Get Social or Perish, Says Hearst-Columbia Changing Media Landscape Panel


Photo By Ted Regencia, @tedregencia

This year, editor in chief of Black Enterprise, Derek Dingle, started Tweeting. It wasn’t during a press conference. It was during a boxing match. He was watching Bernard Hopkins, who was about to become the oldest heavyweight champion ever, cheering him on through the social network.

Readers joined his playful oldies-take-on-young-bloods banter. “Yeah,” one of his followers responded. “We’re going to show those young guys.”

“I was getting an immediate response from readers,” says Dingle, “developing connections with individuals, and a network.” In a flash, he got it.

“This is a skill set all of us have to have to be competitive,” says Dingle.

It was an opinion shared by the panel gathered Tuesday night at the Hearst-sponsored Changing Media Landscape Panel moderated by Professor Sree Sreenivasan, at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The new social set is something fellow panelist Leila Cobo, director of Latin content and programming at Billboard has not only embraced herself, but something she now requires of job candidates.

How has her job changed in the past two years? “I work twice as much as I used to,” she says, telling a story of a recent job applicant who had mighty writing chops but just didn’t grasp the necessity to work across multiple platforms.

“You have to write to for the dot com, and for the dot biz. You have to Tweet. You have to go around with a camera in your pocket,” says Cobo.

Yes, years ago, she concedes, we all thought this was tacky, to go and take a picture at an event and Tweet it.

But times have changed, as have readers.

“Now,” she says. “I have to do that. Everybody’s expected to do everything. You can’t think it’s beneath you. That’s what the readers want and expect. We have the access and have to present that.”

Fellow panelist Angela Morgenstern, senior vice president at Current TV, concurs. “You really can’t be focused on one discipline. You have to be on multiple platforms.”

The challenge, adds Cobo, is creating content for different audiences. Magazine readers seek a different experience than website and social-media browsers (Billboard’s site attracts 10 million uniques a month, says Cobo).

Yahoo has a different challenge, says panelist Jai Singh, editor-in-chief of Yahoo Media Network. The site wrangles 180 million uniques per month but is now endeavoring to be seen as more than an aggregator. Singh is charged with helping the site to develop a unique voice. The questions he faces day-to-day, are “How can we better aggregate? How can we better curate? How can we better originate?”

Yes, that was originate, to give you an idea of where that train is trying to go.

Today’s journalist has to learn how to deliver content to both print and web.

Magazines are still here and carry cache, suggests Cobo.

“People care about the magazine—what it signifies. Sources still want to be in the magazine,” she says.

“I’m more optimistic than I was this time last year,” said Mark Miller, who exited Newsweek to become editor of the non-profit news site, The Texas Tribune. “It’s clear that people still need information and want information.”

As for us, all this ball-juggling sounds a tad tiring. Jacks and Jills of all trades, masters of none?

See how the Twitter chat went here (#cjhearst) or watch the video coverage here.