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Social media: Big buzz at ABM’s Digital Velocity

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Many online media topics were discussed during last week’s American Business Media Digital Velocity conference in New York, but the big buzz surrounded the Web 2.0 phenomena of social networking, community and user-generated content.

Shawn Colo, co-founder and M&A head of Demand Media, a social media platform company, kicked off the event with a provocative presentation on the reinvention of publishing.

He told an audience that for the most part has been trained on traditional journalism that “it is more important for content to be findable than for it to be of high quality.” Although bloggers, video makers and other amateur online content creators may not have as high of standards as b-to-b media sites, their content is widely viewed, shared and accepted on the Internet. “This is a game-changer for the publishing industry,” he said.

During a panel on selling digital media, Jim Chrzan, VP-sales at Summit Publishing, brought up the pros and cons of having blogs on b-to-b media sites. On the one hand, he said, bloggers who are highly opinionated generate traffic and audience interaction. On the other hand, some heated discussion topics could be disturbing to advertisers.

To get around the issue, Summit tapped “a retired industry guy who’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind,” Chrzan said. “He generates a lot of traffic, but if an advertiser complains, we can say, ‘He’s not on our staff. We can’t control him.’ ”

John Blossom, president of Shore Communications, moderated a panel on social media success stories. Social media “is a way to reach real marketing goals and real revenue goals,” he said. “To fail to engage is a strategic mistake.”

“You have to use social media where it has a purpose,” said Jim Sexton, senior VP-editorial director of SPC Digital, a division of Time Inc.’s Southern Progress Corp. “You want to experiment, but do that carefully and thoughtfully.” For SPC’s Cooking Light, he said, recipes have been one of the most popular features in print, so bulletin boards that allow users to swap recipes and discuss menus “have been a big hit” on CookingLight.com.

“We’re trying to create subject-matter communities based on content,” said Howard Ratner, exec VP-chief technology officer of Nature Publishing Group, publisher of the scientific journal Nature, founded in 1869.

“We’re not trying to do this ‘right,’ ” he said. “We’re experimenting and learning.” The Nature Network, highlighted in the center of Nature.com’s home page, alerts users to such Web 2.0 features as blogs, forums, social networking and Connotea, a shared bookmarking site for scientists and clinicians.

On the cutting edge of online social media for b-to-b publishers is the Life 2.0 Summit, a six-day event taking place this month (March 15-21) entirely within the 3D online virtual world Second Life. It will be hosted by United Business Media’s World2World, formerly known as CMP Metaverse.

“This is not a game,” said John Jainschigg, executive director of World2World. “It’s an effective, powerful, immersive platform that plays to business media’s strength in bringing people together.”

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