Rupert Murdoch Tweets!

In stories within twenty-four hours of each other, two media icons from different media circles dealt with the subject of social media.

On the international stage, the BBC reported on Rupert Murdoch’s first days on Twitter (@rupertmurdoch), where in less than a week he has already attracted more than 93,000 followers. Even as company lawyers stood by, holding their collective breath, others such as Britain’s former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott welcomed him.

Locally, Robert Feder, long-time media columnist (currently blogging at TimeOutChicago.com), offered jibes at Chicago newspaper writers such as Neil Steinberg and Mary Mitchell, who had previously shared their disdain for social media.

In a 2012 prediction piece, Feder (@robertfeder) countered by describing Twitter and Facebook as “indispensable tools” and that “those who choose to ignore them do so at their peril.”

Dramatic public actions by Rupert Murdoch and Robert Feder, practically in tandem, as the new media year begins.

Coincidence … or, significantly, something more?

Well, of course it’s just sheer coincidence.

But it is also a timely juxtaposition. The fact that a newspaper veteran of three decades like Feder has smoothly adapted his stock-in-trade to the electronic world reveals an almost reassuring continuity, even in the realigning digital delivery system.

The fact that one of the world’s most successful media moguls wants to get a hands-on sense of this medium is also oddly reassuring. An easily promoted story, validating social media as a personal promotional tool, a key element of communication, and another potential profit center.

The fact that in the past Murdoch never translated similar instincts on MySpace into profits makes for a delicious irony (he bought the property at a premium and sold at a loss), but it also underscores his longtime interest in the digital world.

To those critics of social media who bemoan its focus on the trivial, yes of course it’s trivial. That’s what mass media is and does. What could be more trivial than the time spent for more than a century on every type of media, from phones to movie screens, usually devoted to simply entertaining ourselves?

Yet successful media businesses have long recognized that what for most people is merely passing the time can be, in the right hands, a revenue stream.

Compiling statistics on the number of people sitting there, tuned in, and turning those into promotional roadmaps, ratings services based on personal habits.

Accumulating data on the most trivial actions which, collectively, provide strategies for pitching products, services, even political candidates and messages.

Playing with bits of gossip, news, and information, in the process creating multiple platforms of influential media.

All monetizing the mundane miracle of modern media.

Where the next connecting threads are always just a few clicks away.

Copyright ©2012 Walter J. Podrazik

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