The brouhaha around Malacanang Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson now having “editors” for her blog raises questions around the whole point of “social media management”. It becomes an issue of authenticity. Mocha Uson has more than 5 million followers most of whom were amassed during her time as an erotic blogger and performing artist. During the presidential campaign of Rodrigo Duterte, she became a valuable asset because of that enormous following when she morphed from being a sex symbol into a political partisan and activist. This raises the confronting question:
Are Mocha Uson’s followers following her — and propagating her ideas — for the right reasons today?
In that sense, it could be argued that Uson, as a media institution and brand, is no longer different from mainstream media. Media behemoth ABS-CBN, for example, attracts an audience because of its profitable telenovelas and noontime shows. It then uses the money earned from those profitable media products to help finance the building and sustaining of a “news and public affairs” brand. The entertainment products of ABS-CBN, in a sense, provide the capital employed to build its news reporting capability. If that capability remains unprofitable, entertainment subsidises it.
It is important to note that news and public affairs programming were once non-profit public service offerings by broadcast networks — until the likes of CNN came along and proved that full-time “news” reporting could be profitable. And from thereon, copycats came to regard news reporting as a profitable media product. The downside in that development is that once news reporting was regarded as a self-sustaining profit centre that was expected to contribute to propping up the share price of a media corporation, the content these newly-minted “business units” then had to be made entertaining enough to attract and sustain an audience of its own. Tabloid-style reporting, once confined primarily to, well, print tabloids then began to make its way into broadcast news. The rest of the story that tells how mainstream broadcast news became the laughingstock that it is today is history.
So now Mocha Uson, just like corporate news media, disseminates edited news and public affairs content through channels and assets that were built by entertainment content for an audience looking to be entertained.
What happens now to Mocha Uson the blogger? Quite likely, that persona will begin to disappear. When social media content devolves into content created by committe it loses its appeal to an audience who regard themselves as empowered to curate the information they consume. Multiply that individual curation process by the millions of social media users and the emergent Darwinian landscape of the Internet jungle forms — where content producers compete for those millions of eardrums and eyeballs, the most nimble of whom scamper underneath and run circle arounds the lumbering dinosaurs.
With Mocha Uson’s style cramped by editors and the editing and vetting process they will likely subject this style to, might she become one of these dinosaurs? That remains to be seen. But the way things are going for her, that is the current trajectory the flight of her personal brand is following. One thing is certain, Mocha Uson becoming an edited producer of online content will leave a vacuum in the fabric of the Philippines’ political discourse.
This a key risk run by social media “influencers” who hardwire their alignment to specific political personalities. In the case of Mocha Uson, it was difficult enough following her rebranding from an “exotic blogger” into an avowed Duterte cheerleader or “Diehard Duterte Supporter” (DDS) to pitch content beyond the choir and evangelise non-believers on the back of truly insightful work. From my experience running GetRealPhilippines.com, we too experience an exodus of Duterte supporters whenever we write something critical about the president or his government. In our case, we easily write these unfollowers as people who followed us for the wrong reason to begin with.
In that regard, the “vacuum” an establishmentisised Mocha Uson may leave on the Net may likely not be that much broad nor deep. As a cheerleader during the campaign, she was strikingly potent. But as a source of insight on how things are going as far as Philippine politics and the business of government goes following Duterte’s ascent to Malacanang, the Mocha Uson brand has struggled since.
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