Yesterday at the Brite conference, one of the breakout sessions explored how we can navigate a world where everyone is a media company.

Matthew Quint, Associate Director of Columbia Business School, brought together four very different speakers to discuss the opportunities and fears of this future of content and curation.

During the hour session, we heard from:

  • John Mayo Smith, EVP, Chief Technology Officer at R/GA
  • Steve Rosenbaum, CEO, Magnify
  • Fredrick Townes, Founding CTO, Mashable
  • Professor Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Some of the key takeaways included:

The web is a village

Smith believes that the web is really a village at scale. We have our strong ties. But the impact of loose ties on marketing decisions is very very important.

Publicness used to always be around us. Privacy is actually new. Before the web and mass media, if you have a village, you’d imagine that everyone would know each other. But how much do you really know the people around you? You may see the small changes that are going on with them physicially, but you won’t see behind closed doors. How different is that than what we experience now with social media?

In fact, if we recorded everything going on in a small town, you can still have that info overload that we have now in our digital village.

What we need to do is to build the right tools. There are opportunities out there to find content to match your needs but we need to find ways to make it easier.

Curation is key

Devices are going to make more data, we are going to get more devices, and devises are going to start automatically creating data. This means that curation is extremely important. There is always a need to create a layer of filter to the data.

You need to try to expose what is meaningful. But what is meaningful? Rosenbaum doesn’t believe in the word quality. Some of the information we share is important to an individual but not others.

Part of being a trusted brand is to be able to recommend. You have to be a provider and a curator of content. This way you can open up conversation and still maintain control. It’s thinking of User Generated Content with a lens over top.

Lots of companies understand what needs to be done, and help others to do it but they are struggling themselves. Townes likened it to the cobbler with no shoes. They just don’t have the bandwidth to do it themselves.

Create for your community, not for you

When everyone can be a media company, you need to be more organised according to Sree. You can have best content in the world but you need to be able to promote it.

Though it isn’t usually seen by brands, it’s better to not constantly point to yourself but point to content elsewhere. Basically, it doesn’t matter how good your content is, if you don’t service the community people will not be as engaged with you.

There was a fear that Google would find a curation algorhytm and they would be able to serve us exactly what we need. But individuals want the trust points and the editorial filter.

When we start to automate we get in trouble. The point is to be interesting, and that’s the key to the way we create and curate.

But what does it all mean?

It seems that we’re still trying to find our way. Now that we are in information overload, we need to find our way through all of the data we’re presented. What struck me as the most interesting point boiled down to one about transparency.

When diving deeper into a world of large amounts of data, APIs are very important. If true transparency is the key to marketing, digital, social media and beyond, then APIs are the most transparent of all.

Why tell a story around data when you can let data tell the story itself.