Our friends from the Norman Lear Center, one of the world’s leading think tanks and research institutions devoted exclusively to entertainment, is celebrating their 10th anniversary in style – with a list of ten good reasons why TV, the last remaining mass medium, is good for you: “We've heard the arguments: How TV is bad for us, how it's linked to violence, the obesity epidemic, the dumbing down of culture. At the Norman Lear Center we've made it our business to study entertainment -- televised and otherwise -- and believe that whatever its downsides, TV also has much to contribute to a healthy, connected and well-informed society.“
From “marketing in the age of streams” to the “Googlization of media” to “situational awareness” to “location, location, locaton” to “business becomes social” to “private becomes public” – in their latest report, Edelman’s digital mavens Steve Rubel and David Armano provide a solid overview of the six key digital trends to watch.
As we’re inundated with hero shots of the iPad every day, on every billboard and the back of every magazine cover, it appears to be a good time to rethink the relationship between advertising and product, between marketing and innovation. It’s not that Apple doesn’t spend any money on advertising – no, it was pouring a whopping $500 million into its launch campaign for the iPad. But what is different is that Apple’s marketing doesn’t have to be clever or utterly creative. In fact, it is stunningly not so. No major social media campaign needed to be sparked, no user-generated content contest needed to be held. And while the ongoing tongue-in-cheek anti-Microsoft ads are undeniably cute, they are not really an advertising revelation. Gone are the days of the bold “1984” campaigns. Today, Apple has earned enough attention to forgo any ostentatious marketing, in fact, so much that a cleverly orchestrated campaign would distract from the brand rather than boosting it. The company simply displays its products – that’s all it takes. Apple’s products are viral without any viral marketing.
Describing itself as "a series of events built around a community of doers and thinkers who get together in Europe and Asia to explore the social consequences of new technologies," Lift is definitely one of the best conference networks out there. Laurent Haug, Lift founder and curator, is a wonderful host and has managed to maintain a strong sense of community despite continued growth. In addition to numerous satellite events with partners, Lift organizes conferences in France and Korea, as well as the annual Lift conference in Switzerland as its main hub.
Reading the business section of the New York Times today, you can’t help but notice the juxtaposition of two seemingly different companies, which, at second glance, have more in common that you might think. One is Bloomberg, the financial data juggernaut that has enough cash to aspire to become “the world’s most influential news organization.” The company has placed its bets on the acquisition of the venerable BusinessWeek, trusting that it will broaden its reach into a mainstream business audience. A few pages later, Digital Domain columnist Randall Stross reveals Apple’s pending patent application for a new advertising pop-up technology that forces users of devices and web sites to acknowledge the reception of the commercial message.
Jeff Jarvis, who’s admirably trying to prevent the news industry from becoming the next music industry, recently wrote an interesting blog post in which he heralded “hyper-distribution” as a valuable new business model for news organizations. Responding to some industry pundits who propose embracing shrinking audiences as an effective means of consolidation and audience loyalty, Jarvis argued:
“Since when did it become OK for media people to shrink their audiences? Since they gave up on the ad model, that’s when. But I am not ready to surrender to the idea that advertising, which has supported mass media since its creation, is over. Yes, ad rates are lower; welcome to competition. That’s all the more reason why publishers must attract larger audiences publics – make it up on volume – as well as more targeted and valuable communities.”
To grow audiences through hyper-distribution, Jarvis proposes that news outlets utilize readers as distributors and embrace the very hyper-fragmented forces of the social web that might pose the most existential threat to them: reverse-syndication, “embeddable paper” formats, APIs, specialization, and engagement on social networks.
These are viable concepts (and some of them are already used, i.e. by the New York Times, the Silicon Insider, and others) but, if you were to be cynical, you could also view them as belated means of catching up to a new media reality in which the traditional notion of an advertising- funded news market is no longer valid. While hyper-distribution may provide formats for the post-article era, it still clings to the idealistic assumption that the world needs professional news organizations. But what if it doesn’t? What if the student who famously told the New York Times a year ago, “If the news is that important, it will find me,” doesn’t really consider news media to be trusted sources of news anymore, no matter how good they are in deploying social distribution channels to push them to him? What, in fact, if news brands don’t really matter anymore to Gen Y – as sources of news, trusted or not?
Looking at the many positive responses it received, Pico Iyer’s recent NY Times blog post on "The Joy of Less" appears to have struck a chord:
"But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world)."
Marketers face three types of media as channels of interaction with their audiences: paid media, earned media, and owned media. We know that in today's hyper-relational, atomized micro-markets, paid media's effect is somewhat limited. The days of broadcasting one-way messages via mass media are gone. Traditional advertising is struggling to cut through the clutter in an economy in which attention is the scarcest resource. Most ads are ignored or perceived as spam.
Has it finally arrived, the post-advertising age? Advertising Age, nomen est omen, recently ran a story on the blurring line between commercial and editorial content, as media companies are facing a fiercely competitive marketplace amidst declining advertising budgets (according to the Newspaper Association of America, advertising revenue in 2008 decreased by 17%, to $38 billion) and the looming crisis of the news industry as a whole (see Clay Shirky’s seminal essay on "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable").
Someone blogged that SXSW Interactive is just like the Internet itself – disjointed, decentralized, scattered, fast, aggressive, random, fragmented, and so on. In fact, the main commonality between the two may be that the number of attributes to describe them is infinite. Like the Internet, the annual tech conference in Austin is an echo chamber of an echo chamber, a place where original thought and commentary get mixed up and mashed up in a highly self-referential meta-conversation.