Inside Old Media and the role of the editorial gatekeeper

I'm enjoying the recent blogging activity from Scott Karp of Atlantic Monthly on "Old Media".  What's particularly refreshing is that his comments are coming from within old media itself, a position shared by few who criticize it.

He sits in a difficult position riding the fence between shouting at the people around him who are slow on the uptake in New Media and representing those same people in their defense against boisterous New Media idealism.  We need more people like Scott to step up and speak out on the things that matter to them.  Otherwise, the blogosphere will just keep barking at the same dogs until everyone gets bored and goes back to watching TV.

That said, I have to challenge a notion that keeps coming up in his viewpoints. 

Scott asks in his last post, "as Old Media gatekeepers fade, who will ultimately take there place? Will it be thousands of micro-gatekeepers (oh, my head hurts), or will there emerge a handful of new uber-gatekeepers (like the three TV networks)?"

Insistence that there's an editorial gatekeeper required in the media model is going to hold Old Media back from embracing New Media at any truly valuable level.  The editorial gatekeeper is a role that won't go away, but it's importance is quickly fading.

In Old Media, you have a whole team of people thinking about things like the table of contents all day long.  If those same people spent all that time thinking about how to engage with the audience online instead, I'm certain you'd see a more dynamic response to your brand in short order.

The traditional editor isn't a cornerstone in the media model anymore.  The traditional editor needs to start writing that damn book he or she has been wanting to write since college or to at least get on the blog train.  The voice is now coming from the web site UI, the software engineer and his clever tricks, the community itself and what they contribute, and the product managers who drive the development roadmap.


Re: Inside Old Media and the role of the editorial gatekeeper
by Scott Karp on Fri 20 Jan 2006 05:42 PM EST

Thanks, Matt, for understanding. The fence I’m riding is starting to feel more like a bucking bronco.

I agree that the Old Media conception of an editorial gatekeeper is quickly losing relevance –- when I say there will be gatekeepers, I’m not suggesting they will use the traditional model. My point is that media can’t function without some type of gatekeepers –- otherwise you have complete entropy, with people awash in random information. I think that influential bloggers like you are becoming gatekeepers –- my site will get more traffic from this post.

And you’re right that the gatekeeping needs to be a far more collaborative and (where effective) a more technology-driven process, which in the blogosphere it inherently is. But the sense I get from some (not all!) of the commentary I read is that it’s going to be a free-for-all (like Digg), and I just don’t see how this is going to be workable for most people.

So yes, we should embrace new models of gatekeeping – but let’s call a spade a spade.

P.S. Requiring registration to post a comment is a form of gatekeeping -- keeps the junk out, but may not let all of the good stuff in -- everything's a trade-off.


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