Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Social media promise and peril

Posted on | August 25, 2008 | No Comments

I came across a fabulous use of social media today, at, where else? The Economist.
They started last Fall and have completed six so far on topics ranging from rising food prices to education. I came across one in which the debate topic was energy conservation vs. innovation.
There’s a moderator, a guest writer and one person writing one side’s introductory piece and a person doing the same for the opposing view. Only in The Economist.
The problem? It’s too much. The introductory, scene-setting pieces are enormously valuable, written by experts in the field. The comments are rich in viewpoints, detail and intellectual rigor (for the most part). But in the aggregate it’s unwieldy. The energy debate, is, of today by my count, 32,000 words long, including the overview pieces. And I’m forced to wade through it, as there is no real navigation to speak of. This borders on the unconscionable. This is a train wreck of user-generated content running into reader time constraints and publisher best intentions.
Now perhaps there’s some Economist end game I’m missing, in which these get not only archived but turned into for-profit publications after careful editing. This would make sense if you could navigate the legal mine field surrounding the Ugen content.
In any case, it’s a great example of the promise and peril of social media and The Economist is to be commended for taking a first step here.

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No Responses to “Social media promise and peril”

  1. Loring Wirbel
    August 25th, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

    The Economist wants OCD people. The brave and maniacal few are in the middle of five 800-page tomes in print at once (I am right now), and think that books under 300 pages are for wussies. The OCD frantic folk think that web sites less than 14 layers deep, with 5,000-word essays on each layer, are lightweight. And social networking for this crowd is not about Twitter briefs and what Fred Flintstone is having for breakfast right now, it’s about Krugman and friends arguing the merits of CDOs. Be one of the proud, the few. Be OCD excessive-obsessive. And if 97 percent of your brethren can’t follow you, well fuck ’em, they’re morons and you can look snobbier than them.

  2. Ryerson
    August 26th, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

    OCD content fails in our ADD world.

    I’d comment on it in more detail, but I’m already bored.

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