Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 6, 2011 6:53 PM

The New Gatekeepers

Blogging did many cool things to our world, but the coolest thing it did was remove the Gatekeepers.

The first time I heard the word "gatekeeper" it came out of Seth Godin's mouth. The idea that we (us, the audience, the public, etc...) no longer needed editorial gatekeepers to tell us what news is relevant (and in what order) was (and continues to be) a huge deal. We're no longer beholden to an editor at a known mass media entity to decide for us which news truly is fit to print and what makes it to the front-page of our newspapers. I still marvel at my Google Reader set-up. I can spend days and nights consuming content that I want, when I want it and in in the order of my choice. Beyond that, because publishing content is (essentially) free, the myriad of choices gives me access to information that I never thought I would have. Who knew that the day would come that I could have access to hundreds of different Blogs and news sites that only cover the topic of Marketing? If that weren't enough, I can now follow thousands of interesting Marketing professionals in spaces like Twitter, Facebook and Google +. This not only keeps me informed, but their infovore lives guide me to other interesting people, links and discussions. If that weren't enough, there is also audio and video podcasts on the topic of marketing being produced and published by the new gatekeepers.

Who are the new Gatekeepers?

You. You are the new gatekeeper. You decide what news is relevant and you decide how prevalent you want it in your lives. This is both a good and a bad thing. It's good if you're smart but it's bad if you're someone who is either uninformed or does not have the capabilities to understand the demands and importance of being slightly media savvy. It's also a big deal because you're not just consuming content anymore... you're creating it as well. In text, images, audio and video, many of us have become both content producers and publishing empires (in our own minds, at least).

Don't forget about serendipity.

As informed and up-to-date as I think I am, I'm in constant amazement by just how little I know and how quick I am to go to the sources that I know and love best (which are not, necessarily, the best sources for me to consume, but simply the ones I know). This may shock you, but I still pick-up and read the local daily newspaper. The serendipity of reading articles that fall outside of my areas of interest gives me additional perspectives, newer ideas and allows me to see some of the general issues and trends that are popping up in our culture. Each week, I do a link exchange with Alistair Croll and Hugh McGuire (you can see the latest one here: Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #63). Originally, the reason for this exercise was to point each other in a new direction. To show each other a link that we felt the other person might really appreciate (especially when considering how diverse our personal and professional backgrounds are). It evolved quickly. Suddenly, as each week would pass, I found myself looking for content for them. It was no longer about pointing them to something I found interesting in as much as it was about discovering something new. It has become a game. Weekly hunts for pearls of wisdom that aren't necessarily relevant to my day-to-day professional life. The evolution has been a huge learning curve. While it's only a total of six links every week (we each chose one link for one another), you quickly realize how the serendipity of hunting for news outside of your comfort zone and then reading news that was chosen by someone for someone else (like Hugh's links for Alistair) only further pushes your brain into newer arenas of discovery. Something I would never get if I was only gazing at my own RSS reader (and yes, this is also one of the best parts of Twitter... by a long mile).

Being a Gatekeeper is serious role.

It's easy to be lied to. It's easy for anybody to publish anything. It's easy for an individual's perspective to be seen as fact or news. When we removed the traditional gatekeepers, we also opened up the floodgates for anything and everything to get ranked or be placed on our radar. We have to be both diligent and respectful of this new role that each and every one of us now plays.

In an upcoming post, I'm going to disagree with myself (it's my Blog, I'm allowed) and argue that the new gatekeepers may well be Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Anthony
    Mitch Joel

    Halfway through reading this, I already had an idea of what I was going to write here. It was going to be an indepth comment on how the gatekeepers are still there, but wearing different hats. They are the ones that determine where the eyeballs go, and not those that control the means of production like they used to. It was going to be a great comment, after all, this is a topic I find very interesting, and write about a bit on my blog.

    At least that is what I was going to do, until I read the last line in the post. I look forward to your followup piece Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by Lenny Rachitsky
    Mitch Joel

    The real problem is that we don't have time to be gatekeepers, that as Clay Shirky posits the filters we've relied on to reduce the information that's out there have broken down, and we're overflowing with content to consume. How do we find the real nuggets out there without spending our days scanning RSS/Twitter/Facebook?

    Reply
  • Posted by Dave Delaney
    Mitch Joel

    This thinking excites me, because I agree fully with you. I seldom watch cable news now, because of it's sensationalism. I prefer finding my information from trusted sources, I do this via Google Reader as well.

    I tune into CBC's live radio app (I live in the US now) and I listen to NPR for more stories that I may miss from just living in Reader. But you raise a good point I am concerned about. The silos.

    One look at tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com and you can see that Fox News has far more viewers than any other US news network. As people shift to receiving their information online, they may never look past Fox.com or other concerning sites.

    Gates of ignorance are troubling.

    Perhaps snopes.com and poltifact.com need to advertise more?

    How will we break through the gates and the silos?

    Reply
  • Posted by Cort Anderson
    Mitch Joel

    The phrase "drinking from a fire hose," is the first thing that came to mind as I read this. We have so much information available to us it is difficult find ways that we can understand it.

    It is also difficult in many cases to determine the accuracy and credibility of the source. There are far too many people wanting to put their own personal spin on info and have no problems playing with the facts to do it. Everyone online wants to be considered a journalist with all the perks but very few are willing to follow journalism ethics. They have no problems taking the freebies or taking a side and get very defensive when called out for doing it.

    I like to think I have a pretty good b.s. filter but far too many people believe anything they read online.

    Reply
  • Posted by David Deal
    Mitch Joel

    So glad you cite the importance of serendipity. It's too easy to allow ourselves to be led around the nose on the web. Amazon recommends what to buy next. Facebook suggests friends to us. But to make creative breakthroughs, we have to find moments of serendipity on our own. Ironically I recently blogged about how I find moments of serendipity: http://superhypeblog.com/?p=5216

    Reply
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