Arianna Huffington, Steve Case and Jay Rosen walked into a bar…
“I didn’t kill newspapers, darling.”
Arianna Huffington knows a good soundbite when she says one. Perhaps that’s why The Huffington Post co-founder quoted her own 2009 Webby Awards acceptance speech at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ conference in San Francisco yesterday. Ariantrepreneur (my new nickname for her) was at the4A’s conference to speak about their theme, Transformation 2010. Here’s a description of the conference from 4A’s site. To help, I’ve highlighted in this lovely hue some of my favorite jargon-y phrases:
It’s time for a transformation. Not just of words, but of actions. Of the ways of thinking that influence how brands communicate with consumers. About moving the mindset from disruption to partnership. Of even changing the ways that agencies conduct business and think of their products and deliverables.
Transformation 2010 is not just the amalgamation of the 4A’s Media and Leadership Conferences. It’s a unique opportunity to get everyone—managers, creatives, media, digital, production—into the same room at the same time to discuss the pressing matters of the day. Collaborate with and ask questions of one another. Listen to leaders who have first-hand experience in transforming their own businesses to meet the emerging needs of a new era. Be a part of the bigger picture, the solutions to the time-consuming age-old questions of monetization and evolution.
Well. You might expect a conference of ad agency types to have better, clearer, less trite copy. What’s it actually mean, what’s the conference about? A reasonable question. Arianna provided some perspective by revisiting her famous five words: “I didn’t kill newspapers, darling.” In that she captured the ever-growing gap between traditional media and digital media, and the need for various bridges to help consumers, content creators and advertisers walk (or even run) from single-minded media to social multimedia.
Arianna was there to help. Knowing she was speaking before the national trade association of the advertising agency business, Arianna worked the room with a tried but true formula: List + Alliteration. While she may have tossed off the old line, she unveiled some new ones as well: the 4E’s.
She charted the “4E’s” — engagement, enthusiasm, empathy and energy — needed to tap into the zeitgeist of the digital era that’s transforming the content business.
“This is the era of engagement,” Ms. Huffington said, then quoted musician Will.i.am’s assessment of the news climate, where consumers used to get news on the couch, and are now getting news on a “galloping horse.”
The second I heard the 4E’s I recalled a similar list from my AOL days. Back when Steve Case and Bob Pittman held company meetings dressed as the Blues Brothers and, yes, threw the requisite beer bashes on the lawn, Steve Case also talked about the 5C’s. This from a 2004 interview:
When I was trying to popularize the concept of the Internet — ten or 15 years ago — I came up with this concept of “the 5 Cs.” Services needed to have content, context, community, commerce, and connectivity. After that, when I was trying to think of what the key management principles were to build into the culture, I started talking about the Ps. The P’s were things like passion, perseverance, perspective and people. I think the people aspect is really the most important one.
I don’t remember much talk about the 4P’s, but the 5C’s were the backbone of many strategic discussions at AOL. Steve came up with this list in the early 1990s, and many of the words he selected are still relevant today. Looking at the 5C’s, 4P’s and 4E’s together, we can group them pretty easily.
Product: Content, Context, Perspective
Interaction: Community, Engagement
Audience: People, Empathy
Drive: Passion, Perseverance, Energy, Enthusiasm
Revenue: Commerce, Connectivity (Rupert Murdoch would add Content here as well)
These all add up to a social, digital media experience. While it is now mainstream, it is definitely not new. Different words in different times, but Steve Case was undoubtedly the godfather of social media. From Q-Link to AIM to AOL Chat… message boards, Member Directory, Hometown, AOL Journals and AOL Live… Steve Case and AOL paved the way for MySpace, Facebook, Skype, Flickr, Twitter, ChatRoulette and so many more. Arianna calls this the “Era of Engagement,” and she’s right. But this era dawned years ago with Steve Case and the 5C’s. It often seems his contributions are overshadowed by finger-pointing over the failed AOL Time Warner merger. Were there flaws and mistakes in his leadership? Of course. Make no mistake, though: Steve Case and AOL forever changed the way people communicate.
I should note that while I enjoy mocking jargon, I’m not entirely opposed to it. When we first started working on True/Slant we came up with our own jargon-y phrase for the news experience we wanted to create: Open Social News Exchange. It wasn’t really a list, there was no alliteration and the initials didn’t create a cute name (OSNE? Uh, no.). Still, each word meant something to us. We also talked about what’s most important to us, jargon aside: authenticity, credibility, transparency, intimacy, knowledge. These words are filters not just for our contributors, but also for marketers and our real-time advertorials, T/S Ad Slants. To us, true engagement means breaking down walls between news providers and news consumers, but it doesn’t stop there. It also means breaking down the wall between marketers and consumers. In this scenario the sixth C — credibility — is crucial. That’s where NYU professor Jay Rosen comes in. I found his post on Twitter today: Eight key terms for determining legitimacy in journalism.
Veracity, accuracy, transparency, intellectual honesty, currency, inquiry, utility. That’s where I would start in attempting to define legitimacy in journalism. Providers of news, information and commentary who devote themselves to those seven things are solid citizens of Legit-a-land.
I have to add one more, but you will probably hate me for it because it will strike you as jargon, and all journalists claim to hate jargon (but “lede” is okay, right?) Anyway, my eighth pillar of legitimacy is polyphonicity. I know: awful term! It means “more than one sound.”
Journalism to be fully legitimate needs to present a plurality of voices, not just one. I don’t mean to invoke the gods of balance. They are false gods. I mean to suggest that journalism isn’t a monologue. More than one person speaks in it. More than one angle is taken on the object.
I have to say, Rosen nailed it right down to polyphonicity. He’s applying these eight terms to legitimacy in journalism, but I think they go beyond. They are really 8 commandments for good citizenship in a social media world. These are the values that will make for productive social exchanges around news or any other subject.
As I thought today about Steve Case with his 5C’s and 4P’s as America first went online, Arianna with her 4E’s at the 4A’s, and Jay Rosen with his 8 Commandments for credibility, I got dizzy (hah) and then I embraced the polyphonicity. Plurality of voices, dialogue vs monologue, intimacy of engagement, this platform that is above all the great equalizer…
“I didn’t kill newspapers, darling.”