The future of media is social

It's also shared, viral, and free from banner ads

The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU hosted I Want Media’s fifth annual “Future of Media” forum on Friday afternoon. Speakers included Adweek executive editor James Cooper, BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti, Jezebel editor in chief Jessica Coen, Reuters social media guru Anthony De Rosa, Thrillist co-founder Ben Lerer, Activate’s Michael Wolf, and Greg Clayman, the publisher of The Daily. Here are some tidbits from their conversation, which focused on a shift from search to social as the main access point for media content.

On Facebook and its IPO

The panelists agreed that Facebook, which went public on Friday, would continue to be a media game-changer. De Rosa noted that Facebook is already embedded across much of the Web in the form of logins on other sites. “It’s got its tentacles all over the Internet,” he said. Wolf added that Facebook organizes people in a way analogous to Google’s indispensable organization of information.

Coen and Peretti both said that the majority of traffic to their sites, by a large margin, comes from Facebook.

On the change in content stemming from the rise of Facebook and other social media

“Social’s really become the new starting point for media businesses,” Peretti said. “it’s become increasingly normal for people to get their news, their content, their entertainment from their Twitter feed.” Sourcing news from social media leads to a shift in news consumption, he continued. “You start thinking about what kinds of content work in a social context, you start thinking about media in a different way.” At The Huffington Post, which Peretti co-founded, he said that many readers searched with terms like “Rihanna nude cellphone pictures.”

“Nobody posts [that] on their Facebook feed,” Peretti said. “There’s certain types of things that make sense in a social context, and there’s certain types of things that make sense in a search era.”

Coen agreed. “I’ve really started to think less about, ‘what are people going to search for’ and more about ‘what can I assign here that I know people feel strongly about.’ When we do that, it takes off on Facebook, always,” she said.

On the ads that support that content creation

Banner ads are a bad idea that are being phased out of the digital media business, panelists said.

“As soon as a better mousetrap comes along, banners will go away,” Cooper said. Coen added that Gawker Media recently hired an editorial employee to work with its sales staff on more creative, user-pleasing advertising. Panelists seemed to agree that sponsored content was a strong idea as long as the sponsorship was clearly disclosed and that ads should be another attractive component of the product, like the glossy fashion ads in Vogue.

On the fact that most content with potential to go viral might be fluff rather than news

Clayman argued that important news wasn’t unshareable, just that the focus had to be tweaked. “You’re writing for an emotional response versus writing for a robot,” he said. Peretti offered one example: given two stories, identical in conceit, except that one is about the rising price of oil and other about the rising price of gas, the gas story will be stickier, because readers identify with it, he said.

Peretti on BuzzFeed’s mish-mash of news and cute animal memes

“If you’re at a Parisian cafe, and you’re reading your Sartre book, and you’re reading Le Monde, and you think about the big issues of the world, and you notice a dog under the table next to you, and you pet the dog, you wouldn’t think that’s stupid.”

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Kira Goldenberg was an associate editor at CJR from 2012-2015. Follow her on Twitter at @kiragoldenberg. Tags: , ,