Narrative Drift and mainstream media

Very perceptive blog post about the BBC Social Media ‘summit’ by Adam Tinworth. Sample:

My abiding impression of the BBC Social Media Summit was of a bunch of people who are still trying to incorporate social media into their pre-existing narrative. They are trying to rope new communication technology onto the conventions of the past. They are using petrol engines to pull carriages once pulled by horses, while others are busy pottering around in cars.

Those who believe that Twitter is mainly about “broadcast” for mainstream organisations are not just wrong, they are wilfully ignoring the experience, successes and failures of many others. And that was one of the most powerful messages that came out of the summit to me – that some people will work very hard to exclude the experiences of others that challenge their own preconceptions of their working environment. I’ve called this “special pleading” in the past. Every single market we serve at RBI has given me reasons why social media won’t work in their market. Most memorably, someone from Computer Weekly gave me a long speech on why people in the tech industry would never, ever use social media. Ever single piece of special pleading has been proved to be false.

Elements of the “mainstream” media have already started to change their narratives. Alan Rushbridger’s mention of “mutual media” was probably the most compelling sentence uttered in the entire day. But then compare the name of his publication – The Guardian – to the Telegraphs, Mails, Heralds, and Mercurys – broadcast names all, in their own ways. His implies a relationship with the people they serve beyond that of those-who-are-speaking and those-who-are-listening. The others do not.

Until the mainstream of the “mainstream” media learn that 10,000 quiet voices can be more powerful than a single loud one, then days like last Friday will have elements that are useful and even compelling – and I think the talk from Al Jazeera was one of those – but ultimately be dominated by too many voices raging against the irrelevance of their own story. They no longer have an angle, and they hate it.

And while we’re on the subject, why does every conference now have to be a “summit”?