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Web 2.0 Throwdown: Print vs. Post


There is a tremendous amount of interest in emerging media technologies in 2009. They are disrupting many areas of great interest – advertising, publishing, job searching, professional networking, military recruiting, charity fundraising, and political campaigning, to name a few. And in this economy, in this seeming moment of change, it is more important to keep up with trends in communications technology than ever before; that knowledge may be the difference between winning or losing a job, a contract, or even the leadership of a country.

Kate Michael is hosting an event called PRINT VS. POST on Wed, May 13th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in order to discuss some of these important issues with two great thought leaders: Andrew Keen of Berkeley, CA, and Peter Shankman from New York, NY.  Both are best-selling authors, both frequent keynote speakers, both incredibly outspoken and interesting, they will face off and discuss and debate issues related to new media and journalism, government, and politics for an hour. They’ll also be signing books and attending a charity after-party at local nightclub Lotus Lounge.

I’m really excited to be hosting such an important and timely event.  If you’re a writer, you need to attend. If you’re in public relations, you really need to attend. And if you’re a future 2010 Congressional campaign staffer, you super really need to attend, because now that the Obama campaign put new media on the radar, everybody wants in. And your knowledge will be useful. And from a learning and networking standpoint, getting a VIP ticketis the way to go – not only will you be able to attend the event in person, you’ll have a good chance of winning both of the author’s autographed books in a raffle, and will also gain access to the Newsbabes Bash for Breast Cancer afterwards, where you will see me, Kate, Andrew, Peter, and many media personalities having a great time!

Please click here and pick up a ticket before they’re all gone!!

Andrew Keen of Berkeley, CA has been called “the Antichrist of Silicon Valley” for his controversial views of Web 2.0 and its effects on society. His book The Cult of the Amateur is hated but well-read for its insight into how the democratization of data is changing everything about how we interact with one another and live our lives at their core. The demise of well-compensated experts, the influx of junk on the Web, and the accessibility of opinions over facts are just a few reasons that emerging Web 2.0 social technologies are destroying life as we know it.

Or are they? Peter Shankman from New York, NY is well known as a public relations maven from his days at AOL and his book Can We Do That? But more recently he has started the service best known as HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. Peter makes a living by using social tools that connect people to effectively link up journalists with sources (a.k.a. “hacks and flacks”) – and keep reporters and writers in business. Leveraging old school email newsletters three times a day with new media like blogging and Twitter, HARO is a platform to keep experts around for a long time to come.

So which is it? Is Web 2.0 destroying our culture? Is it deconstructing the very nature of books, of words? What are the effects on the future of mainstream media, of newspapers, of television and radio? What should students be learning in journalism schools, and should they even bother going anymore? And how might these emerging technologies affect how the 2010 mid-term Congressional campaigns are conducted? And what’s unique about Twitter that’s making it so popular right now?

Keen and Shankman will face off in an hour long discussion moderated by Washington, DC’s very own Dr. Mark Drapeau, a prolific writer, animal behavior scientist, and strategic consultant to the government on social media issues. He knows these guys, he’s read their books, and he knows how to push their buttons. And he’ll get the most out of them for the audience in order to answer the questions above, and your unrehearsed questions too.

When: May 13, 2009, 6:00 – 7:00 PM
Where: National Press Club

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Business Adaptation and the Biology of Failure


I’m not a professor, but here’s my business school metaphor for adaptation and survival: Wear a business suit and act calm at all times; evade local detectives, the FBI, and Mexican gangsters while you assassinate a heavily guarded Asian badguy inside a nightclub blasting Paul Oakenfold (in Korean, no less); do this while you hold your own chauffeur hostage;  catch flight home at LAX. But most businesses are far more complacent than the adaptive, erudite character Tom Cruise portrays in Collateral.

Traditional newspapers in major U.S. cities are filing for bankruptcy under selection pressure from the changing environment they failed to adapt to: increased media outlets, more online readers, and less advertising revenue.  Jeff Jarvis recently noted the stark differences between a modern company like Google and a failing one like the San Francisco Chronicle in a blog post he aptly named “Time Travel”.

As economist Paul Ormerod points out in his excellent book, Why Most Things Fail, patterns of business extinction and species extinction are very similar, with long periods of stability interrupted by large spikes of failure (a.k.a. “punctuated equilibrium“). One of Omerod’s theses is that while the future can be quite difficult to predict, experimentation in the present can help adapt to an uncertain future.  The benefits of genetic diversity in living organisms operate on the same theory, and are useful in practice.

Just the opposite of experimenting, media coverage of newspaper failure focuses on giant office buildings filled with cubicles and landline phones, lists of addresses where employees hand deliver products daily, and disruptions of pension plans and workplace friendships. But in biology and business, the nimble, innovative, and adaptive do well in turbulent times. Somewhat ironically, this line from Citizen Kane sums it up: “I don’t know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher, I just try everything I can think of.”

Unfortunately, most things fail. Nearly all of the species that have ever existed are currently extinct. The Rocky Mountain News was published for nearly 150 years, making people sentimental about its demise. Past success is irrelevant to survival, however. Dinosaurs roamed for millions of years, but their extinction made the rise of mammals possible. So too will new companies fill niches abandoned by failed ones.

Students should ask why business schools offer so many courses on economic theory, operations management, and accounting principles that teach about “doing” business, but don’t offer many courses about “thinking” business. Here are some of my suggested topics: (a) ecological niche theory, (b) coevolution, cooperation, and competition, (c) genetic diversity and adaptation in fluctuating environments, (d) network science and emergent behaviors of complex systems. Does your business school make Darwin required reading?

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