Don’t put a grave stone on social media just yet

The is shocking: Social media is no mo. In the post, Steve Rubel proclaims that social media is dead. This has caused a stir in the blogosphere.

But you have to read the post to get what Rubel is saying.

There’s no point in differentiating any more. The story that Dan Gillmor chronicled in his landmark 2004 book We the Media has only accelerated. We are all one and it’s silly to classify us into two different species.

Rubel’s point is that with established publishers joining the conversation, and conversational publishers evolving into going business concerns, Packaged Goods Media and Conversational Media are converging.

There’s some truth there.

But it’s worth noting that what we now call social media is nothing new. Back when I was a young buck just starting out this business (11 years ago), we called social media virtual community. The web, with its hyperlinks and personal-publishing frameworks is by design social. In a way, you can’t enter web publishing without joining the conversation. It’s foolish to try and be a PGM publisher on the web. What 2006 wrought was a lot of light bulbs going off in a lot of publishers’ heads: “Well, hell, I ain’t growing audience no more with my shovelware. Guess I better get me a blog or two.” (And really, for most newspaper publishers, the thinking hasn’t gotten much more beyond that so far).

So Rubel is only half right. In a way, we’ve always been converged. In another, PGM publishers still only see through a glass darkly and haven’t fully grasped what it means to participate in the online world. In that last respect, Rubel is overly optimistic. It gives PGM publishes way too much credit for getting it and doing it.

The other key factor to 2006 was the vast improvement in conversational tools and models. The thing to keep in mind here though is that the web is yet but a mere decade or so old. The personal computer didn’t really become a household appliance until 20 years or so after is introduction. If that is the adoption rate of the web, what we know of the online publishing is probably only about half of what it will be. It’s a little early yet to say it’s all figured out and PGM and CM are so intermingled that there is essentially no difference.

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