HighTalking: Paul Gillin Interview About New Media

Paul Gillin, social media maven and author of the books “The New Influencers” and “Secrets of Social Media Marketing,” understands the rapidly changing world of web marketing better than most pundits. He’s insightful, practical, and plain-speaking.  Probably because he used to be a journalist – and a good one. Paul is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and blogger.  He is also the principal of Paul Gillin Communications. He recently agreed to answer our questions about social media in communications and marketing.

Pauls latest book.

Paul's latest book.

HighTalk: Are we moving to a point where every company is going to be a publisher?  Is that a good thing?

Paul: We’re already there, and yes, it’s a very good thing. Anyone who wants to be a publisher today can reach a global audience. That doesn’t mean they will; they have to build awareness for the information they publish. But the traditional barriers that have forced institutions to publish through a few gatekeepers have fallen and anyone can take advantage of the Internet to influence issues that are important to them. Some people complain that the Internet is a font of misinformation. They’re right, but trusted institutions are quickly emerging that filter the bad from the good. Free societies benefit from the availability of information. More information is always better than less. That’s why social media is such an important development.

HighTalk: What are the most common mistakes that companies make when they finally decide to start blogging, Twittering, and using other social media platforms?

Paul: Viewing these tools as channels to deliver a marketing message. People don’t want to hear marketing messages and they’ve been very successful at screening out unwanted pitches. They use their Tivos, iPods, spam filters and personal home pages to choose the information they want to consume. If you think of the Internet as just another way to deliver a product pitch, people will quickly shut you out. This is the main reason businesses fail with Web publishing.

HighTalk: Is traditional advertising dead?  If so how will media companies survive?

Paul: Traditional advertising isn’t dead, but it’s in long-term decline. As I noted above, people don’t want to hear advertising pitches; they want to consume information that educates, entertains and engages them. This will force advertisers to be more creative in delivering their messages in a format that engages the customer. The ads have to be something people want to see. Advertising success will increasingly depend on creativity, not how much money you spend.

A lot of media companies won’t survive this change in their current form. Those that do will probably become smaller and more specialized in niche markets. They’ll have a large number of specialty channels that relate to narrow topics of high interest to a small number of people. Media companies can thrive in the future, but it will be with a cable TV model, where their markets are broken up into many specialty segments.

HighTalk: If you had to share one golden rule for companies participating in social media  — what would that rule be?

Paul: Be helpful. Educate your audience. Give them something useful, entertaining or engaging. Think like a publisher.

HighTalk: Have you discovered any interesting new social media tools in the last few months that show promise?

Paul: Not in the last few months. The pace of innovation has slowed after an explosion of new activity over the last five years. We’re digesting and sorting through the tools we’ve got and we’ll build on the most promising candidates. The most interesting new tool of the last two years has been Twitter. We’re just now figuring out how we will apply microblogs like Twitter to our daily lives. Twitter is a platform, and platforms are the basis for further innovation.

HighTalk: What are two things that newspapers can do better online?

Paul: 1. Localize their content and their advertising to reach the largely untapped markets of geographic communities.

2. Democratize journalism. Reporting shouldn’t be strictly a top-down process. Make readers part of the story and incorporate their contributions into the product. That doesn’t mean just letting them comment on stories. They need to become deputized members of the editorial staff.

Read our HighTalking interview with Josh Bernoff, co-author of “Groundswell”

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