Social Life-support

8 Feb

 Social media life support for mainstream?

 A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.

— James Madison

Social media is designed to be just that: social. Mainstream media is not social. Yet. But as we are beginning to see (and here) the conservative giants of the media industry are pushing hard to engage their audience on a social level.

Social online media- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and Blogs – are major players in all demographics. These technologies have the ability to shift the balance of power to a more user focused version of mainstream media. They have become vehicles integrated into the mainstream for networking, news consumption and commenting.

Experts are conflicted in their expectations for the role social media will play as further integration occurs between mainstream and online.

Television remains a tightly controlled, conservative medium of communication. Yet the interactivity and back channel chatter of social network sites is starting to play a bigger part.

Ideas such as peer-influenced viewership and network platform-ing are emerging as pathways to make television more social. Peer-influenced viewership is in its infancy. Designed to make television consumption more social and interactive, it encourages users to mul­ti­task with their lap­tops while watch­ing television. A whole new generation of devices will bring the internet into the shared living areas of the home, see Boxee (Hyperlink–, LinkTV (Hyperlink—, and Intel Software Network (Hyperlink– Allowing television to function as a network platform to other forms of media will be integral to the success of internet television in reaching large demographics. Access beyond the walls of an individual website allows more users to engage.

Running news feeds and integrating video players for live streaming of events and content offer hints of what shared digital experiences might progress towards. Exclusive coverage and immediate user feedback are only just beginning to take on real calls to action.

In Australia, recent examples of mainstream integration of social media can be seen on Q&A on the ABC ( Hyperlink—, (PHOEBE I WANT TO GET YOUR INPUT HERE AS TO WHICH ELECTION COVERAGE MEDIA I SHOULD FOCUS ON)

I recommend checking out the Mashups (Hyperlink— for some excellent examples of how mainstream footage can be reconfigured through online media to take on new user driven meaning.

 One of the key ways mainstream and social are working together is in breaking news. On the 2010 Election night the tweets were running thick and fast, being broadcast regularly in the mainstream media. Candidates updated their Facebook pages regularly along the campaign trail, yet many have sat untouched since the election (for more see Phoebe Hooke’s article here.) (hyperlink–!/pages/Tony-Abbott/216342268645?ref=search,!/pages/Julia-Gillard/161674172327?ref=ts). The role immediate feedback will play in future broadcasts in uncertain but what is for sure is that it will be tapped into more effectively in each subsequent election.

The convergence of old and new technologies poses many opportunities – but just as many problems. Social online media is able to supplement coverage for free, waving costs associated with travel, technical equipment and reporters. Mainstream news is able to give breaking stories immediate coverage by borrowing from social media, using eyewitness accounts and the mobilizing efforts of users.

In depth analyses are still important. The danger is that rumours and inaccuracies will overtake quality reporting for the sake of speed. However, it also means important stories which are not receiving mainstream coverage can be brought to attention. Have a look here for how Twitter is redefining the concept of ‘breaking news’ (hyperlink–

The 2007 Election saw Labour under Kevin Rudd use a web campaign, not to engage in a dialogue with more voters, but to gain mainstream media publicity for being in touch with younger voters. The Liberal Party under John Howard choose to mostly ignore social media to its peril. In the 2010 election politicians have come a long way towards the beginnings of social media use. They still have a long way to go to using it effectively. Each platform attracts different kinds of content and discussion. Mainstream media wants to move online and integrate the online into the mainstream. To do this effectively the mainstream media will need to alter content styles, choices of what constitutes newsworthiness and the level of active response to have any success. A huge gap still exists between mainstream media and social media but it is closing fast.

Also recommended:

How fast is fast-tracked?  (Hyperlink—

Another Twitter Feed Gets CBS Comedy Deal (Hyperlink—

The future of media: Mainstream press + social media (Hyperlink—



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