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Actors and Directors

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If you listen to conversations about online power — at least those supported by bloggers — strength centers on the individual voice. Yet, now that big money has arrived online, the solitary influential voice represents a role player in the Internet ecosystem.

Let’s use a metaphor to illustrate this point: Hollywood and its power structure of actors, directors and producers. Individual voices represent actors. Entities like budget-rich companies investing in online media, traditional media companies, publishing houses, and already successful individuals are the directors and producers.

This is not to demean individuals that have made a name for themselves online. Consistently excelling online as an influencer takes significant effort. There’s a reason why so many social media voices are obsessed with influence.

You can debate whether people garner attention or become noteworthy for achievements, but long-term success is not an accident. It’s the result of doing something right consistently over time.

Back to the metaphor… Everybody wants to work with the most successful actors (cough, stars [ugh]). We know this. Any blogger just needs to show you their in-box and the heaps of spam pitches they receive as proof points.

BUT.

The dollars come from elsewhere. Money is power, and as they say in Washington, DC what creates real influence.

Don’t believe me? Just watch bloggers hustling for big deals with companies.

I watched this phenomena last week at SxSW (which in its zeal to grow has lost significant grassroots strength, becoming a modern COMDEX of interactive). For every “star” catered to by the big companies, there were scores of bloggers and online voices seeking to understand interactive and/or to become the next star. They wanted to meet power brokers, people that can underwrite and/or produce online activities.

Big influencers know what butters the bread. They need the directors and producers, too. They just benefit from more negotiation power.

Just to clarify, I do not believe size creates actual influence, I’m just acknowledging the industry term for online voices cultivated by companies.

Some folks become so successful that they become directors and producers in their own right. And that’s a pretty cool thing to watch, from Arianna Huffington to my friend Brian Clark at Copyblogger, these individual voices have built media companies in their own right.

Acting versus Directing

Soleil Map

In the era of big money, independence holds value. Personally, I enjoy the fact that this blog is still ad free, independent, and not necessarily tied to anything other than my personal business.

That being said, while it’s nice to be an actor who gets gigs (so to speak), I prefer directing and producing. Acting offers limited potential.

Take xPotomac as an example. I enjoyed producing an event with a theme that had larger impact than an individual speech.

Granted I also spoke with Patrick Ashamalla, pulling a Tarantino or Hitchcock appearing in his own film… But we spoke because we couldn’t find anyone locally who would talk about Google Glass (and Google declined).

Directing and producing is one of the primary reasons I enjoy my work with Razoo and now currently with Vocus with events like the Demand Success conference. You could say that I direct(ed) online and traditional media efforts on their behalf. I am able to deploy larger initiatives, efforts that I could not engage in alone.

Sure, there’s still value in being an individual voice. For me, one of the greatest value points is the ability to parlay that attention into larger directing and producing roles.

Directing and producing offer a corresponding level of satisfaction that comes with a big hit online. Those efforts seem to have grander scale. Watching a singular initiative roll out that positively impacts hundreds, thousands or more people is just awesome. Seeing the actors enjoy the gravy is also satisfying for without them the stage would be lifeless.

What do you think of today’s online power dynamic?

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  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Geoff, I’ve been thinking about this lately from a slightly different direction. It seems we have come full-circle, from web 1 where publishers were king, to web 2 and the user generated content bubble, and now back to, in many ways, a web 1 world. Yes, we, the actors, are now playing a bit part. But the traditional (and new traditional) companies are firmly in control again.

    Facebook controls what I see. LinkedIn is now a publisher. Twitter may be prioritizing tweets soon as well. Us actors may be creating more of the content, but only those like Brian Clark, that have created their own distribution, really exemplify what we once called Web 2.0, and it is largely because they have become traditional media companies with the traditional trappings that go along with it.

    Good post, thanks (again) for making me pause and think.

    • geofflivingston

      There’s no question about it in my mind, the independent is almost gone, or at least minimized. To succeed, as you see, the new media voices have had to adapt monetization strategies or become high paid actors, so to speak. It’s certainly an interesting dynamic.

  • http://milaspage.com/ Mila Araujo

    Geoff, this is a fantastic post and is really in line with how I am observing things as well. There are many players in the online space, and I can only imagine SXSW is the perfect stage for this to all play out clearly. In the “regular” setting it isn’t as evident as people are fairly isolated from the feedfing frenzy that can occur when everyone with a specified goal and hunger for opportunity join in one large yet confined area.

    • geofflivingston

      Thanks, Mila. It’s definitely very visible at SxSW, though I am seeing it more and more in our world online, too. It’s not int he actors favor to let it be seen, but it is clear. The individual voice needs business, so we are seeing people either get jobs, cater to new business prospects, or in rare cases continue to function autonomously. The end result is a dulled down version of the social web I think, but it makes sense.

      And I also agree, smart individuals will understand how they play in this environment and will adapt accordingly…

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I know it wasn’t the point, but I’m curious, why wouldn’t anyone talk about Google Glass?

    • geofflivingston

      People seemed to have an aversion to talking about things they’ve never used or seen before. Imagine that ;) I must be the fool!

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