Jeff Jarvis is Associate Professor and Interactive Program director at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. He was the creator and founding managing editor of Entertainment Weekly.
Are we entering a world where journalists are becoming more like brands, and brands more like journalists?
Yes, I think so. We have to teach students how to market themselves and market what they do. We see journalists doing this everywhere by linking to their stories on Twitter and having Facebook pages and so on. So yes, journalists should become more like brands.
Back in the day, the big brand of the newspaper would rub off on the journalist. In this new world, journalists’ brands add up to form the bigger brand of the media outlet.
In your book you explore how brands, companies and entire industries can re-shape themselves in Google’s image. What would Google Airlines look like?
Airlines are kind of a problem now. They tend to treat their costumers likes prisoners. In the U.S. we have legislation that guarantees customers air and water, but not a great experience.
Now that we can get online before and during our flight, we can create networks. We can go on and say, “Who else wants a ride downtown?,” “Where should I eat in Ottawa?,” or whatever.
There is wisdom in that cabin. And a smart airline will try to figure out how to get that wisdom out of it. When I fly tomorrow, the airline should ask me where I stayed, where I ate, what was good and what was bad.
In other words, I have value as a passenger. Now, if they did that, they could become a publisher and they could end up reducing their costs. That’s just a small example of how they can build relationships and work with their costumers instead of fighting them.
Airlines have us by their scarcity because only certain companies fly to certain places, but the model of trying to charge you for a pillow or a pretzel is not a viable business model in the Internet age.
What would Google do if it were a magazine publisher?
I think it’s the same for magazines. Magazine readers are smart and brands have an advantage because they have a community already. Brands have to figure out how to mobilize and enable that community to do what they want to do.
Sparksheet recently spoke to New Yorker.com editor Blake Eskin about how the 85-year-old magazine has embraced the digital age without compromising its content or its brand. Do you think that’s possible for all media outlets?
I think that the New Yorker is unique. The New Yorker has a strong voice and they’re reluctant to change that – and perhaps they should be. But they are also at the center of a community, of a smart crowd, so they have a great opportunity to collaborate with their readers and to get new content and new information out of them.
Let’s talk about personal branding. How did Jeff Jarvis go from unknown magazine editor to notable media critic and professor in just a few short years?
Every point in my career was purely accidental. That sounds a little bit like false modesty because I do have an ego and I like the attention – I won’t deny that – but it was never a smart strategy. It just kind of happened.