I had the opportunity last night to listen to remarks by Gary Silverman, marketing correspondent for the Financial Times. Silverman is bright, witty and engaging, and provided a no-holds barred look at his job and his world. Among other things, he talked about sources, what’s on and off the record, and how he "sells" a story to his management.
What caught my attention, though, were his comments about mainstream media and the rise of the citizen journalist. While admitting that he routinely reads Gawker and a few other Web sites, Silverman admitted he and his ilk are far too focused with scooping their mainstream competitors than worrying about what a blogger might say or do.
That struck me as a potential fatal flaw. While the FT certainly has to worry about what the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BusinessWeek, Fortune and others are covering, they really should wake up and figure out why bloggers are becoming more and more powerful. This is especially true when one considers their future readers aren’t turning to the ‘usual suspects’ for their news and information. So, while the FT might be waging a smart and strategic battle for readers in 2006, their generals may not be aware of the ‘new’ army gathering strength on the other side of the hill.
The Journal has a very smart strategy vis-a-vis the blogosphere. Their law journal reporter, for example, will routinely post questions wsj.com and wait for some of our country’s top legal minds to weigh in with opinions. He’ll then craft a follow-up print article analyzing their views. It’s a great way to marry traditional and digital content.
It seems to me mainstream media like the FT should stop worrying about today’s competitors and start figuring out ways in which to involve tomorrow’s reader. If they don’t act soon, traditional media may be facing a journalistic version of Waterloo.