It appears as if the mainstream media has gone from glaring at bloggers to embracing some user generated content, perhaps at the expense of their employees. I am beginning to suspect some outlets have realized they could tap in to people’s desire for 15 minutes of fame as long as things ran through an editor for quality control. About a year ago, I started seeing the press releases I sent to the arts editor appearing verbatim in the neighbor specific inserts of the newspaper. I would still get a calendar or photo listing in the paper proper and maybe even a feature story if I was lucky. I have had my releases appear verbatim in smaller weekly papers, but this was the first time it was happening in a major daily.
A little later a mechanism appeared on the newspaper website encouraging people to submit stories of their own. Then a heck of a lot of people were laid off at the paper. I don’t know if there was a casual relationship or not, but I began to wonder if my attempts at promoting my events was contributing to pink slips being issued.
Last night I saw a promo on television announcing a new program the station news department was starting involving citizen contributions. There was nothing on the website despite their encouragement to check it out for more information. I think it had something to do with weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if some point in the next five years they started soliciting people to submit video reports.
Last month Salon.com started Open Salon where they will actually pay people for creating content.
What does this mean for you?
Well first, people may expect more opportunities to interact and contribute in your events.
Second, you may never know when the newspaper critic is coming because it could be anyone in the audience and a totally different person from last time. On the other hand, if you have a popular show you may hear from 10 people who intend to review your show for the newspaper and want free tickets (and still have an unknown 11th person’s critique printed).
I also imagine that some artists will anticipate expectations and you may find the type of shows they create/offer for performance at your venue beginning to evolve. I have spoken about how people may not be content with the passive experience sitting quietly in a dark room watching a show any longer. As much as I expect audiences to demand more, I also expect artists to start to provide more. As always, some will do it better than others.
In the short term though the implications of media outlets using exactly what you send them are that you better be making a compelling case for attendance. No longer are you trying to convince a writer your event is worthy of a feature story or review and depending on them to conduct interviews and recast your event in an interesting manner. Now what you write has to do both these things. You may not have the alternative of writing two releases, one for the editor and one for publication as is. I have had an editor take a single press release, assign a reporter to follow up to generate a story and forward it to be printed verbatim by the newspaper. It happened at least three times last year.
If you don’t know how to start writing compelling entries, you may want to check out my entry here. Because Artsjournal.com has changed the way they address their archives, those links to Greg Sandow’s blog don’t work any more. However, if you go to the May 25 -June 15, 2005 entries on his blog, you can probably find them without too much effort.