The November monthly social event featured a panel of local digital leaders discussing how they are continuously adapting to online trends like social media and mobile marketing. The discussion included Mike Coleman, VP Digital Media for azcentral.com, Russ Hill is the VP Product Development for KTAR.com and Joe Hengemuehler, News Director at KNXV/15.  The talk was moderated by Tim McGuire, Frank Russell Chair of Journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. As a journalism graduate working in Internet marketing, the conversation was especially interesting to me.

The chat started with the question, “How are your jobs different now from five years ago?”  One thing the entire panel could agree on: their jobs are all very different at this point in time, due to advances in digital trends. With the rise of users on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, news is being delivered as it happens. Hengemuehler explained the difference in the deadline, or lack thereof. “The deadline is dead,” he said. “The deadline is now.”

Coleman, who has been working with azcentral.com for more than a decade, said that the biggest change has been the number of people responsible for the digital aspects of the publication. Five years ago it was a very small number, and now, almost everyone has a responsibility for digital parts of azcentral.com.  Hill added that the job no longer ends when the radio show ends – you have to keep the conversation going through digital channels, like social media and mobile marketing. “If you disappear from the public arena, you won’t get ratings,” he said.  All of the panelists agreed that along with their positions, the audience has also changed.  No longer are media outlets after eyeballs, they are after news consumers.

When McGuire asked the panelists to speak to the matter that content is no longer king, there was some debate among the group.  Hill proclaimed that it is true – content is no longer king.  “Content is already out there,” he said. “KTAR is good at opinion. You need unique content to have a chance.”  But both Coleman and Hengemuehler disagreed, proclaiming that content is indeed still what is most important.

McGuire then asked about multiple platforms – should they be married or should they be separate entities? Hengemuehler said, “People aren’t looking for a push.  They want to interact.”  Coleman said it is imperative to use one to promote the others.

Hill added that is a shame that someone in the media industry did not invent Craigslist or Google, though it is the innovators dilemma. Why would we give all of that information away for free when people were paying media outlets to provide it and supply it?  Hill went on to say that he believes the recession was actually good for traditional media, as it has caused more and more companies to think like a start-up. “We are in the middle of a massive media revolution,” he said, which he compared to TV being invented.  “We need to stop asking questions and start finding answers,” Hill said.

One of the final questions McGuire asked was a loaded one – “Is mass media dead?”

Hengemuehler said, “Yes and no.” He thinks mass media is redefined, as social media is becoming more and more prominent. Coleman’s two cents alluded to “no,” as advertisements are still driving the mass media.  And Hill? “It’s already dead.” He believes everything is going to be niche specific when it comes to media.

Something all of the panelists agreed on: the times, they are a changing.  And in terms of media, no one is completely sure where things are headed – but everyone is working very hard to figure it out.  Hengemuehler said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

In addition to the wrap up post, I’d like to include a short interview of Mike Coleman about azcentral.com in the digital age by my colleague, Michael Schwartz and I, before the panel discussion.

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