Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's A New Day for New Media Too

Today is a new day for Americans for an obvious reason--the first ever African-American President, a new sense of hope after what has felt to many like an 8-year free-fall, and just an overall feeling of happiness and excitment at a time when many people have little else to feel happy or excited about. But enough said about that--there are thousands of bloggers out there who are, at this moment, writing about the inaguration much more eloquently than I could so I'll leave it at that. Except for this: Obama you ROCK and I'm so psyched that you're finally in the house!!

But you know my one-track mind never strays far from my fixation with social media, and today, to me, is an historical day for social media too. In years past, the inauguration went down like this: you could be one of the lucky few (thousand) to be able to attend the festivities in person, you could watch it on TV, you could listen to it on the radio and you could read about it the next day in the paper.

Today, however--wow. First thing I did when I woke up was turn on the TV to see what's going on down at the mall. Had to surf around for a few minutes--somehow we fell asleep watching something on the channel that Jerry Springer is on at 9 am, so I got momentarily distracted with that. Then turned to one of the major news channels and got commercials. Ditto another. Then finally found a station actually covering the event--a reporter was talking about how Obama doesn't drink alcohol and his favorite comic is Spiderman. Interesting, but what I really want to know is how cold is it downtown, how traffic is, how many roads are closed or blocked off--you know--news about the actual event.

Then I checked my phone--no voice messages (thankfully; I am not a big phone-talker), but an email from my husband telling me that CNN will be streaming live video of the festivities on Facebook all day, and a twitter stream full of tweets about the inauguration: some from people who were downtown at that moment, some from people heading into DC, and some from people who were stuck at work but tweeting their thoughts about the event anyway. You can check out the #inaug09 twitterstream to see just how many people tweeted about the experience and what they were saying.

Then I surfed on over to the news sites: CNN.com was offering not only traditional coverage (albeit enhanced with multimedia features such as video, photos and a reader poll about their take on today's festivities: historic or overhyped?), but their iReport section featuring user-generated stories, videos, photos, and blog posts. Not to mention, of course, the streaming video on Facebook. Washingtonpost.com had, in addition to its regular content, two reporters "Twittering," a reader photo pool on Flickr, and a live blog. And msnbc.com's traditional offerings were augmented with reader photos, videos and stories.

Here's the thing: there's no way traditional media could capture this day in the 630° fashion all these user-generated and multimedia features make possible. Take the streaming video thing on CNN: while live video is nice, live video that's enhanced with your Facebook friends' real-time commentary--well, to quote MasterCard's ads: priceless.

And here's the other thing: if today doesn't prove the extent to which social media has gone mainstream, I don't know what will. What does this mean for association folks like me? This is what members are coming to expect in their daily lives; how long can we really continue to kid ourselves that they'll remain content with our traditional one-way communications to them?

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