Word of Mouth 2.0

In an article published in the New York Times there is evidence that, despite what your father or grandfather mumbles (from under his hat while his turn signal continues to blink…for miles), young people do give a crap! They just go about it differently.

The internet and all of its social elements have driven those under 30 to sources other than TV, radio, or newspapers for that in-depth information. I’ll leave it to you to decide if their version of “in-depth” is good or bad.

The focus of the piece was on politics but it underscores the overall trend towards “…replacing the professional filter — reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one.” when it comes to news and current events. More specifically, “According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to not just be consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them.”

This point was echoed at a recent media forum I attended that pointed to the trend of going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that journalists provide.

This is the part that needs a bit of attention. As with any word of mouth activity, there is always the chance of the correct information becoming distorted or deleted as it travels. Remember the old telephone game where you would whisper a phrase to someone next you and they would in turn do the same to the person next to them and by the time it got to the last person in the line it would make no sense. (We would laugh and laugh…ah…good times.)

For better or worse, journalists, commentators, editors, etc. do serve as the gatekeepers of the information. We have come to count on them. That’s not to say that these gatekeepers always use the best judgment in getting info to the masses. We liberals point to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh while conservatives point to…well…everybody else in media.

With out any kind of oversight, will the news and information be correct? Is word of mouth always the best way to get that information? Is this good or bad? The statement from an Intelligence Group focus study subject saying, “If the news is that important, it will find me.” is, you have to admit, just a bit troubling, if for no other reason than incredibly  myopic.

The debate will continue (and be the basis of many more forums) but, as it does, Word of Mouth 2.0 is happening. People younger than I are looking to their peers for information. And I kind of like it. If nothing else, it’s healthy and it’s good for “traditional” communicators and media. The crowd is getting the chance to have much more input and it makes those that thrive on the “one to many” paradigm to rethink it.

Just be sure the facts are correct before you send the message to the next recipient….and tell your grandpa to shut off his turn signal.