A packed crowd piled in to the Tiger Bay luncheon today at Michael's on East in Sarasota to talk about media. Some of my favorite people ever led the discussion about the history, present and future of news media. Biz 941's Susan Burns was the moderator and asked some very relevant and timely questions of panelists Diane McFarlin, Publisher at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Media Group; Matt Walsh, Editor and CEO of the Observer Group; and This Week In Sarasota's own Matt Orr (hence the R'orr, if you didn't get it earlier).
Burns started off the discussion with four questions and asked for the audience to respond by a show of hands.
One: How many people read a newspaper today? Almost the entire room raised their hands.
Two: How many people read a news story online today? Again, almost the whole room raised their hands.
Three: How many people looked at Facebook today? About half the room raised their hands.
Four: How many people read news on their smartphones today? About three-quarters of the room raised their hands.Burns mentioned that five years ago, she would have never asked the last two questions. In an audience that seems to be getting younger and younger every year, Tiger Bay has traditionally been a group of older Sarasotans, politically active and very educated about community events. It was remarkable to see how many in the room were now actively engaged in social media and the digital media world.The panel discussed whether print media was a dying medium and most agreed no; however, they did admit that it is transitioning and merging into including other media such as online editions, apps for tablets and blogging. McFarlin noted that 90 percent of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's business is still print, but the fastest growing portion of the business is digital. Last month, the H-T had more than 1 million unique visitors to its website and 1.5 million page views on social media. The subject of media scorn came up and all agreed that at times the media deserves the public scorn it receives due to a lack of objectivity and sensationalism at times. But then, what about social media?
There is no objectivity there, admitted Orr. The crowd burst into laughter when he said in the cutest Southern drawl,"I'm telling you now, don't trust me y'all."Trust me, social media is here to stay and is quickly becoming at least as (and possibly more) influential that other media out there. In a world where presidential campaigns are tweeting pictures and news is breaking on Facebook and Twitter, people are taking notice and it is a brave new world. So keep writing, bloggers, keep tweeting and keep posting. In a world where, as Walsh said, "Everyone wants to be famous and to create shock value," hopefully the educated and researched voices are the ones that get heard the most, but in this brave new social media revolution, it seems we have all become journalists and public relations mavens. The question remains, does this bring us closer together as a community or tear us further apart? Chime in---I would love to hear your thoughts!!!