The Future of Media Wears a Beret

Just returned from I Want Media‘s panel for Internet Week, The Future of Media with the following panelists:

  • Nick Denton, Founder, Gawker Media
  • Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder and Chairman, Twitter
  • Bonnie Fuller, Founder, Bonnie Fuller Media
  • Alan Murray, Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor Online, The Wall Street Journal
  • Craig Newmark, Founder and Customer Service Rep, Craigslist

First off, yes, Newmark was wearing a beret. And Denton wasn’t as much of a dick as I would have thought. To be fair, I expected him to be a total dick, so in some ways it’s like getting spit on when you’re flinching for a punch.

The panel was not without some interesting points. Hell, a ton of interesting points. 

Dorsey on Twitter: The user behavior drove the innovation. Retweeting and @ replies both came from users. They look closely at usage patterns and behavior and believe the business model will come from there. They will be patient (that’s what the seed money is for) before thinking of monetizing or selling.

Most people conduct vanity searches for themselves or their company, while others use the trending topics to get their news. Each morning, he checks the trending topics first and then goes to to find out about the topic. “Twitter will never replace newspapers.” (Denton noted that he’s seen young journalists doing the same – starting with trending topics and then finding the source.)

Denton asked Dorsey if Bonnie Fuller’s new media property could live completely within Twitter and monetize it in some way. Dorsey says people are already doing this, but that isn’t Twitter’s overall goal. He wants Twitter to be a utility like electricity or SMS, a communication tool. I got the sense that Twitter’s plans are much, much larger than the traditional revenue models we’ve seen online so far. Denton’s idea hit at about 10% of their ambition. Dorsey: “We’re not finished yet, we’ve got more work we want to do. It’s a labor of love. … We’re not defining where this goes, the users are.”

When it comes to the old new media vs. old media hacksaw, both Denton and Murray commented on how different writing is in the two spheres. Traditional journalists rarely function as bloggers. The valued skills online – speed, voice – are not those prized in tradtional media.

Denton makes an intriguing comment about how numbers-based his company is. In addition to the (somewhat controversial) practice of giving bonuses to bloggers when they hit certain benchmarks for pageviews, they experiment enough with content to know exactly who their reader is. “Ivy league gossip” works better than “hipster gossip.” Over time his bloggers know their audience because of this close attention to the numbers.

Murray said it perfectly: the one rule is always, “Don’t be stupid.” If you’re adjusting to new technology, just don’t be stupid. “If you’re Bob Woodward on the way to meet Deep Throat in a parking garage, don’t tweet about it.”

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