Cathy Brooks talks about the Two Media, The Survival of the Newspaper, and Being a Geek


socialnerdia_cathybrooks_otherthanthatCathy Brooks is a journalist, creative media strategist, and host of the Social Media Hour live podcast. She blogs at Other Than That, which is also the name of her consulting firm, and she has worked for companies like Tech TV (now G4) and Seesmic. In last night's The Social Nerdia Show! I spoke with her about media, journalism, newspapers, technology, business, and much more. Cathy is not only highly entertaining, she is also incredibly insightful and thought-provoking.
Listen to the entire conversation with Cathy on the Flash player below. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes, stream from mobiles on Stitcher, and listen to upcoming shows LIVE on blogtalkradio.


Cathy's tagline for her podcast is 'it's not about the tools, it's about what you do with them,' and it very well reflects her views on technology. She has much appreciation and enthusiasm for "the way that technology is used or not, successfully or not, and the impact that has on the way we buy things, share information, communicate with each other, and just evolve as carbon based life forms."

The Two Medias


The fact that Cathy has much experience in traditional media led me to ask her about the now very widely use 'social media' term. She responded that there are two kinds of media, "media with a capital M and media with a lower case m." The first one is 'the media,' and it includes outlets from large organizations like News Corporation and The New York Times Company, as well as blogs like The Huffington Post and Tech Crunch. "Lower case m (media) are the platforms, the technology, the things we use, the social networks, the real-time stream things like Twitter, Blogtalkradio, Facebook, YouTube, and the list goes on and on," she explained.


While some would argue that the concept of media is not much more than a channel or a means to deliver some form of content, Cathy think that media has always been social. "Social media to me is a rather redundant term as opposed to an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Media is by its nature a social thing and it has become more so in its interactivity, crowdsourced nature, and user generated contributions," she told me.


The Case for Journalism

There has been much talk about the death of the newspaper and the traditional media organization in the last few years, but Cathy thinks this has been "greatly exaggerated." She continued to say that while "some of these types of media outlets, some of the mediums, may either die or change greatly, the need for journalism has never been more important."

cathybrooks_socialnerdia_typewriterEven though journalists these days can easily become bloggers, "a blogger is not necessarily a journalist." Cathy further expressed that she wants "reporters to be human, but at the same time if i want to know their opinion I'll look for them to have an opinion somewhere else." The web has allowed journalism to thrive in ways that were not possible before, but it is essential to not forget that journalists still have a responsibility to work with "integrity, fact-checking, looking for multiple stories to ensure accuracy, providing clear perspectives, etc."

Of course, expectations can't be unrealistic. We're all humans so bias is impossible to avoid. As Cathy said, "if you have a human creating content that has a heart and an opinion, it's going to bleed through somewhere.. the trick is, how do you keep that reasonable and how do you make sure you keep that clean?"

The McPaper and Ruper Murdoch

Cathy mentioned that one big problem with the news  is the mentality of the "mcpaper, the watering down and sensationalizing of content," which she attributes in part to Mr. Ruper Murdoch. "For the record, I loathe Rupert Murdoch, I think he's one of the worst things that have happened to journalism, not to media... that aside, i think he's a genius businessman, absolutely brilliant businessman."

Brilliant businessman or not, Murdoch has made some headlines recently. Here are Cathy's thoughts on charging for content:

"The people who say that people won't pay for things online, i believe, are wrong.. I'm not suggesting that eveyrthing should be a pay-model, but in the real world, in a capitalist society, which guess what? that's what we live in, we dont get by with good looks and good cheer. We pay for things. Really good content is expensive to make."

While Cathy sees a future where more people are ok with charging for great online content, she does not agree with Murdoch's move of pulling content out of Google. Listen to the interview for Cathy's recommendations for Rupert and his media empire.

The Survival of Newspapers Starts with Stolen Newspapers


socialnerdia_nyt_googlezon_newyorktimesAll the talk about what's happening with journalism and media made me think of EPIC 2014, a video about the potential future of the web and news, that went viral a few years ago. I told Cathy about how the EPIC 2014 video by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson imagined The New York Times of the future as an offline newsletter for the elderly. Cathy told me that she actually gets the NYT delivered every day and that for her, the newspaper is "a physical experience."

She also expressed that people that grow up with newspapers have a "very emotional attachment to it." She went on to describe how her newspapers started to get stolen at some point and she narrowed her thief search to eight people in her building. She fully made her point by asking "if newspapers are dying, then why is some schmuck stealing my newspaper every morning?"

Newspapers have the competitive advantage of compiling the news of the day and presenting them in one single package. "You can't say to your (RSS) reader to show you things you don't know about.. the newspaper provides you with information from around the world and all you have to do is browse through it."

With the large quantities of information being published online throughout the day, we can rejoice in the fact that there are technologies that are helping "curate the firehose, curate the feedbag." One such service is www.my6sense.com, which Cathy recommends because it "prioritizes and selects (news) based on your behavior on your reader."

Cathy the Geek


cathybrooks_socialnerdia_geekIt is not hard to see that Cathy enjoys two things: talking and technology. "I'm a total geek. I admit it." She wasn't always a geek though. After working in radio for many years, she found herself doing PR for tech companies. She found it fascinating, not for the tech itself, at least not at first, but because of the people.

She remembers thinking that the people she was meeting "were insanely smart, truly interested in changing the world and doing so in a very substantive way, changing processes, and enabling people to do things they couldn't do before, connecting people, and automating things." She was drawn to the "deep passion and incredible joy that so many of them bring to what they do."


Having to understand complex ideas to explain it in simple terms to the media and the average person has allowed Cathy to become not just a geek, but also provided her with deep insight about the value behind the bits and bytes.


These days, Cathy has her own consulting firm Other Than That, and she has been helping clients navigate the social media world. She's even helping large companies like Nokia. Regarding her relationship with Nokia, she explained that she always discloses the fact that she's working with them, and that there are things she simply won't do if she doesn't feel comfortable about it. "As long as it's relevant and they don't expect that it's going to be all sunshine, roses and unicorns, then it's fine," she said. Cathy's also always very honest  about what she really thinks about their products.

We talked about how honesty and disclosure need to be integrated into blogs. Cathy has no problem with the FTC putting guidelines because "if someone is paying to say what you say and you don't disclose that, it's disingenuous."




Listen to the interview for much more from Cathy, including her upcoming 2010 workshops about storytelling in business (be sure to look for her at SXSW!) and being a responsible steward with technology and social media.

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