can request the attention from advertisers. This increases the competition for the revenue model of reporting and thus the mudslinging begins.

So why are some top bloggers getting enough attention to create a revenue stream and cause this tension?

They are relevant.

Let’s compare this current situation to that of cable television. Many years ago we had 5 channels at the most, if you had a good antenna and some tin foil.¬† Along came cable television. Channels such as The Weather Channel, ESPN, and CNN were looked at with slight curiosity¬† by the industry leaders, if they were even looked at at all. Now these are the big three channels people turn to get the information they want when they want it. Each of these channels also has a significant online presence allowing the audience to receive the information in the format they want to receive it.

The independent channels were barely even considered. Now programs have more choices of where they want to be aired and the audience has more choices of what to watch. I think back to when I used to watch Bill Maher on Comedy Central. He then got his big break when CBS picked him up, but after being “politically incorrect” he found his way back to Cable Television and HBO and not only did he not lose his audience, he gained more of a following.

What we are seeing more and more is that people are not consumers, they are knowledgeable, active decision makers, creators, innovators, entertainers, and most importantly prosumers.

Each generation has progressively developed technology that has allowed them the freedom to live and explore the world in the way they want. Each generation has fought the debate with the past established institutions who feel threatened by such independence. Consider what the buggy and horse whip manufacturers thought of those stupid and slow “electric buggies” called the automobile.

Today, because of the technology that allows individuals to connect and communicate without the boundaries of prejudice, geography, or time, we will continue to see change accelerating faster than we can imagine. Our children now play games with other children around the world, and what they talk about while playing is their world and their dreams.

We can not slow down such progress simply because we want our content consumed and enforce the idea that we are relevant simply because we work hard at what we do. We have to work hard to keep up and be a part of the audience we are trying to reach. We have to listen and respect the ideas of others if we want our ideas respected. The alternative is to be ignored, lost, and alone as the audience continues to move toward the ideas and concepts that move them.