Wait: The Art and Science of Delay is a new book by Frank Partnoy, which puts forward the theory that great athletes and investors excel not because of quick responses, but because they delay until the last possible moment before reacting (apparently waiting an extra fraction of a second is the secret of Djokovic’s success).
A couple of days ago I heard an interview with Partnoy on Monocle radio (for those not familiar, Monocle is a high-end magazine and global radio station). The journalist said that Monocle has deliberately chosen to be a ‘slow brand,’ choosing their subjects carefully over a relatively long timescale, while other magazines and radio shows race to be first to cover events, trends, and ideas. Partnoy responded that lots of academic research supports the theory that slower is better.
I was reminded of this idea while attending a panel on “Ideas and Identity in a Mobile World” at the Editorial Intelligence Mobile World conference in London last week. The panel was co-hosted by Carla Buzasi, editor of the Huffington Post UK, and one of the panellists was Caroline Daniel, editor of the Financial Times’ Weekend section. The two journalists outlined their respective brands’ attitudes towards Twitter, and online content generally, and a fascinating contrast emerged. The FT’s unique selling proposition is authority, and protecting that is their top priority. Therefore FT journalists can’t tweet their stories until they go up on FT.com. Very few journalists are allowed to have ‘FT’ in their Twitter handles. This creates tension when young journalists are trying to build personal brands, but the FT institutional brand comes first. The Huffington Post, in contrast, pushes out all content via social media, as quickly as possible, with staff encouraged to engage actively. As @ArtsHotlist tweeted: “Interesting divide at #eiMobile – FT see Twitter for journalists as reputational issue, Huff Po as a marketing opportunity”.
Daniel said that there had once been a debate about whether to post all the letters and opinion pieces the FT receives (between 50 and 100) online, in the style of the Guardian’s Comment is Free section. They decided against it because customers go to the FT for a curated, discriminating approach. That’s what they pay for. At HuffPo, of course, all comments are posted online, and not only comment but content is free.
Partnoy’s book and the panel discussion bring up two thoughts: 1) When commenting in the media, it’s not always best to be first. Sometimes it’s better to be considered, strategic, and thoughtful. Slow doesn’t have to be bad. In thought leadership, just because an idea has been ‘done,’ doesn’t mean the opportunity for a valuable addition to the debate has passed. 2) It’s important to consider an outlet/brand’s attitude toward social media when pitching or approaching for partnership.