There are 4,216 people who potentially care that Jack Myers is at the Media Summit in Oswego, according to the Facebook page he pulls up on a Rich Hall projector.
Why does that matter to about 30 freshmen in a "Gateway to Business" class? The Facebook status bar is changing the way people communicate with each other and eventually, the way businesses connect with consumers, says Myers, a leading media analyst and one of five visiting experts at this year's Dr. Lewis B. O'Donnell Media Summit Oct. 22.
Each morning, Myers posts a link to his latest JackMyers.com commentary on his Facebook page and Twitter, a growing social network that allows users to follow each other's status updates throughout the day via computer or mobile phone. Each time he writes something, a potential audience of more than 4,216 Facebook "friends" and Twitter "followers" are watching -- instantly.
"It becomes a completely new form of distribution," Myers said, noting this class of freshmen did not have the same communication capability as little as two years ago. Aspiring authors, filmmakers and the public at large can now build their own audience.
Eventually, everything and everyone will be connected, Myers predicted. With popularization of the digital video recorder and its ability to skip television commercials, advertisers are looking for new ways to reach consumers, he said.
The explosion of social networking sites and Web 2.0 technology like YouTube streaming videos is making the Internet an attractive venue.
Patrick Stiegman explained ESPN's multi-platform approach to a graphic design class during his visit. The cable sports network's Web site has grown to include written content and streaming video that complements what viewers see on TV.
The so-called "two-screen" experience includes interactive content. ESPN.com allows users to create profiles and interact in an online community similar to Facebook, said Stiegman, vice president and executive editor/producer of the Web site.
Online communities are the "choir" to television researchers who want to know what people are metaphorically singing about, Steve Leblang '81 told a class of qualitative research students. As the senior vice president of strategic planning and research for FX Networks, he uses a number of ways to get feedback from viewers like traditional focus groups and Web methods.
No matter how data is collected, success is contingent on asking the right questions and listening to the answers, he said. Failed shows have something in common.
"People don't listen to the opinions of the people that matter," Leblang said, referring to viewers, both dedicated and potential.
Representing the audio side of the multimedia spectrum, J. Scott Dinsdale of Sony BMG told programming students that the music industry is still fine-tuning its approach to digital music distribution. The advent of Napster fueled a boom in illegal mp3 audio file sharing that essentially negated the music industry's traditional business model.
"It's whisper marketing at its greatest or its worst," Dinsdale said, describing how quickly an illegal download can spread in our instant, interconnected culture. "The proliferation is astounding."
Summit panelists touched on other issues as well during class visits.
Erica Farber, president and publisher of Radio & Records magazine, joined a women's studies class to advocate for a growing presence of women in the professional field.
After describing her own struggles as a woman in the working world, Farber told the class, "Prejudice is not something you're born with. If you feel good about yourself, it doesn't really matter what other people think."
With Myers moderating, each member of the panel shared their views during a discussion that highlighted the summit. A crowd of about 300 students, faculty and others packed the Sheldon Ballroom for the talk.
About 45 students got some additional career advice from alumni following the panel discussion. The inaugural "table-hopper" event featured New York Yankee executive Emil Calcano '06, film editor Jeremy Ambers '00, Vinyl Artist Management owner Michael Gewirtzman '05, WROC-TV and WUHF-TV account executive Natasha Johnson '02, 9wsyr.com Web producer Phil Rankin '06 and SciFi Channel Web coordinator Matt Romano '05.
The panel discussion is archived online by WRVO-FM. A photo gallery is posted on the Oswego Alumni Association Web site.
-- Shane M. Liebler
Arlee J. Logan '09 and Ashley White '10 contributed
From top right: Jack Myers, Patrick Stiegman and Steve Leblang '81. From top left: J. Scott Dinsdale, Erica Farber and summit founder Louis Borrelli Jr. '77.
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