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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who Controls Social Media?


From outside the publisher's world, no one should control social media from my blurred point of view. Speaking just as an outsider (my specialty) and everyday web surfer, I like to think everything "internet" is open and free with no underbelly of strategic plotting behind every damn piece of content to "hook" me into doing something that I probably really don't want to do in the first place.

Just let social media develop naturally and be formed (and, yes, controlled...if there must be any control) by those visiting for their own enjoyment and seeking like-minded folks.

But, realizing that many things (if not all) on the web are free due to a secret source of monetization coming from some damn hidden place, I have to put on my magic pragmatic glasses and peer into the sucky-sucky world of internet control for money, money, money. You know, advertising and marketing...with actual content coming in last most of the time.

So, going undercover inside the publisher's world with my magic glasses, I found some interesting insights into this topic from Matt Kinsman, executive editor at FOLIO magazine...Insight further honed from his attendance at the MPA's (Magazine Publishers of America) Social Media conference yesterday:

For Publishers, Who Are the Gatekeepers of Social Media?
Who gets the keys to the engine, edit, sales or marketing?

Ten years ago, as the prospect of monetizing Web sites started becoming a reality for publishers, different departments butted heads over prime real estate: editorial wanted it for content; sales wanted it for advertising; marketing wanted it for promotion.

Today, as the emphasis shifts away from publishers serving their audience on their own Web domain into places that are daily destinations (such as Twitter and Facebook), publishers are again faced with the question of who controls what (and it's even more important today because social media offers the chance to directly engage with--or alienate--your audience).

That was a key debate at MPA's Social Media conference yesterday. "Should all stakeholders be given the capability to tweet?" asked Matthew Milner, vice president of social media at Hearst, and moderator of a session called Who Controls Social Media at Your Magazine Brand? "And is the ultimate stakeholder necessarily editorial, or marketing, or could it even be the technology department, which may ultimately own the cost of social media?"

For Time Inc., social media is very much an editorial enterprise (last fall, a survey by The Wrap found that five of the 10 magazines with the most Twitter followers were Time Inc. brands). The publisher even maintains a team dedicated to fine-tuning Twitter captions. "Social platforms can be remade in your own image," said Jim Frederick, managing editor of Time.com and executive editor of Time.

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