Twitter co-founder: we’re in a publishing ‘renaissance’

Cobus Heyl summarises some of what Stone shared with the audience yesterday:

Content and distribution

Asked for his thoughts on magazine media, Stone emphasised the importance of the concept of “content” rather than “magazines” in the traditional sense. “I’ve said this for years. The most important thing is content…this is the kind of stuff that gets passed around on social media and keeps its heart beating. Without it, we really do not have anything to do.”

He also highlighted distribution as part of the future. If you want to start today, you do not need a fleet of trucks anymore. “Publishing” sometimes forget about distribution – the (easier) means (of today) with which to reach people.

“It’s a renaissance. There is infinite opportunity to dig deep and tell good stories.”

During the first afternoon of the AMMC, some conversation centred on “push” and “pull” of content: to what extent do you give an audience what they want versus what you believe they need.

Stone made the point that in the early days of Twitter, the founders took great care to watch how users were doing things and listen to what they were asking for. But sometimes what users asked for, was not the best way of doing things and you have to show the way.

The same applies to content. People may “ask” for a particular type of content (and this may build usage of a site), but, said Stone, if you do that you may only end up sinking lower and lower in order to maintain the usage. Using a startup analogy again, he said “for every startup there is a decision point: do you want to be the king of that? If not, then find another way.”

Social media

He believes legacy media (such as magazine media) and social media are complementary, but are not yet feeding off each other’s strengths. “We are still looking for the perfect mesh. That’s why I say it’s a renaissance. But we will figure it out.”

The latter – figuring things out – is an important acknowledgement. Stone reminded the audience that even in 2015, we are still in the early days of digital change.

Asked which social media companies in particular impress him Stone mentioned the chat application Snapchat as “the big one” to watch out for. A good test is to look at the leaders in the field to see “how brave they are”. 

Referring to Snapchat using their recently launched Discovery feature as an example, he said what “Snapchat is doing has nothing to do with their original product. It’s (Discovery) is media. Look at its partners (amongst others National Geographic, Cosmo, Vice and CNN): it’s just fantastically great, wonderful content available to people on the platform. What’s great, they’re introducing a whole new generation to this content. 

“These are the kind of people you want to look out for.”

Asked which social media companies he thought might disappear, Stone said the core question centres on value and the extent to which people “need” it in their lives. “When you see something that’s just a game or something to waste your time, there’s no value there. Just ask yourself: is this valuable? Is this going to be a company of enduring value? Just ask it out loud, and you will quickly know.”

Looking at social media overall, Stone said he believes it will be a “jumping off point” from where users can engage with deeper, more meaningful content.

Some other thoughts from Stone…

Future of marketing

The future of marketing is philanthropy as more and more young people are attracted to the concept of “meaning”. Through their choice of products and services they want to show they care, they’re making a difference.

Linked to this, is Stone’s firm believe that doing well, does not have to exclude doing good. Everyone – individuals and corporates – have a role to play.

Constraint drives creativity

People are at their most creative when they are constrained – cue Twitter’s 140 characters, Vine’s 6-second videos and more (including, if you think of it, printed magazines with a set number of pages).

Tech’s impact on us

He shared an anecdote seeing a family of four during a beautiful sunset in California each one looking at their phones. “We need to start learning where is the appropriate line. I’d like to see all this information and useful stuff to be at our fingertips, but not in our way. We’re still figuring out how to integrate tech into our lives. But we will figure it out.”

More about MPA’s 360 conference in New York.

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