Thursday, September 07, 2006

Facebook loses face; We lose FYJ

Last week I met with some journalists at IDG to talk about the next generation of media consumers. I won't share the details of my presentation here; but I will say that -- quite predictably -- I urged those editors and reporters to spend some time on the social-networking sites popular with high school kids and college students.

What I didn't mention, but perhaps should have, is that most of those journalists won't be able to check out Facebook. Membership to that service is limited to students at universities, high schools and a handful of businesses. (If a middle-aged person tries, as I did, to sign up for the community related to his high school alma mater, he'll get an ego-shattering message saying he's "too old" to participate.)

Given that, most of us in the media will have to get our understanding of the new scandal at Facebook from secondary sources. So today I'll urge journalists to check out the coverage of what went wrong when Facebook seemed to violate its long-standing commitment to users' privacy.
There are stories here, here and here. (Whenever I want to learn about social networking, I turn to Danah Boyd, who may be the brightest person working in the field. But as I post this piece, Danah hasn't written anything about the new Facebook scandal. But I'll suggest you keep checking here for an update. On the other hand, whenever I want to learn about almost anything, I turn to Rex. And he has weighed in on the Facebook issue.)

To ponder a journalism-ethics question raised by Facebook and other social-networking sites, check out this earlier post.
For more on the social-networking phenomenon, take a look at this piece in Fortune about the founders of MySpace, and how missteps by rival Friendster set the pace for MySpace's success.
For a look at a new initiative from the magazine industry to attract the next generation of media consumers, check out this piece in the New York Times. (Note: my first reaction to this idea is to roll my eyes and moan out load, but maybe college kids really are eager to get pdf-like files in their email.)

And one final note: as those of us in the media have pondered the next generation, we've often turned to the voice of the Canadian reporter known as Fine Young Journalist to help us understand what was happening.
We won't be able to do that any longer.
FYJ has stopped blogging.
I would urge all of you to read his farewell post, which is full of the insights and lovely writing that I've come to expect of him.

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  1. Well, count me in as one of the younger B2B employees who does have a MySpace and a Facebook account -- but other than the debacle over the news feed feature on FB, what would a B2B publication really get out of these networking sites? (Other than party pictures and groups dedicated to Oregon Trail nostalgia.) Thanks.
    - Maria Varmazis

  2. Hi Maria,
    Thanks for the comment.
    I don't intend to suggest that a B2B publisher has something to gain from creating a MySpace page, etc. Nor would I suggest that joining the largest B2B social-networking site -- LinkedIn -- has tremendous value.
    Rather, what I urge journalists and publishers to do is to pay attention to the social-networking world for the insight it provides into how people are interacting with each other and with content.
    In particular, I see MySpace as a place to monitor the growth of user-generated content, self-publishing and peer-group marketing.
    I point to Friendster as a cautionary tale about trying to exercise too much control over a urge that many B2B publishers have when article-page feedback functions or online forums drift off topic.
    I also like to talk about using online communities to reach a broader, non-U.S. audience. So I point to Orkut and how its popularity in Brazil surprised and troubled its management -- which didn't speak Portuguese.
    When I talk about the ease of multimedia content, I point to YouTube. And when I talk about mash-ups and creative commons licenses, I tend to point to machinima as often as I point to the Washington Post.
    And when I urge B2B publishers to consider the power of individual readers in an online community, I talk about the key members at Slashdot, Digg and Wikipedia.
    I see all these things as incredibly valuable to any B2B publication with an online forum, a product-testing service, a data product, a price service, a feedback function, or any other type of content.
    In other words, a number of interesting things are happening where social-networking and media intersect. And that's worth thinking about.

  3. Think Fred Stutzman has some interesting thoughts