Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abandoning 'The Cult of the Amateur' for the 'Real Time Stream'

This afternoon, I attended the Social Media Club Birmingham's luncheon featuring Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture, as their guest speaker. I thought I'd share the notes I took from Keen's discussion.

However, since I work for an Internet company closely affiliated with several major newspapers, I feel it is important for me to stress that my notes represent Keen's opinions, which do not necessarily mirror my own. Sometimes I agree with him; sometimes I don't. Regardless, I think they're points worth considering.

Notes from Andrew Keen's discussion at Social Media Club Birmingham luncheon

  • Web 2.0 represents a fundamental change in everything.

  • Expertise and authority is undermined.

  • Social media is "community, conversation, and collaboration."

  • "Fetish Web 2.0" is like a digital narcissism.

  • Keen is less pessimistic about the Internet now, three years after publishing his book The Cult of the Amateur.

  • We must acknowledge that the digital revolution is real and the current book, music, newspaper, and magazine industries are probably going away.

  • 1999-2009 represents the era of Web 2.0. That age is already going away. It is a failure in economic terms because there is no money in user-generated content.

  • Advertisers will not invest significant capital in content that they can't control (in the sense of risking being associated with racism, porn, etc. on Web sites without professional responsibility).

  • Keen calls the emerging age that is replacing Web 2.0 the "Real Time Stream" (Twitter, the new Facebook, FriendFeed, Spotify, UStream).

  • You can't get user-generated newspapers at the same rate that current newspapers are collapsing.

  • Old media that will survive will be those who master the stream.

  • "Real Time Stream" users will be "building our own brands."

  • The biggest fear of Web 2.0 is that talent is lost. With Twitter and the "Real Time Stream," talent is rediscovered.

  • Media works when it reflects and rewards talent.

  • What's good about the "Real Time Stream" and social media is that talent will reappear. It will force most people (bloggers/self-proclaimed journalists) to realize that they should shut up. They should participate but not lead.

  • The biggest weakness Keen admits about his book is that it assumes an artificial separation of Web 2.0 and television media.

  • Call-in radio and reality TV are the not-so-distant cousins of the blogosphere.

  • Web 2.0 is just an extension of television, but we all have our own channel.

  • Web 2.0 is a mirror. When Keen's book says "the Internet is killing our culture," it really means that we are killing our culture. It's a form of cultural economic suicide.

  • In the old age of media, the value was in selling the copy. The digital age brought the value of the copy down to zero. Where is the cash reward for creativity for journalists?

  • For the new age, don't think "digital," think "live." In person (such as concerts, face-to-face meetings, panel discussions) events will succeed. The Internet is purely a form of marketing.

  • New journalists preparing to enter the industry can't just learn writing, but must also learn video and audio as well. They will become mini-producers.

  • Twitter forces you to be brief, whereas the blogosphere goes on forever and it's boring. You could tweet "I just had a ham sandwich for lunch," and it's no more interesting in 200 words than it is in 140 characters.

  • McLuhan was wrong about the Internet. It has not made us a global village -- it has made us focus more locally.

  • The industrial revolution created social Darwinism. The Internet introduces a new form of Darwinism whereas people like Ashton Kutcher suddenly have greater status.
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