NYU Professor Jay Rosen Offers Advice to an Incoming Class of Journalism Students. He Should Offer the Same Advice to Advertising Students.
September 9, 2010 § Leave a Comment
MediaBistro’s Morning News Feed points to the remarks NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen, made to the incoming class of students at Sciences Po école du journalisme in Paris on September 2, 2010. His address, to “The Journalists Formerly known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation,” is a great read back over 250 years of cultural upheaval that begat the rise of professional journalism. Now, after 150 years of thinking and acting (and making money) one way, the so-called professional media class is being told to re-invent itself. In summary, Professor Rosen says:
“Seeing people as masses is the art in which the mass media, and professional media people, specialized during their profitable 150-year run (1850 to 2000). But now we can see that this was actually an interval, a phase, during which the tools for reaching the public were placed in increasingly concentrated hands. Professional journalism, which dates from the 1920s, has lived its entire life during this phase, but let me say it again: this is what your generation has a chance to break free from. The journalists formerly known as the media can make the break by learning to specialize in a different art: seeing people as a public, empowered to make media themselves.”
Rosen offers 10 pieces of advice (in bold print, below) to the incoming class of journalists to help them “break free” from the last media interval. It is advice that with a little work and some license we can make work equally for advertisers. Indeed, if we can’t make it work for advertisers something in the new media equation is broken.
1. Replace readers, viewers, listeners and consumers with the term “users.” “Users” is precisely the term for advertising audiences online. Why not consolidate audience terms in the same way as Rosen proposes as a step towards making advertising truly cross-platform.
2. Remember: the users know more than you do. A point Rosen borrows from media writer/reporter/commentator Dan Gillmor who recognized that the aggregate knowledge of his users is greater than his own. It is equally true of users as consumers. As the legendary David Ogilvy said, “The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.”
3. There’s been a power shift; the mutualization of journalism is here. There has always been a mutualization of advertising and marketing. Word of mouth is still the most potent advertising vehicle. The difference now is that media itself has become mutualized.
4. Describe the world in a way that helps people participate in it. Also from David Ogilvy: “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
5. Anyone can doesn’t mean everyone will. Jay Rosen refers to the one percent rule, coined possibly by the Guardian in the U.K., that suggests for every 100 users online, one will create, 10 will interact and the rest – 89% – will simply lurk. It is a formula that easily describes user behavior in response to advertising. It is nearly inviolable as advertising law. Accordingly, stop regarding digital new media in purely response-driven terms.
6. The journalist is just a heightened case of an informed citizen, not a special class. Journalists are paid to ask questions which any smart citizen can do, says Professor Rosen, admonishing the incoming class to steer clear of any notion that the public needs them more than they need the public. Do users need advertising? No, as far as users are concerned they don’t need advertising and would happily seek to destroy it. There is no quid pro quo between advertisers and consumers. Break free from that idea.
7. Your authority starts with, “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.” For journalists authority starts with, “I’m a witness to what’s happening and you’re not.” For advertisers authority starts with the strength of their product or service. “I can provide what you need or want.” Advertisers with authority make and keep promises.
8. Somehow, you need to listen to demand and give people what they have no way to demand. People will pay attention to what you think they need to know if they believe you are listening to them at other times. Mass media – nearly by definition - corrupted the listening skills of advertisers, who continue to try and dominate the conversation online. Advertising intrusiveness is not a virtue.
9. If your bid to be trusted, don’t take the View From Nowhere; instead, tell people where you’re coming from. Be transparent.
10. Breathe deeply of what DeTocqueville said: “Newspapers make associations and associations make newspapers.” Explains Professor Rosen:
“Alexis De Tocqueville, a Frenchman, visited the United States in the 1830s. Among the observations he made was: “newspapers make associations and associations make newspapers.” What I think he meant was: wherever people have a common interest and wish to discuss it, there lies an opportunity for a smart journalist.”
Ditto: wherever people have a common interest and wish to discuss it there lies an opportunity for smart advertisers.