THE BLOG

How Will the New Electronic Speaker's Corner Affect the Mayoral Election?

04/01/2014 03:32 EDT | Updated 06/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Humans love telling the world what they think about anything and everything. Hey, it's why I write this blog.

This powerful need to be heard has been fuelling the explosive growth of social media platforms, communications tools that are rapidly and permanently changing the way we interact with each other.

Long before the first tweet or Facebook post, social media in Toronto meant heading down to the corner of John and Queen streets. and piling into the Speakers Corner booth. A loonie bought you two minutes to rant, and the promise that you could be chosen to be TV!

The then-unknown Barenaked Ladies famously crammed into the booth to sing You Can be My Yoko Ono, creating an early version of a viral video.

After opening in 1990, Speakers Corner arguably became the most famous street corner in Canada, and certainly one of Toronto's top tourist attractions.

But in the age of social media, Citytv decided to pull the plug in 2008. Then they decided to plug it back in, sort of. This week CityNews.ca announced they are re-launching Speakers Corner, initially as part of the mayoral election coverage. People are urged to send in their thoughts via Instagram, Vine or by emailing a video clip.

The internet has ushered in a new economic reality for news outlets. Declining audiences meant lower ad revenues and budget cuts. This process started many years ago, and it is not over. Newsrooms today are still looking for a new model that balances quality journalism and revenue.

In the old days, TV news would rarely use outside video. Today, they use creative ways to coax viewers to send in video and photos. If you visit a newspaper's website today, chances are some of the photos were sent in from someone's iPhone.

The trend of news media turning to social media for content doesn't sit well with every journalism professor, but it does open up a whole new world of opportunity for creative marketers.

The trend is making it harder to get original content created by journalists, just because they have a finite number of hours in the day to do it. So, now the PR industry is moving into creating their own content and presenting it to news outlets. Some of those journalists that were downsized are the ones helping to produce it.

Journalists' story telling skills are rooted in establishing credibility and authority, the crucial ingredient for effective content marketing.

People reading this may well be worrying that corporate branding experts are becoming more influential that the news media in terms of shaping our view of the world. But they ought to have more faith in the power of social media to keep everyone honest.If you don't believe me, please post a comment. It won't cost you a cent.