Like a windstorm, a social media storm has blown up the I-80 from Silicon Valley and is successfully overtaking our small community.
It was inevitable, and those who were prepared are doing just fine. Facebook posts by local residents are on fire. I get more and more of my news from Facebook “shares” and other posts. I enjoy interacting with locals on Facebook, “liking” and “sharing” content — for free.
Yubanet.com, the free online service was ahead of its time, at least in the foothills, is chugging along, raising some voluntary contributions, no less. It also is part of the Sacramento Bee’s blogging network, gaining added visibility. KVMR, our “community” radio station, is doing very well with its cadre of volunteers. It is in an expansion mode.
Sierra Foothills Report — an avocation, not a vocation — is doing well, generating more reader comments and providing some “scoops” and commentary. I notice The Union routinely follows stories that appear here first. They are too “proud” to give credit where credit is due, but the community increasingly is noticing.
The “dinosaur” political blogs — once the community’s blogging pioneers — are looking pretty feeble lately — marked by name-calling and personal attacks. They are rapidly marginalizing themselves.
The world is getting tougher for our longtime dominant media, which have enjoyed a comfortable “oligopy” in a “cul de sac” media market for years.
The 150-year-old Union newspaper is receiving a lot of community criticism for its new “paywall.” The strategy was crudely implemented, right down to the “keys” on the front door that – literally – lock you out.
Many newspapers are putting up paywalls but with more reasonable “metered” service. The Union’s approach is unsophisticated and “in your face.” It’s “too little, too late” amid mounting competition.
The other day somebody tried to share a story on Facebook — a profile of Howard Levine, retiring from the Grass Valley Downtown Association — that was free in the newspaper’s “Sunday Express” but required a paid subscription to read it online. On Facebook you could only read the first sentence — a silly irony.
The Union ought to re-think its “paywall” plan and modify it. But it’s not locally owned, so it’s subject to a “cookie-cutter” out-of-town strategy.
For its part, KNCO is now in a firestorm of controversy for running the Rush Limbaugh show. Rush called a college student a “slut” and a “prostitute” and joked about posting sex videos of her. He clearly crossed a line and offered a half-hearted apology.
Rush’s sympathizers are couching this as a “free speech” issue, and the local hard-right bloggers have resorted to name calling and personal attacks (again).
They also cite Bill Maher’s crude attacks on Sarah Palin. But unlike Limbaugh, Maher’s show is on a subscription service, not the free public airwaves with paying sponsors. It doesn’t make it right, but it sure protects Maher against losing ad revenue when he mouths off.
In short, the Rush Limbaugh debacle is not a “free speech” issue; it is a business issue. Rush insulted women, and many of his shows’s sponsors are pulling their advertising because their customers are objecting. It’s simple “free market” economics — something Rush’s right-wing defenders should understand.
KNCO is no doubt hoping the criticism will blow over. It depends on Rush’s revenue stream to help pay the bills.
But it ought to be thinking more strategically about the future: Is Rush still the right commentator for its listners? After all, our county is becoming more “purple” politically. Moreover, there are plenty of conservative voices who don’t resort to name calling and personal attacks to make a point.
By contrast, KVMR has been very successful with its “community radio” approach.
I also think KNCO should be more transparent to the community about its ownership. Unlike The Union, it is locally owned by a number of families. I’d like to hear their views about Rush Limbaugh in a “management” memo.
I wish our local media the best. But I’ve been in this business for a long time — both print and online — and I could see how social media was going to reshape our local media landscape.
The dominant players should have been better prepared for the inevitable change. But they were stuck in an Alfred E. Neuman “what me worry” mindset. Now they’re paying for it.
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