Our editors & readers talk
The revolution may not be televised… but it will be uploaded
The most memorable line from last week’s WeMedia conference in Miami came from Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who works with ‘digital natives’ — young people who have grown up with wikipedia and YouTube and whose changing media consumption was at the root of all that was discussed.
WeMedia is the kind of event where bloggers, academics, social activists, technologists and the occasional VC poke mild fun at the slow-moving ‘suits’ from old media, and where the ‘suits’ complain that the newcomers don’t understand the realities of the media business while desperately working out whether they’re missing any tricks.
Two years ago in London the vibe was all about how mainstream media needed to get up to speed with blogging. And last year, despite the best efforts of the organisers, the meeting was peppered with bloggers versus journalists spats. But this year it did seem that, finally, both sides had decided it was time to establish how best to work together.
The substance of many of the exchanges was that media companies let their hierarchy and brand consciousness stop them from being bold enough to use social media effectively while activist groups can’t quite believe their luck that all these free tools have suddenly been given to them; tools which make it much easier for them to get things done without needing Big Media’s help.
There was much talk of Ushahidi.com — the remarkable Kenyan site collating post-election conflict and peace-making reports and creating a google maps mashup. And The Hub — the social media site run by human rights group Witness which brings together filmed reports of human rights abuses around the world — offered a model of how YouTube-style content and facebook-style groups might be harnessed for a specific purpose.
Michael Smolens, CEO of Dotsub, demonstrated how his group is attracting volunteers to caption films and videos in multiple languages. Hitherto, he says, Hollywood has assumed that the costs of local language production would be prohibitive and has largely limited itself to English. But now technology offers the potential to extend all video to all languages. The best example to date is of an Indian NGO subtitling training material to help unemployed women to become ‘mothers’ for orphans.
But there was at least one Big Media firm with a good story to tell and one which seemed to draw together all the threads of the conference. Jennifer Carroll, VP of New Media Content at Gannet summed up the challenge facing groups like hers as, “how do you get to the heart and soul of a community?” and highlighted the group’s user-generated site indymoms.com as one possible answer. This is a site in which user-generated content, community activism and commercial advertising all meet head on under the auspices of a major media group.