No Bubble Here: Pulitzer Prizes Show Social Media is Core to Newsroom

I’ve been seeing a lot written about “the social media bubble” in places like the NY Times, NPR, and Atlantic Monthly. A theme you’ll find across their coverage is that the sale of Instagram is a mark of the social media end times.

I’m the first person to point out the folly of assigning universal values to followers and friends. Really, doesn’t it matter just who those friends are, and what your plans are for them? Besides, there are bigger forces, such as the end of the PC era that will do more to shift customer experience and business models than social media. So, what other signs of social media’s value might we find?

This week the Huffington Post became the first blog to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.

The prize for HuffPo’s David Wood’s is stunning 10-part series “Beyond the Battlefield,” which describes the lives of severely injured Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans. The blog invested in a long term effort, allowing Wood to interview veterans over an eight month period. The reporting is paired with striking photo journalism. Take a look. (above)

Matt Wuerker, Politico’s editorial cartoonist and illustrator also won a Pultizer for “his consistently fresh, funny cartoons, especially memorable for lampooning the partisan conflict that engulfed Washington”. You can see a carousel of his work here. Though Politico is printed for distribution in DC, most people know it as a blog.

Okay, both publications and the Pulitzer committee may all be in the bubble. But that’s not the point. There’s real revenue being racked-up, and value being established. Sure there’s uncertainty, but that’s not a bubble, its just good old risk. (if you want a real bubble, find a place where government financing is falsely buoying prices: college tuition and corn seem more bubbelicious to me than Pinterest with its 22 employees.

Bubble or Sale?
Not long ago Ad Age summed up this whole social media and digital media shift: “Marketers: Digital offers us more for less“. We’re in a tight economy, many big firms are cutting advertising to protect margins. They’re moving part of it to digital, and depending on its greater efficiency to make up for over all ad cuts. Cuts in one area of marketing are fueling the development of new owned and earned media channels. When Facebook ads are selling at $1 CPM, the bubble feels far from full; it feels like a sale. Knowing that Facebook is steaming toward a possible $100B IPO, raises the negotiating floor for any strategic purchase it makes. America is leading in digital marketing, and the investment world is fueling a ton of innovation in this “bubble”. (There are tons of examples: ExactTarget’s IPO, Schoolology – a Blackboard competitor in the .edu space, and Path come to mind.)

Sure, there is an irrational exuberance among those who thoughtlessly pursue the endless string of bright shiny objects in digital marketing. Darwin punishes stupid change as surely as those who fail to innovate. But in this environment, you’re either in motion or out of the game. More than ever, change isn’t optional, bubble or not.

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