This past weekend, I attended an annual event I also helped plan: PodCamp Toronto, an unconference in its ninth year that focuses on new media while retaining its podcasting community roots. Thanks to mega podcasts like Serial and Canadaland, podcasting is experiencing a huge resurgence that’s inspiring questions about the future of journalism, authenticity and production value.
Throughout the unconference, I noticed a pattern, whether we were talking about blogging, podcasting or content marketing: 2015 is the year of Being Yourself. This means celebrating imperfection, and embracing who you are in an honest way when connecting with your audience. There should be a baseline production value in order to properly communicate, and the rest is being true to yourself and knowing your audience. The hosts of podcasts like Serial and Canadaland are successful because they are passionate about what they’re talking about, won’t compromise their message for anyone and are honest about their bias. They’re also unique, quirky, reaching out to an untapped audience and a bit controversial.
One of the most emotional explorations of content production happened at the Fat Girl Food Squad session, where Yuli Scheidt and Ama Scriver talked about creating a community through body empowerment, food photography, fundraising and event outreach. They never expected to become successful bloggers, but their message resonated with so many people in such an honest way, that they are now 30 bloggers strong. They give a safe space to have difficult conversations, and through being themselves, invite their readers to embrace this attitude as well. One of the final sessions of the weekend, titled Why Serial Worked: What Audiences Want from New Media by Rob Moden, reflected the zeitgeist of the weekend. He used Hank Green’s brilliant article about the backlash he experienced from traditional media when he got to interview Obama along with two other famous YouTubers, as well as Obama’s interview on Between Two Ferns, to exemplify the new credibility.
In Hank’s article, he talks about comedy reporting as the most trusted news source: “Young people have absolutely no faith in people sitting at desks on television anymore. It’s gotten so bad that the most trusted news show among people under 40 is on Comedy Central. … The news is losing an entire generation.” He then talks about why YouTubers have established similar trust with their viewers: “People trust us because we’ve spent years developing a relationship with them. We have been scrutinized and found not evil. Our legitimacy comes from honesty, not from cultural signals or institutions.” Young people trust these three more than they trust the mainstream news media because they’re approachable and honest. As Rob Moden put it: “the new credibility is saying something is bullshit,” and giving a more personal glimpse into your own opinions, knowing that your audience can distinguish between fact and opinion.
Be yourself. Be honest. Connect with your audience. Build credibility. Don’t spew crappy content. Publicize well. Communicate on multiple platforms, with good social media content, consistently. That’s the formula I heard throughout the weekend.
New media connects with people because it talks not only to us but with us, invites our opinion, and explores beyond what a news desk is capable of: human emotion as part of the reporting process.
Disclaimer: I am the sponsorship coordinator of PodCamp Toronto, Toronto’s largest free gathering of members of the new media community. Slideshares, videos and photos from the weekend are available on PodCamp’s Twitter feed.