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Is the Mormon Media Empire Curtailing Freedom of Speech?

September 17, 2010 3 comments

I’m a little surprised about KSL.com’s move today to remove commenting…at least temporarily…from their website.

For those of you who have never ventured into the comments, it’s kind of like venturing into a storm drain or sewer.  You never know what you’re going to find.

The typical partisanship was divided over homosexuals, President Obama, illegal immigration and BYU football.  Anyone who has ever ventured in there will attest to this statement.

While profanity was censored, ill will, bigotry and hatred wasn’t.  KSL.com message boards were the Mormon version of 4chan.  The new Mormon media empire is trying to put a stop to it.  The harsh reality is they can’t.

I’m not sure which “side” the new policy was supposed to thwart.  Common news stories would go off topic really quickly into racism and xenophobia.  Forget about a topic that included guns or BYU football.

The value to wading into the cesspool would be comments by those close to the story who could add further insight.  This is especially true when early reports on a story provided few details.

Later today, it was revealed that while the Deseret News wasn’t ending comments, they were certainly changing the policy to make it more difficult to comment anonymously.

In my opinion, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Anonymous Internet writing creates a sense of freedom that doesn’t exist in reality if anyone could ever trace back what you wrote to a real human.  As a result, some people act sub-human.  While private businesses have every right to control their own property, what the new empire fails to realize is technology is their biggest enemy, not opinionated individuals.

Today, I received an opportunity to interview one of the Google engineers behind Google Instant.  One of the questions I thought about was failed ventures like Orkut and Sidewiki.  In reflection, Sidewiki offered so much promise, but seems to be a nothingburger today.  Under online censorship, Sidewiki is an expression tool nobody, but Google, can control.

Here is the lesson whether you’re KSL, the DesNews, a business or anyone else online…the conversation is going to happen.  It may happen on your site.  It may happen elsewhere.  Or it may happen on your site without your knowledge.  Under which circumstance do you think will be best for your organization?  It is foolishness, no matter your original intent, to think you can stop it.

Besides Sidewiki overlaying the original site, critics will naturally go to other sites to express their opinion.  The story on the Salt Lake Tribune has generated hundreds of comments and tens of thousands of third-party sites like mine will also express an opinion.

The conversation can’t be stifled.  It can be redirected, it can be overwritten, but it can’t be suppressed.  The Internet, and I include all forms of social media within this categorization, allows absolute freedom of speech.  If the Mullahs in Iran can’t succeed with censorship, neither can the Apostles in Utah.

So what’s the answer?  KSL claims they can’t cost effectively monitor their boards.  That’s probably true.  Personally, I love the Facebook authorized commenting.  Then when you say something offensive at least all your friends and family will know.

It’s a double-edged sword.  The more difficult it is to share is the less likely people are willing to.  Add a complicated registration process and a hard to read CAPTCHA and you’ll get few comments and look irrelevant.  Ease it up and you have chaos.  Facebook isn’t a perfect answer because it’s easy to create fake accounts.

What really needs to take place is a paradigm shift.  If it’s online, we can’t control it.  We can, however, take part in the discussion.  That’s the point.  Until Sidewiki, there was a chance we could move discussions we didn’t like.  We can’t anymore.

The lesson to KSL.com and anyone else that attempts this policy, isn’t censorship, it’s discussion.  I found myself looking at comments and soon deciding I didn’t want to be there.  Don’t censor or delete, add to the discussion.  Thoughtful members of your audience will automatically self-filter.

Leave it in the hands of the audience and don’t try to remove the discussion.  It will happen no matter how hard you try to stop it.

White House Using Twitter to Communicate

February 19, 2010 1 comment

For those of you who have businesses that are not on Twitter, here’s a clue; the White House is using Twitter as a communication tool.

That’s right, press secretary Robert Gibbs is on Twitter as @PressSec.  He just started this month and CNN reports:

Gibbs says he became fascinated with Twitter when he followed a live stream of reporters tweeting President Obama’s press conference in the briefing room on February 2.

The purpose of the account is to provide additional information the press secretary receives on a daily basis.  Gibbs explains,

“There’s a tremendous amount of information that we all get and have to read and go through each day,” Gibbs said. “This is certainly one way to get, on a rolling basis, to see a lot of that information in front of you.”

He follows journalists and pundits, i.e. his target audience.  That’s a pretty good tip!  Social media sites were blocked by the last administration and dealing with the Presidential Records Act when it comes to social media has been difficult, but it appears a policy has been created.

Government is rarely the early adopter of new technology, but when they do, you know that technology is important.  Press secretary Gibbs has done three things every business owner should do when it comes to social media –

1.  He figured out how to use it and then decided to employ it.

2.  He’s following his target audience to figure out what they want from him.

3.  He consulted with the proper technical and legal people to come up with a use policy.

Ok, now I need to start following @PressSec!

Social Media is Media!

November 5, 2009 1 comment

mediaI was talking to a friend of mine last week who said she doesn’t get any news from the mainstream media.  Her news comes from her friends on Facebook and Twitter.

At first I was taken aback, but then I realized I’m relying more on social media for news as well.

I’ll admit, I’m a news junky.  I read voraciously, but I’m not reading news that much any more.  I can’t tell you the last time I saw more than 12 seconds of TV news and I don’t even listen to news on the radio.  This is something that’s just occurred in the last month or so.

Once I figured out how to search on Twitter, I can be just as informed, but through a different source; social media.  Once I stopped following the news and started being the media, my perspective has completely changed.

Today I was featured on an international blog in England as an SEO expert.  Murray Newlands is an expert at being the media, constantly publishing interviews of Internet marketers from around the world.  He’s an avid networker and attends conferences all over the world.  Thanks for the feature!

Next Wednesday I have a deadline to submit an article on social media to be published in Utah Pulse.  I’m still not sure what I’m going to write about.  Please send a question via email or comment on this post if you have an idea.

My point is we can be the media if we want to.  As a marketer, I’d rather be the news than watch the news.  I can submit press releases and wait to be contacted, or I can search for opportunities and volunteer.  Both the Murray Newlands opportunity and Utah Pulse came from reaching out and volunteering.

These are not huge opportunities, but they are targeted to markets I want to be seen in.  Murray Newlands is influential in his sphere and every Salt Lake SEO and web design company knows about the Social Media Club of SLC.  I am presenting myself as an expert to people I want to influence using social media.  You can do the very same thing!

Everybody is an expert at something and with the Internet there is an audience for every niche.  Newspaper companies, TV stations, magazines and other traditional media are folding, while social media companies are growing.  New media is so dynamic, mainstream media simply can’t compete.  Welcome to the new media.  How are you going to be a part of it?

I am New Media and so are You!

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

journalist-webWeb journalism looks nothing like the picture of the “press” I’m using for this post.  With smart phones, we have created an army of new media journalists who can turn any event, or non-event, into a news story.

Be the media is a philosophy I’ve tried to employ with this blog and it’s working out quite well.  I’m going to keep doing it.  So is everybody else.

As social media becomes more widely adopted, more people are going to be sharing online their life experiences.  Paul Carr at TechLife wrote an article the other day that’s worth reading.

And yet despite the obvious differences between the two groups -the kids down there and the grown ups up here – there is one thing we have in common. Almost everyone – young or old – has a phone in their hand.

As befits their demographic, the kids are using their Nokias as cameras – pointing them at the stage in anticipation of their heroes’ arrival. And as befits our demographic, we grown ups are using our iPhones to tweet that same anticipation, but only – of course – after we’d checked in to the venue on Foursquare. “Wow. The real-time web is awesome”, I remarked, to no one in particular.

His conclusion is the real-time web is driven by self-interested narcissists.

And what’s the point of checking in on Foursquare at a ticketed event that no one else can get into. You might as well tweet “I’m a dick” and be done with it.

And yet this real-time mentality – pictures/tweets or it didn’t happen – continues to seep into every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.

Are you a “dick” for publishing?  Or are you a “dick” for publishing about yourself?  Sometimes people get so excited about things that happen to them, they can’t help but share.  Today we have a million ways to share; Posterous, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, text, video, podcasts, email, letters, cards, and phone calls.

The difference between being the media and being a self-interested narcissist is who you talk about.

Last week I attended the Stompernet meetup group on the recommendation of a new friend.  I took my camera.  Why out of 23 web marketing pros I was the only one taking pictures, I don’t know?  I told the group organizer I would give her the photos which I did by posting to their meetup group online.  Then I made this blog post about the amazing experience.

Do you know what she did?  She told her contacts at corporate and they emailed other meetup groups around the country.  I saw some traffic from tweets and my Twitter followers doubled.

If she hadn’t?  That’s ok too because I had a great article for you, the faithful reader.

That’s how I approach being the media.  I talk about other people, places and businesses.  That’s how I add value to an SEO client.  That’s how I add value to people I know.  That’s how I create interesting content for readers.

Do I know that reciprocation will happen?  Yes.  That’s the nature of humanity.  We are for the most part very selfish beings.  We are self-interested.  We couldn’t survive, thrive, create and be on top of the food chain if we weren’t.

So next time you’re at an exclusive event or simply enjoying your day, do tell your friends about it.  Your local news sure won’t.  Be the media!

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