Overheard this past week, straight out of the Traditional’s Handbook:
“Blogs? Nobody reads blogs. Everyone knows that blogs are just opinion.”
I know, I know. For anyone who reads blogs this statement is positively silly. But don’t underestimate the power in it. If such a statement goes unchecked within your organization, it will grow to have a life of its own, and prevent you, the corporate New Media Evangelist from doing your job. So rather than laugh at the statement, let’s analyze it. Then, perhaps we can find a way to diffuse it.
The roots of this argument are grounded in a reliance on journalists. To better understand their role, I went to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and found the following definition for journalism:
writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.
Traditionals believe that there is only one form of content worthy of print — the opinionless presentation of facts. And the only way to get an opinionless presentation of the facts? It’s through the writings of a professional journalist.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this argument, and I’ve had many conversations with other bloggers about it. “Don’t they realize that people are starved for opinion?” fellow blogger John Wall once said to me.
His question is great because it opens up a fascinating line of thought. Knowledge is more than fact. Facts devoid of opinion lack the color, perspective, and depth required to truly understand something. Perhaps, by the fact that journalism has deprived us of opinion for all of these years, that we yearn for it.
Therefore, opinion must be at the core of all knowledge. By adding opinion to fact, by collecting many perspectives on a subject, people build a foundation by which to derive their own conclusions…a thought that strikes fear into the hearts of the Traditionals!
Why? Because Traditional Marketeers don’t trust their customer’s ability to arrive at the “correct” decision independently. The Traditional believes that the only way a content consumer can arrive at an educated decision is to be spoon-fed media from a trained journalist who prior to that was spoon-fed by a marketeer.
The New Media Evangelist on the other hand has faith in customers. The New Media Evangelist expects customers to seek the opinions of others and to make their own decisions based on both fact and opinion.
At a certain point, the Traditionals are being hypocritical, because they too are human. In their personal quests for knowledge, they seek the opinions of others too. If pressed, the Traditional must admit that he or she has many friends who are experts in some field, hobby, philosophy, or skill. And at a certain point, it is much more efficient to pick up the telephone and ask a friend’s opinion than to search through a journalist’s sterile regurgitation of the facts.
So, the next time that a Traditional plays the Opinion Card, just ask them the following question: “Are you saying that all opinion is worthless?”
If they say say “No,” ask them to identify the people who have valuable opinions — along with those who don’t:-) Trust me, going down this path yields fascinating (and hilarious!) results.
If on the other hand they respond with “Yes,” make sure to look them in the eye and say “Thank You — for your opinion.”