Earlier this evening, DigitasLBi hosted the debate “Who Owns the Digital Space?” at the Creative Exchange down in Leith. The panel consisted of one representative each from the world of blogging, PR, journalism, and digital marketing, and each gave their views on the digital space. Plus, there was free FroYo courtesy of Frisky, plus free beer to be had whilst chatting to the other attendees before the event started.

On the panel, journalism was represented by Hilary Wardle – a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, mags, and newspapers. Mike McGrail represented the digital agencies; he’s the owner and digital marketing director for Velocity Digital. Representing PR was Sarah Ormerod, the Consumer PR manager for Visit Scotland. Finally, Kat Molesworth, owner of Housewife Confidential and founder of Blogtacular, spoke for the bloggers.

Questions for the panel covered a wide range of topics, from SEO and Google to things like Vine. Today, SEO is a phrase that’s thrown around quite often – just in case you don’t know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. However, the consensus from the panel seemed to be that Google wasn’t as important as audience engagement, brand building, and integrity. Bloggers, online journalists, and others creating digital content shouldn’t write for Google, but should write for their audiences. Building a trusted brand is more important than getting your link on the first page of Google, because even if you are on that first page if your content isn’t good then being there doesn’t matter. If you have good meaty content then people will keep coming back to you as a trusted source.

Another topic that came up was how success is measured in the digital space different from traditional print media. In print, success might be measured by an article making the front page of a newspaper, which translates to more readers. However, the digital space is different, and you don’t necessarily have that “front page” as readers can find an article from a number of routes. Therefore, the panelists noted that success in the digital realm could mean things like page views, likes, shares, and engagement such as comments. Sarah Ormerod said that success is looking at how many people have seen the key messages and then looking at the impact those key messages had on those people. If the readers took that call to action, that’s a success. Mike McGrail, however, noted that sales are still important and something that his clients are still interested in. I agree – likes and shares are great, but they don’t necessarily translate to sales, so that’s something to take into consideration, especially with digital marketing.

Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to tweet and utilise the four hashtags (#PRspace, #journospace, #blogspace, and #digispace) to “vote” for which they believe owns the digital space. While Bloggers technically won, the panel seemed to agree that these spaces couldn’t exist without each other. They rely on each other and play off of each other. These networks and relationships are important when it comes to digital content. And a last important message from the panel was that integrity should be at the heart of it all.

So, thanks to the panelists and to DigitasLBi for such an interesting and insightful event. It’s definitely important to consider these points as publishing continues to push into the digital realm.