September 17, 2010 |
Do you believe in the power of social media? Of course you do if you are reading this post now because people who read this blog are mostly related to the online crowd in this way or another. But the truth is that the mainstream media still make more difference when it comes to promoting a product (even if it is an online service like Twitter) or turning an online celebrity into a world-famous personality that everyone talks about.
Clever PR people do know about the power of social media and they do have bloggers on their distribution lists so that they could send the press releases to the relevant blogs to reach the online audience with the voices of respected bloggers that their readers frequently trust more than some TV anchor who is not even presenting their own opinion and instead often relies 100% on impersonal editors.
But does that mean that these very PR people have removed journalists working in traditional media (both print and TV) from their distribution lists? Of course not: these contacts are still the most valuable and a PR agency that can get a product to a national TV show or New York Times will definitely enjoy a substantial success and appreciation from their customers. The reason is simple: traditional media is still way more powerful than social media in reaching mainstream audience and it is definitely the mainstream audience that represents a huge market while in social media you can usually only reach early adopters with your products.
Of course it is obvious that many companies want to employ this power of traditional media for their purposes and build a strong demand for their products and services. Traditional media is also great in delivering news to the vast majority of the population: while some people do want to get their news faster than anyone else on Twitter, most are quite happy with getting to know what happens in the world from their traditional evening news without browsing any news sites on purpose. And given the close contact of traditional media with people, there’s one thing that I can hardly understand: why is it that the traditional media does nothing to solve some of the worst technical problems?
Have you ever visited a friend or a family and happened to turn their pretty old desktop on to maybe check your email or show them how to use Flickr to upload their family photos for everyone to see immediately instead of having to arrange for special family gatherings with the single purpose of watching photos from their last vacation? If yes, I am quite certain you have frequently seen Internet Explorer 6 as a default browser on such computers – and could not help but advise an upgrade because this is hardly a secure browser any more.
Of course if you went on to actually upgrade the browser yourself, I am quite certain your friends or family are now running a later version of IE or most probably the latest version of Firefox instead of that outdated browser. And this was a good thing to do because you have helped make the online world more secure. But what if you decided to simply offer your advice without actually implementing the update? Chances are the computer still runs the same outdated browser at least for two simple reasons: the owners hardly realize the dangers involved and probably don’t even know how to actually implement the update you suggested.
I guess no one will doubt these days that the sixth version of Internet Explorer can hardly be recommended to use due to numerous security flaws that have been fixed in later versions of the Microsoft’s browser. And the topics of this or that flaw that can affect security in a certain manner are frequently visible on Twitter or on news sites like Digg – because people online do pay attention to the problem and try to educate those around us.
And traditional media does not fully ignore the browsing problems: I am quite certain you frequently hear stories about Microsoft and their monopoly in browsers and European Union demanding the company to offer a user a choice of the browser to use. Yet I have never heard anything about how insecure Internet Explorer is though it could definitely be turned into a story quite easily: just discuss the latest malware taking advantage of some flaw, point out that the only way to a more secure online experience is using an up-to-date browser and explain how easy such an update can be executed (and probably demonstrate exactly how). What could be simpler than that? I know that this may not be as exciting as yet another report from a European court but is it not useful? I have a feeling that it definitely is so why not pay a little attention to it now and then to eventually ensure IE 6 market share drops to virtually nothing?
Another problem I can see is that mainstream media does not really promote legal content consumption as opposed to piracy. Everyone knows that piracy is a huge problem for content producers but I have a feeling that TV and print editors do little to tell people exactly why it is a bad idea to simply download a movie for free and what legal alternatives exist. Instead, we keep listening to various stories about The Pirate Bay and its endless (and seemingly unfair) persecution and some individuals facing multi-million charges for a single song downloaded illegally. Do these stories really make people go and buy their digital music and movies? Unfortunately I have a feeling that they only teach people the names of the websites they should go to if they want some free content – all the while hating the crazy music labels for acting stupid like this.
I know that these stories are news and people want to know about them but why not add something different, something that promotes understanding of why content cannot be free and where it can be consumed legally and at a reasonable price? I know that in the US there are household brands like iTunes or Hulu that most people are familiar with and when they realize that they are willing to pay for their content, they will head to these well-known destinations and make a payment. But for example here in Russia it is really way easier to download a movie, an album or a book for free from torrent (their names are also very frequently in the news due to the ever-lasting conflicts with copyright owners) than buy or rent it to consume legally. Believe me, it is quite a challenge to find a website where you would be able to pay for your content to own it legally while finding a torrent to download the same movie or book is way easier to do. So tell me why these websites are not promoted on TV additionally?
And there are definitely other issues that deserve attention from the mainstream media and that could have really been improved if some TV networks or talk shows chose to participate and contribute to improving the situation. Of course one of such issues is parental control. It is no secret that the vast majority of parents of teenagers are not tech-aware enough to realize all the dangers posed by the internet – let alone to implement any solutions that could help them monitor their children’s activities online and protect them from the numerous risks.
Obviously the first step that should be involved here is promoting understanding of importance of such control: just explaining the dangers and availability of the tools that will make the process actually work and point to some solutions available. If the problem is discussed again and again, more parents will realize that they actually need to do something and finally overcome their lack of technical skills and implement some sort of a solution in their family.
All in all, I have a feeling that there are quite a number of technical problems that should not be discussed online only because the people who really need to hear about such problems go online to visit a limited number of websites or just to check email or make calls in Skype – and chances are they never ever happen to visit Techmeme or Digg. TV news sections or talk shows could really help increase awareness of the most important problems – those that deal with security – and I am certain that the editors should really pay attention to such issues simply because they make the online life more secure and given that more and more people get connected every day globally, this is one of the most important things to be taken care of.