Reflecting on the keynote speech

ISOJ 2010:y Steven Kydd Keynote, from Knight Center on Vimeo.

The International Online Journalism Symposium kicked off Friday with a dynamic and unperturbed presentation from Demand Media’s Steven Kydd about journalism’s role with art and science. Kydd began by highlighting how members of the media and professional journalists don’t typically harmonize with the ideals of Demand Media as they “haven’t been absolutely embraced,” by traditional media.

Kydd delivered the presentation with a tremendous amount of tenacity and demonstrated his unique sense of charisma to almost sway a room full of journalists in to understanding and believing Demand’s purpose and even moving them away from controversial responses or questions. It’s no secret Demand Media is making its mark online, Kydd described them as “disruptive,” reaching over 100 million people a month and are second to only Facebook as far as traffic.

Kydd reiterated the concept of a “sustainable media model,” throughout the presentation adding that Demand is in the business of media and not journalism or investigative journalism because they want to focus on providing article and content responding to their data.

The presentation also reiterated Demand creating a flexible publishing platform that allows writers and contributors to freely add content that can be seen by millions. But, Demand’s scientific backbone and most unique aspect is its use of data to understand users and appeal to each of their interests. Using data and algorithms produced a 4-5 percent lift in performance where Kydd said they use data to make the “world’s largest pitch wheel where there are no bad ideas.”

While Demand has faced a lot of criticism about their form of “robot journalism” or “content farm” style business layout, Kydd was even able to make the plethora of “how to” topics and articles sound appealing and useful saying that they are helping people save time, stay healthy and improving the quality of lives.

Overall, I thought the question and answer portion was disappointing and uneventful because most of the questions could have been answered simply by reading one article about Demand media from a Google search. Ironically, a room full of journalists didn’t manage to do any research on the simple specifications on Demand article’s length or compensation for contributors. Even more shocking was the fact that it was the Keynote presentation.

Kydd was flawless in this portion as he greeted every participant with their name, and was able to escape any potentially disruptive questions involving the pay of their free lancers by giving them an hourly wage instead of the popular fifteen dollars per article breakdown many people have heard and read over the years.

Kydd continually reverted back to Demand’s mantra of staying in the media business. “We don’t own a news site or do investigative journalism because we want to create relative content that answers real world questions.” The presentation was flawless but I was very disappointed with the questions. I feel like the symposium offered an open and free platform to discuss Demand and the algorithms they use, but instead we basically got a rundown of “frequently asked questions.”