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June 15, 2010

Getting Perspective: Why the Opinion Revolution Works for You

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Can I just take a moment to lament the decline of traditional media?

Oh, this again?

Just hear me out. I’m a blogger. It’s my prerogative to opine and get all emo on you — which is exactly my point.

Bruce recently gave the content creation department a glimpse of his predictions for the near future of Web content. It’s all moving toward opinion. Traditional news organizations of the last decade will be extinct in the next decade, replaced by heavy editorial and subjective analysis.

Excuse Me While I Cry About It

A reader has an abundance of choices for news reporting online. Raw fact can be found almost anywhere, and yet news readers are likely to choose large, established media organizations for this sort of information — though even then, they’re not safe to rest on laurels of fair and balanced reporting. For proof, check out CBS evening news anchor Katie Couric’s Twitter update about a political power couple’s separation:

Katie Couric on Twitter

I bet the obvious bias and emotion of that sentiment had Pulitzer rolling in his grave. And yet the truth is, an organization — especially the smaller ones with fewer resources to devote to breaking news — can’t do “just the facts” because opinion is what differentiates an offering and endears an audience. In order to survive, news organizations better have something original to say.

Problem is, the Olbermanns and Limbaughs of the world operate in an echo chamber, giving viewers and readers a self-fulfilling prophecy that does little in the way of enlightenment or education. Few and far between are a consumer’s choices for balanced analysis from any single offering.

And while remnants of old school, factual reporting still hang on, it’s being pushed aside to make room for challengers to fiery entertainment-news hybrids that dominate primetime timeslots. Just look at Campbell Brown’s decision to step aside so that CNN could have a chance to compete.

For a unique perspective of how news organizations intent on keeping “fair and balanced” alive are responding to the shift, tune in to SEM Synergy tomorrow on WebmasterRadio.FM. I interview Kate Gardiner, director of social media for PBS NewsHour, about upholding the mission of the fourth estate while engaging and interacting in the new media world.

Why This Works for Business

So now that I’ve had a chance to indulge in my futile pout, I’ll take refuge in the fact that at least there’s a lesson we marketers can take from this. We’re in a pretty good position considering it’s long been our objective to help our businesses and clients differentiate themselves from the competition through experience and insight. In terms of marketing material, we’ve traditionally provided a two-pronged content experience.

On the one hand, a business must offer objective facts on the industry or product and the needs an offering fills. By providing factual information to the savvy researcher interested in a product or service to meet their needs, a business can create a sense of trust and comfort in knowing the options available to them.

At the same time, a business must stand out among these options. Demonstrating a unique feature — be it of the product or service itself or of the organization that provides it — can provide an edge in the market. A strong sense of opinion can translate into perceptions of leadership, experience and authority. After showing an understanding of a consumer’s needs and laying out the facts of the solution, offer an analysis of the competition, explain how years of experience have fine-tuned the service, reveal why your offering goes beyond all other options through knowledge, quality, value or service.

Offer a strong perspective. Balance your opinion with fact so you’re viewed as fair and trustworthy. Use your blog and social media channels to broadcast your unique offerings, start conversations and position yourself as a thought-leader. Providing opinion is nothing new for marketers and business, so prop yourself up and prepare for the editorial content revolution.





6 responses to “Getting Perspective: Why the Opinion Revolution Works for You”

  1. @steveplunkett writes:

    really good article.. as usual. =)

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thank you, Steve. Had a little rant to get out. Tried to make it worth everyone’s time. :)

  3. Lisa Barone writes:

    As opinion rises, there will definitely still be a need for the fair and balanced. I look at Search Engine Land as a great example. They do pretty straight reporting over there but what really separates them from the pack and why they can steal attention from Mashable is the detail they’re able to go and their ability to find the real business angle. That’s what makes them stand out and where the value lies. When they report on something, they *really* report on it.

    For example, I was doing some research today on the new Twitter Places and, as TechMeme shows, it was covered by every outlet under the sun – Mashable, CNET, Guardian, PC Magazine, ComputerWorld, etc, yet they were all reporting the same 300 word story with no additional research or insight. Over at Search Engine Land, Matt McGee showed the real impact and broke it all down. That made their version way more sexy, even if there wasn’t too much opinion laced.

    Depending on your size, you’re going to play the game differently. The growth of self publishing has made it easier to share and spread opinion, but there’s always going to be a place for the fair and balanced stuff. Journalists don’t have to roll over in their graves just yet, they just have to learn how to use social media to push their content.

    er

    /rant

  4. Virginia Nussey writes:

    God you’re good – once again proving the value of informed opinion.

    Search Engine Land certainly stands out from the pack by offering the in-depth meaty stuff. Mashable is more focused on quantity and timeliness. And they’ve all got their own audience preferences and expectations to live up to.

    Journalists don’t have to roll over in their graves just yet, they just have to learn how to use social media to push their content.

    There’s a difference between getting eyeballs and visibility with social media and trying to get in with the the cool kids with emo Twitter updates that make me doubt your unbiased stance.

    If a news org positions themselves as fair and balanced, they shouldn’t forget their standards when ratings fall.
    If they want to change gears and share their personal opinions on the issues, they need to be transparent about what they’re doing otherwise the line is blurred in a dangerous way. Opinion parading as truth scares me.

  5. RP_Joe writes:

    The real power in Internet journalism is from the comments.
    If you have a audience that is good, by that I mean smart, articulate and knowledgeable about the topic, then the comments they make are very valuable.
    Its now a community. Wisdom of the crowds. Its not as good as a forum but its good. We are still in the infancy of this stuff. What is needed is a good way to organize the comments or a way to move valuable comments to the top. Often the comments can have more ideas or value than the article. But we have to sift through it. I believe there is room for improvement.

  6. Mike Mueller writes:

    Good article, Virgina.

    I think your post is about reputation as much as it is about traditional media vs. opinion. A business that blogs in a transparent, fair and balanced way about its industry–and even its own company–wins the reputation war, not to mention gains more followers.

    Traditional media outlets that once controlled the content and delivery of information are now scrambling to add “voice” to their substance (Can imagine Walter Cronkite tweeting as Katie Couric did above?). They are doing so because our technological age has given us immediate, unfiltered, transparent information. This is what we now expect.

    So, yes, our clients would be wise to think about how to offer opinion and facts in their communications. Their reputation depends on it.



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