Bloggers Are New But Are They Media?

It was quite the schmoozefest in Vancouver this weekend.

The city was host to the Junos, The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Vancouver Fashion Week and the Canadian National Freestyle Skiing Championships.

Head to any of the events and you’ll see entry points and lounges for media. In the past that meant print, radio, and television while some select magazines or industry journalists would qualify. Scan the ranks of the media lists in 2009 and you’ll see who qualifies as media has broadened as widely as the definition itself.

IT STARTED AT CES

I first noticed the explosion of bloggers as media at CES 5 years ago. I was there to cover the technology show for City TV where I had a segment on technology, and my syndicated radio show which airs across the country. I had a pass around my neck that said TV/Radio. However, as I walked the crowded show floor I saw person after person with “website.com” hanging around their neck.

Bloggers were everywhere.

While that leads to an explosion of blanket coverage for the conference, it also waters down the product. There are only so many spokespeople, and with legions of bloggers and media clamouring for quotes and attention, that attention gets divided down to such a point that some people are shut out.

In the “old media” past, it was easy to determine who was important. The interview went to the NYT or the Washington Post or Time or ABC. Now, in the modern era of blogs, who is savvy enough to determine that cyberbuzz is more valuable than cyberboys while WineDude‘s reach is larger than WineDad?

In a time when old media is dying and new media is exploding (with, as the headline suggests 20 000 new blogs a day), how do you determine who is legitimate and who isn’t?

BLOGGERS ARE SMART

All efficient bloggers can produce the same littanous list of content. If you’re a passionate wine drinker, Canadian music fiend, or fashionista, you can point a media assistant to your blog archives detailing hundreds of entries – but can you prove the readership?

And that’s the point of difference. Old media is worthy because it has reach, new media is worthy because it claims niche.

I don’t envy the job of the media relations director trying to get coverage for an event. It’s a world where anyone can hang a shingle and get a website and claim to be an expert. Sasha Baron Cohen had more than 30 of them to scam people into helping out with Bruno, each website little more than window dressing to legitimize a fake movie studio and place a veil between the victim and the true production house.


NOT ALL BLOGS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Don’t get me wrong, there are bloggers who are worthy and have elevated themselves beyond the term “blogger” to “journalist” .. The Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, Engadget and others have readership that has gone far beyond it’s old media competition. Perez, for example, has more readers in a day than most supermarket tabloids have in a week – combined.

Leo Laporte‘s TWiT network of podcasts reaches 100s of thousands of listeners in a week, more than some newspapers, magazines or radio stations.

But they are the exception to the rule, the cream that has risen to the top, the wheat that has separated from the chaff. And we, as internet users, have done the excepting, the rising and the separating. We have chosen who is reliable, honest and believable. We have organized ourselves into tribes to follow and read those we trust.

I BLOG, THEREFORE I AM

The problem is, without the legitimacy of audience demanded by media directors for events, they are left filling the hallways with legions of those who serve no purpose other than to legitimize themselves.

Some bloggers, notably in Vancouver, openly admit to this sort of gaming of the system. Boris Mann of Urban Vancouver has defended his site’s scraping and republishing of content by saying it was a means to help bloggers gain access to events.

“Many people benefit from the ability of UV to help generate “press” credentials, for everything from music awards to the Olympics,”
he said.

And as we head towards the Olympics, a legion of new media pioneers has banded together to petition for access to the events.

Is it really necessary? Do we need to expend security and technical resources for hundreds or thousands of other media who legitimize themselves with a simple “.com” and a printout of blog entries?

This is not to say that blogs and new media should be shut out, they have a place at the table and need to be involved in the conversation.

The question is: with the slowing of the influence of old media what criteria will be used to determine which blogs become accredited and which are just crowding the hallways, and wasting resources?

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