It’s New Media brands vs. Old Media brands, according to Daniel Orkent, former ombudsman for The New York Times:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The good news, I think Ã¢â‚¬â€œ my fingers are crossed Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is if the responsible, serious members of the so-called mainstream media live up to their own standards, when you see something by okrent.com and nytimes.com you are more likely to trust these guys [nytimes.com] because their brand means accuracy and thoroughness and fairness,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Okrent. Ã¢â‚¬Å“As these brands move onto the web, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s essential is that those brand names still mean what they mean or even more. If not, then we will not only have reason to fear these blogs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ we will be beaten by them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Orkent points out that Old Media brands have taken a hit to their credibility recently, e.g. the run-up to Iraq:
He said poor press coverage lead to the Iraq war, because Ã¢â‚¬Å“in a time of war, editors being to wear epaulettes on their shoulderÃ¢â‚¬Â and The Times were not exceptional in jumping on the bandwagon.
Okrent also said poor news coverage allowed the Iraq war to happen, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Ã¢â‚¬Å“horrible time Ã¢â‚¬â€œ financiallyÃ¢â‚¬Â for newspapers, and the death of print is happening more quickly than he predicted six years ago.
Orkent retains his Old Media skepticism of blog brands:
Okrent said he is fearful about the growth of Internet web blogs because of the difficulty in determining their credibility. He said the future of newspaper organizations lies in their ability to be seen as more reliable than blogs. During his 18-month tenure as The TimesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ first Ã¢â‚¬Å“public editor,Ã¢â‚¬Â Okrent said, he was astonished how many times he heard people declare as accepted fact things they had read on a political blog.
Now, wait a second. Why did the majority of Americans believe Bush administration propaganda in the run-up to Iraq? Not because the read it in a blog.
Which raises the larger question of what makes a media brand credible. Why is it “easier” to determine the credibility of a story in the New York Times — just because they’re “The Times”? That may have been true in the past, but that assumed advantage is quickly disappearing.
And how long does it take to build credibility? What Old Media underestimates is how fast the leading blogs have been able to build both brands AND credibility. The brand vetting life cycle is constantly stinking — if a blog, or any other media outlet, is lacking in credibility, it will be summarily abandoned. People are turning to blogs precisely because they have lost faith in what they read in newspapers.
In the battle of the brands, Old Media has no first-mover advantage. And I don’t think the battle is “winner take all.” In a world of personalized media, people will cherry pick the content they find most credible — brands will arbitrate credibility, but whether they are Old or New will have little consequence.