Media lessons from Sydney Writers Festival: or what Wikileaks and Sneakerpedia have in common

SWF 2011
we've been warned: Paul Gilding, Naomi Oreskes, Curt Stager discuss acting on Climate change as Sam Mostyn facilitates

so Friday evening was spent at the brilliant Sydney Writers Festival at Sydney's Town Hall.  the two sessions, 'who's afraid of Wikileaks?' and the climate-change-themed 'you've been warned' had illuminating things to say on a diversity of subjects but I was particularly struck by what they had to say, explicitly or otherwise, on the subject on media.

a key element in the first session was a specific question posed to the panel on whether Wikileaks is a media organisation or a political organisation.  the panel were agreed in the main that Wikileaks is a media organisation…  that they exist to aggregate, organise and make available information for distribution.

the panel were of the opinion that Wikileaks is non-political in the sense that what happens as a result of the information they release is up not to Wikileaks but rather to those who consume its content.  Wikileaks were, the panel argued, political only in the sense that Assange is a fervent believer in transparency of information, and its ability to hold corrupt organisations and governments to account.

it occured to me that the idea of 'becomng a media organistion' wasn't limited to Wikileaks…  the model – of aggregating useful information and then distributing it – is essentially an owned and then earned media combo.  and any organisation could adopt it…

The greatest sneaker archiving project is about to begin; Footlocker's SneakerPedia

there are parallels to what Footlocker are doing with the rather glorious Sneakerpedia; aggregate information – with utility – into an owned media space.  then use that to stimulate earned media (3,300 Twitter followers and counting) … bought media could come later – amplifying Sneakerpedia's greatest hits or rarest items in print ads, or short form sneaker documentary content on TV, but it doesn't necessarily have to.  Sneakerpedia, like Wikipedia, is an owned and earned media combo – and that's all it has to be: the mechanics of media now not only permit that but in many ways favour it…

because bought media is developing a serious credibilty issue.  the rise of owned media and emergence of tangible earned media has put bought media – as exemplified by the ad – into the spotlight, and the glare seems to be hurting it…

in the second session of the writers festival, a wonderful panel consisting of Paul Gilding, Naomi Oreskes, Curt Stager, Sam Mostyn discussed the hard choices we have to make now to preserve our planet.  Oreskes described how the climate change movement had been undermined (like the anti-smoking lobby before it) by an argument of credible doubt.  the proponents had used bought media to amplify their message to a broad audience.

Oreskes was asked why the pro-climate camp hadn't adopted the same tactics?  her response was stark: "advertising exists to sell people things they don't need, scientists reject that [advertising] can be used to sell climate solutions" … the message is clear, bought media lacks the credibility of owned and earned.

this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with our industry – the reality is that we have shouted our messages to people for over half a century.  we have created as a result several generations of ambivalence towards our branded messaging, the result of which is now not only passive resilience from audiences, but outright rejection of not only the message but the media delivery channels themselves…

this point is important.  Channel 4 Chief Executive David Abraham noted in his RTS speech this week that according to Channel 4 research, "about two-thirds of all 'TV audiovisual content' viewing time – across TV, PC and mobile – will be 'tracked intelligently' in some way by 2020"… our working assumption should be that such tracking will only be able to be utilised if people permit us to use it.  if they are similarly minded to Oreskes, that may set up a tricky negotiation between our industry and our audiences.

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