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Jay Rosen on moving beyond “the masses”

The Annenberg conference on The Hyperlinked Society is putting some interesting groups of people together in panels. Jay Rosen leads the first panel, which features three folks with expertise in marketing and advertising – questions quickly turn the panel into a broad set of issues, including spam blogs, network neutrality and

Jay’s opening remarks are – predictably – memorable and worth a close look. He points out that “there are no masses, just ways of seeing people as masses.” Mass media is a technique that’s lasted for a few hundred years, which allows individuals to address people as masses. Jay tells us that people won’t stand for it anymore.

Instead, we need to treat “masses” as the public – a community – as well as consumers. Mass media was very good at connecting us vertically – to centers of power. The internet is very efficient at connecting us horizontally, to each other, which radically changes the flow of information.

Jay mentions that his interest in blogging was spurred by a student who mentioned that he could get 10,000 readers from a link from Instapundit – as an academic, Jay is powerfully aware of how difficult it is to get 10,000 people to look at anything. It took Jay an hour of looking at Instapundit before he “got” it – in understanding blogs, it’s important to look below the surface of a blog to the interconnected linkages between blogs, the deep structure of links on the web.

One question that’s raised early on from an audience member: “How do I ask bloggers to link to me?” The responses from the panel are variations on the theme of “Don’t.” Tom Hespos notes that he wasn’t getting much traffic, until he got a link from Doc Searls – when the traffic spike past, his immediate thought was “Okay, I just need Doc to link to me a few hundred more times.” Jay suggests that the best way to get him to link to you is to write about what he’s written – contribute to the conversation and he’s likely to link to you to keep the conversation going.

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