Losing control: How mainstream media has been affected by social media

media4.gifThere’s a lot of information floating around out there. In a time when newspapers are folding at a faster pace than wooden chairs in a revival tent, it’s always good to reflect on the state of our business and that of the media, who we must depend on…or do we?

Is social media driving news coverage? Or is mainstream media driving social media? And what is the impact of this change on print media and mainstream broadcast?

Social media in all forms and stages has become a major source of information (of greatly varying types and quality) for our nation’s internet users.

And the mainstream newsies are catching on. The media rage now is to Twitter or blog. Notice all the anchors on network news suggesting you go to their Twitter or Web site or send them an e-mail or get online and join the conversation/debate via the Web site.

But there is a deeper change afoot that is a revolution in information output and sharing that will force some media out and change most forever. Younger people are accepting of social media as a more valid source of information than those of us in our middle or late years. But that is changing, too.

And with YouTube and its variations, there is now the chance to post news-breaking footage immediately on the Web for millions to see. And it doesn’t take a high-paid cameraman with expensive equipment to capture real news.

Or what about when a single blogger makes a major social media company change its policies overnight? That is powerful.

And so for gatekeepers on both sides of the fence, those of us in PR and those in news, it’s a bit scary. Loss of control is one thing, but now with all of these various upstarts in the blogosphere and billions of bits of information flowing electronically everyday, the old command and control mentality is out.

Welcome to the new world of over-information. We’re now preoccupied with just sorting information and that seems to take a lot of time. A thousand posts here, a million entries there, and pretty soon the idea of managing perception and controlling content is out the window.

Where are all these people coming from? Writing, conversing, debating, questioning and deciding. It’s a new world. Bigger and more omnipresent than George Orwell would have ever imagined.

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