MPA Digital Conference: ‘Magazines Are Not About Providing Cafeteria-Style Content’

In the day’s final panel, “Magazines and Social Media: What Makes Sense for Your Brand,” big-winner and’s general manager Michael Silberman moderated a discussion between Cynthia Farrar, founder and producer, Purple States TV, and Associated Content’s CEO, Geoff Reiss. The group focused on the place of citizen journalism in the online world of magazines.

“We’re magazine guys because we’re control freaks,” Reiss said. “The question comes down to, how do you get comfortable with a different kind of content? … There’s a risk to what is perceived as giving the inmates the keys to the asylum.”

Associated Content, which features almost 400,000 pieces of content, employs a complicated series of metrics to determine what it should “bid” on an article. While the quality of citizen journalism might be less than an article from a “professional” writer, “capturing the passion that different readers bring is important,” Reiss said.

Farrar, whose site tapped five random individuals to cover the presidential primaries through a series of online videos, said her stars “became characters” and the audience responded.

She also stressed that publications need to understand their place when using citizen journalists. “Magazines are not about providing cafeteria-style commentary,” she said. “They have a shape and we need to preserve that.”