Politics of Numbers

90% think something should be done. So let’s say that’s an over statement…a bit more than half of that is still half of the country. Most polls, of course, tend to be off by 5 percentage points in either direction at most.

An organization representing roughly 1.5% of the country doesn’t think anything should be done. Let’s say this number is under stated by 100%. That’s 3% of the country. (And, actually, I am recalling numbers showing that something like 60% or more of said organization agrees with the 90%).

A body supposedly elected under the principle “of the people, by the people, for the people” sides with the organization representing roughly 1.5% – or maybe up to 3% – of the country.

(Editor’s Note – this is a personal blog. I am not a fact checker. Feel free to fact check me if you like. Maybe I’m woefully misinformed. But that is why I hedged on the stats above potentially being significantly higher or lower than what I’ve seen, heard and recall.)

I respect the Constitution. I don’t always agree with issues that are passed into laws, but I respect that these things are law and we have the opportunity to freely debate these things, not to mention keep or get rid of those who develop and pass – or not pass – policies into laws. I typically respect them to the point of not discussing them because, of late, it’s hard to have constructive discussions on these issues.

Heck, my wife and I (who don’t always agree on politics) have even discussed with our kids about respecting laws or legal decisions that you may not personally agree with. We have also let them know about the potential for hard feelings that can occur because of discussing “political” issues – not that they shouldn’t do so and not that they shouldn’t have personal opinions on the issues, just that feelings can run high and friendships altered when “issues of the day” are discussed. And we couched it as what makes our country great, that many places in the world this cannot happen without serious repercussions or violence.

To be clear…

I think people kill people.

I would like people who shouldn’t have guns to have less opportunities to get guns.

I don’t understand the need for high capacity magazines in non-military situations.

I don’t think the government is plotting to take guns away from people who have lawfully obtained them.

I don’t think there should be a registry of gun owners (and I don’t think one is in the making).

I would say I’m more of a pragmatist than a party-affiliated person when it comes to “politics”.

But that aside, to me, the action taken – or not taken – in the face of the numbers above are hard to comprehend or rationalize, Constitutional amendment or not. Issues aren’t being “politicized”. They’re being bought and sold. On both sides of the aisle. Across seemingly every issue.

Yeah yeah yeah, special interests have “always” done this. Fine. Then let’s have our distinguished senators and representatives voted out of or leave office so they can work directly on behalf of the special interests of their choice and not pretend to be representing their constituents desires or protecting the Constitution. They can line their pockets all they want as private citizens. I do have a firm belief in capitalism.

It seems they are more than willing to make – or not make – decisions on the special interests’ behalf, while perpetuating indecision on behalf of the American people. And, to me, that just doesn’t add up.

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Big Data: Savior or Anti-Christ?

Anybody read any good pieces about big data lately?  Those of us in the marketing/media/advertising complex can’t stumble into a stream of things we should be reading on the industry without being slapped in the face with a headline or two on the topic two or three times an hour or, at least, a day depending on whom or what one prioritizes in one’s stream.

Since coverage of big data is contributing to big data and since I’m but a human who does not have sufficient capacity on hand to process it all, I couldn’t possibly plant links to pertinent articles, but simply will share a couple of themes I picked up from headlines in my stream the past few weeks or so.

The genius, of course, is that if you want to read more about these themes, you will leverage the big data of a search engine with some pieces of the information I’m providing below to find the articles on big data.  I’m helping you learn to cope.  Your welcome.  It’s all just so, well, big and data-y…

The head of one of the agency holding companies said all media markets will operate like digital exchanges sooner than later (I think this was on FT or some other pay-walled situation)

Someone said markets operating on big data are killing creative, while someone else said its making creative better since it’s tied more directly to business metrics – or maybe that was all in the same article (Maybe this was in MediaPost or AdAge)

Another said something about big data actually pointing to a lot of really good “little” ideas that can have “big” impact as long as you know how to mine the big data to find these gems (I think this was on the blog of analyst or consultant or a consultative analyst)

My personal favorite was Cobra Commander’s perspective.

I’m a bit geeky.  I like books about taxonomy and the history of information and how people used stuff before so we can understand or hypothesize how they might use new stuff now and in the future.  I like tinkering around with lots of numbers in spreadsheets so I can uncover an interesting story.  I’m not a 1’s and 0’s kind of geek.  I’m more of a know enough to be dangerous about how the plumbing works such that I can understand how the toilet, sink and shower are in the right places at the right times – even if it may be different than before.  If big data can help that be done, that is fantastic.

What I’m trying really hard not to say but am just going to say anyway is know what it is you want data of any size to do for you, to solve for you, to support for you before you start trying to process it.  Thinking about it that way should help you trim through the noise of the bigness, the veiled and unveiled fear of it, and make it another part of your toolbox of strategic goodness.

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My McLuhan Memes

(Decided on consonance for the title of this post vs. S**t McLuhan Said.  I applaud my own restraint.)

When I feel a bit worn down by 140-160 characters of digital/new/social media and technology quips, purported wisdom, snarky-ness and links – my own included…

When I feel like there is one outline used by most authors for all books about and/or related to digital/new/social media and technology that tend to extrapolate the 140-160 character form to mean 140-160 pages of quips, purported wisdom, snarky-ness and links – with many illustrative case studies…

When it seems after following a week of posts and memes from Advertising Week I’ve come across a scare number of interesting, stimulating, or new concepts…

I turn to Marshall McLuhan.  Mainly because he was right.  In 1964, he was right about 2012.  Maybe more right about 2012 than most of us trying to figure out the reality of 2012 that he could only prognosticate about.  I don’t think he was completely right, actually have a few bones of contention related to what he said, but, by and large, the dude nailed it.

Which then gives me hope.  It grounds me.  Makes me feel my philosophical basis for my day to day is all good.  That I don’t need a new/social media guru to understand what’s going on around us.  Gives me a critical basis to consider new ways of thinking being proposed in 140-160 characters or pages.

So I’ve curated some of my favorite McLuhan quotes into some memes below.  So when this world is gettin’ you down, you can refer to these and get yourself reinvigorated and back into those bubbling, flowing streams of social-ness with renewed perspective and some damn good zingers to boot.  (FYI, there are quite a few Twitter accounts for McLuhan…including his zombie…)

SUITABLE FOR T-SHIRTS, PLAQUES OR POWERPOINT SLIDES WITH A STRONG VISUAL

There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.

Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories, for probing around.

Whoever sharpens our senses tends to be anti-social.

MEDIA AIN’T JUST A PLACE TO PUT ADS

All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical.

Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.

Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.

Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions.  The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.

WE CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH OR CHANGE IS HARD

Nothing can be further from the spirit of new technology than “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

Our age of anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools, yesterday’s concepts.

When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavors, of the most recent past.

We look at the present in a rearview mirror.  We march backwards into the future.

In the name of “progress”, our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old.

DEALING WITH INFORMATION OVERLOAD

The instantaneous world of electric informational media involves all of us, all at once.  No detachment or frame is possible.

Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness.

At the high speeds of electric communication, purely visual means of apprehending the world are no longer possible; they are just too slow to be relevant or effective.

Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition.  We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.

PROGRESS LEADS TO REGRESSION OR GETTING BACK TO BASICS

Electric circuitry is recreating in us the multi-dimensional space orientation of the “primitive”.

We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.

Under conditions of electric circuitry, all the fragmented job patterns tend to blend once more into involving and demanding roles or forms of work that more and more resemble teaching, learning, and “human” service.

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Stuff I’ve Said Other Places, Episode 3

I believe this will be the end of this series.  A nice, neat trilogy.  Pretty sure there won’t be a prequel or postquel.

This one was posted on September 11, 2006 at iMediaConnection under the title “Staffing Made Simple”.  Of course a joke for any media director, digital or otherwise.  My main intent with this one was to extol the virtues of a “cross-trained” media professional.  But as I tend to do, I meandered around a bit.

First was to take on what was at the time a budding air of superiority from “digital” folks – a “we-know-more-than-you-and-are-ready-for-what’s- next and-your-not” kind of air – while also incessantly bitching about ridiculousness of hours and not having enough people to help out.  I’ve always felt that sort of arrogance just needs to go away and the more people you can get to learn and understand more stuff, the better.  And the corollary – if you aren’t interested in learning new stuff, you’re in the wrong industry – is equally applicable.  There tends to be enough work to go around for everybody anyway so no need to be insecure.

However, I’ve also been in real world situations where getting to that point is extremely challenging for a number of reasons – even when it seems you have it in your power to make it happen.  Not really feeling up to getting into that right now…

Next was the thought of a truly fluid and real time digital media marketplace.  Mind you, this was prior to the explosion in ad exchanges/trading desks/DSPs/etc and so forth.  Perhaps we are closer, but noticed a few articles from various online measurement firms in my Twitter stream today about over 1 billion in online advertising being wasted on bots – and of course a note saying “and here’s how to protect yourself”.  So maybe impressions being traded at the impression level in real time is getting better, but seems the intervention of human beings for more than just pressing buttons is still required.

And to that end is the real reason I am re-posting this one.  Finding talent that can think critically about what they are seeing, develop strategy, and drive that through to application, completing the loop back to new data and doing it all over again – will continue to be a challenge.  Perhaps we have placed a bit too much faith and trust in the 1’s and 0’s, or maybe there’s too much teaching of placing too much faith and trust in the 1’s and 0’s vs. teaching what to do with the output from the magical programs, models and dashboards we see every day.  I’ve had discussions with a number of friends and colleagues who work at media companies, at agencies and at marketers who are all looking for talent who aren’t just data-driven, comfortable with numbers and technology, or are part programmer but who demonstrate actual critical thinking skills to understand how these things can fit together and apply actual strategy moving forward.

One conversation in particular stands out.  “It’s like they don’t even have a point of view on what’s going on in the industry, ” this friend and former colleague said to me.  Kind of a bummer since this is such a dynamic, fun industry to be in.

I will stop now in hopes that this somewhat curmudgeonly opening doesn’t take away from what I think is a hopeful message below.  Enjoy…

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Much has been made of late regarding the challenge of finding good, experienced interactive/digital media people. It’s a consistent topic in just about every trade publication you pick up or trade website you peruse. It’s even starting to get some play in some mainstream business publications, in print and online.

I have been relatively lucky in that I have a good, solid core of talent that has allowed for much organic growth as our clients’ interactive / digital / new / emerging media budgets have grown (note to headhunters and my esteemed colleagues– HANDS OFF); a great core of talent that has (more or less) willingly given up on the concept of “normal” work hours and work weeks as the workload has steadily increased.

I’ve become a bit exasperated of late, however, both in terms of my recent searches for outside talent, as well as with the trade buzz around this topic. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there is nothing new under the sun, and that the best way to get insight about the future is to examine the past. Since we live in the digital age that we do (I haven’t done the math on this officially but I’m thinking there are about 15 digital years per every calendar year), all I had to do was take a quick look back to the not-so-distant past for some insight on this current event.

There was a trend some 10 years ago of media planners and buyers making a jump into this internet thing without a safety net, primarily driven by curiosity, to establish themselves in this space. Paraphrasing Willy Wonka, we were the music makers; we were the dreamers of dreams.

I have many fond memories of just trying to figure it out. Back when sock puppets sold dog food online, and someone thought there was a viable business plan in paying people to surf the internet, stock options fell like manna from heaven (even for companies using sock puppets to sell dog food online and companies paying people to surf the internet), and The Big Guys’ main sales strategy was “We’re big. Buy us.” (See, 15 digital years per calendar year bring trends back a lot more quickly in our world.)

Nostalgia aside, the main reason I got into interactive / digital / new / emerging / title-of-the-week media was because I had a curiosity about media in which people were an active participant in the experience. There was the thrill of being able to see the loop close– seeing the actual behaviors resultant from our advertising. What’s more, the ability to use that data to make the plan better– immediately. And there were many folks like me (many of you reading this now) in the previous decade having a similar epiphany.

Do you think such curious folk in this industry ceased to exist in 1995 or 1998 or 2001 when you came into the game? Is there not a strong safety net now in place to show the way for the next generation of digitally curious media planners and buyers, digitally experienced or not? Are we not the potential Jedi Masters to these potential Padawon Learners? OK, I’ll stop now.

As lines blur between traditional and non-traditional, as most media move to digital and more measurable platforms, do we need to, in a media analogy, parse a finite universe of experienced digital planners and buyers until that audience is no longer efficient or stable to target? Or do we need to find an audience with a propensity for curiosity regardless of their demographic make up (traditional vs. digital) and show them the way?

Look, if we’re going to walk the talk of convergence / cross-platform / integration, it CANNOT all be driven by interactive and digital media experts (weren’t we the first ones in the recent past to extol the virtues of “media agnostic” approaches?). Likewise, in a world where medium is message and people use rather than consume media, all pertinent knowledge about a client’s business needs and goals CANNOT only reside with account folks and “traditional” media planning teams. It has to be a partnership in which knowledge and information are shared freely to get to a common goal. In the words of another wise sage — potentially as crazy as Willy Wonka — Roy Spence, “We do not have the corner on smarts.”

Roy loves to speak about the model of “Dynamic Collaboration” as the key to success. In order to get to innovative solutions, all disciplines must collaborate and ideate together BEFORE integration can truly happen. Otherwise, you’re just integrating the wrong things. And, the key to collaboration is removing the chip from your shoulder and checking your ego at the door– digital folks have just as much to learn from traditional planners and buyers as they from us.

I think we’re a long way away from an uber-planner/buyer who can effectively strategize, execute and optimize across the spectrum of media vehicles now at our disposal. Wonka also said, “We have so much time and so little to do. Scratch that, reverse it.” Whenever asked about the potential for “splitting” a person between traditional work and interactive work, I’m fond of pointing out that folks working for me have 40+ hour per week jobs, folks in traditional media have 40+ hour per week jobs, and I’m relatively certain no one (voluntarily) works 80+ hours per week.

Perhaps one day we will have a purely digital media marketplace where front-end planning systems are tied to media inventory management-negotiation systems that then feed seamlessly into tracking and billing systems across all media vehicles; something that is adaptable to the dynamic nature of seamlessly integrating messaging into content and programming, as well as efficient at placing “spots and dots” as needed. And it will come with a slick dashboard showing all of your results across all your spending in one place. That’s a bit more than a few digital years off, I think.

We live in a culture of media mash ups; the same could be said for the ways and means of how media gets planned and bought. A pertinent example in this very digital year: As search is touted for its efficacy in building brands, the industry is rampant with talk of broadcast being purchased on an auction model.

That seems to beg for well-rounded media people who have a working knowledge and understanding of all platforms; people who are comfortable with and can act on instantly available data allowing for real-time optimization, but also are comfortable working in an environment where efficient audience delivery is key; people who can walk the talk of the effect of media mix on communication goals– as well as business goals.

In my estimation, this requires hands-on knowledge where media people can be dedicated to working within an interactive/digital media team for at least a year, preferably within the first few years of their career. Conversely, a year-long “work study” for a young digital media person who has never worked in the traditional world is a must as well. Where they go from that point is up to them, but one thing is for certain: They will have sufficient context and tools to do any job in media well, regardless of how these various platforms evolve.

My favorite line from Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” is, “It is when the tools of production are transparent that we are inspired to create. When people understand how great work is made, they’re more likely to want to do it themselves.” I believe that sums it up nicely. Give solid, young media planners and buyers the tools they need and watch the innovation and creativity flow.

Perhaps I’m over simplifying. Perhaps with media agencies separate from creative agencies separate from interactive agencies such a system can’t work and flourish. Where clients manage bricks-and-mortar in silos from the digital world, perhaps what I’m talking about can’t flourish.

Or perhaps we just need to try harder to make sure that such a system can flourish. Mr. Spence also likes to say, “You’ve gotta kiss change on the lips.” Pucker up.

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Stuff I’ve Said Other Places, Take 2

In Part Two of my preemptive strike against information decay, I go back to a piece that originally appeared on iMediaConnection May 13, 2005 entitled “The New Media ‘American Problem'”.

I recently and sadly missed my 20th high school reunion (though got a nice second hand experience via Facebook – no link embedded intentionally), so this ode to good ol’ Mr. Drake is coming back at the right time.

I’ve used the Moses analogy in here a number of times over the years, one of my faves.  And there’s even a reference to Subservient Chicken (see it here in all it’s swf-y glory or read about it here if you were too young or all the glitzy followers on to this have made you forget the original – or at least the originally hyped), a seminal event in digital marketing if there ever was one.  Enjoy..

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My senior year of high school, I took a class entitled “American Problems,” taught by Mr. Drake. It took a look at the complex issues of the day in our country, encouraging young, fertile minds to take a position and engage in healthy debate.

When things became especially heated, Mr. Drake would step in with a seemingly innocuous phrase that would make the quarreling parties stop and think — some sort of phrase that had been completely overused, that seemed to have lost its meaning somewhere along the way; something you really couldn’t respond to. Usually, it ended the debate just prior to the bell ringing. The man was a master manipulator that way.

Although the phrases seemed practically meaningless, a little meditation on what Mr. Drake said usually led you to realize you had the necessary intellect already in place to comprehend the issue at hand. I also liked the way it brought about the abrupt end to unwanted conversation.

Recently, these phrases got me thinking about the relationship between all things that are deemed “new media.” Right now, there is much consternation about what, exactly, “new media” is and how and when it should be used. Indeed, an “American Problem,” if there has ever been one. Allow me to share a few of these time-honored phrases and explain the connections I made.

“We’re talking chicken and egg.”

More than likely, when Moses came down from the mountain after carving the Ten Commandments, one of the wayward souls in the valley was probably angling for a way to sponsor this tablet that would obviously have such mass appeal. And, hey, it would allow Moses to cover the cost of the hammer, chisel and labor he’d just used to produce the document.

I use that example to point out the sacrilegious way we can tend to assume that every new device or mechanism for delivering and consuming media was put there for us to better reach our target audience. Also, to reinforce that although technology makes consumption and delivery of content seem “new,” when you boil it down, it’s still about reaching the correct audience at the correct time with the correct message.

Let us keep in mind that the best examples of devices and mechanisms for content delivery and interaction (the chicken) are created with the idea that it will be easy for the user to get to the content (the egg) they desire with as little impediment as possible. Keeping this thought in mind will allow us to stay consumer-centric, not media vehicle-centric, in our communications planning.

“Is that a means to an end, or are you justifying the end with the means?”

Doing something new because it’s new is not the answer if it’s not grounded in an over-arching objective. Additionally, latching onto a new media vehicle as a tactic then retrofitting an objective around it will not deliver against your clients’ desires.

In our post-Subservient Chicken media lives, let’s keep in mind that the idea (the end) was subservient to the execution (the means), and that when it came time to execute, there was a plan in place for getting it done.

“That’s neither here nor there.”

Once upon a time, there were simple rules to media consumption. Everyone watches weeknight primetime. Most people are listening to radio during their commutes. Newspapers are the best mechanism for fast-cume, daily reach.

Now we talk about things like time-shifting, co-media usage, on-demand, consumer-generated media, wireless access, content integration, and on and on. Our formerly rather stationary, predictable targets (we knew if they were here or there) are now empowered to have their media the way they want to have it when they want to have it (here or there could be practically anywhere at any given time). Oh, and now they feel so bold as to even create their own media (would that be it’s neither who or whom?).

Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, there’s no need to panic and start throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. We do plan media for a living after all. And, for the most part, we are rational people.

We simply have to put more thought into the context of the media usage as it is occurring and how our product or service fits into that context. Does the product or service contribute to or, at least, flow with the content being consumed? What is the target’s situation as they are consuming the message — in a taxi cab, playing a video game, at work, in a movie theater? And, for a common sense test, would you as a consumer be willing to receive a message on a particular device or via a particular medium at that particular time? No one likes a focus group of one, but sometimes common sense is a good gut check on your media tactics.

“It’s six of one, half dozen of another”

Our ultimate goal as media planners is to stimulate some sort of action or reaction from our intended target. If what we deliver is useful and in context, the target does not care that the message comes via their wireless device as they walk down the street, while playing a video game, prior to watching a VOD piece, or even within the confines of some sort of ubiquitous “traditional” media vehicle. If that target is engaged in an activity and receptive to the message being delivered while in the flow of that activity, we are providing a benefit to the target while achieving our objective. At that point, for our target and our media plan, it’s six of one, half dozen of another.

Mr. Drake, if you’re out there, you can be proud of my application of what I’m sure was an unintended lesson.

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Stuff I’ve Said Other Places, Part 1

Inspired by the recent piece on GigaOm about information decay, and perhaps due to a bit of laziness about posting something new more consistently, I’m throwing up a few things I’ve written that have shown up other places over the years in an attempt to not let my digital info decay.  Most, if not all, of what I put up originally appeared over on the website of my good friends at iMedia.

I’m finding it interesting that though this stuff is “old” (most of it from 7 years or more ago), the topics still feel, for the most part, of the now and, for the most part, not really resolved.  Lots of progress has definitely been made for sure, don’t get me wrong.  But not having full resolution on stuff from 7 years ago I don’t necessarily think is all bad, just that sometimes (frequently) the pace of change in the industry is such that we never really get things resolved before we move on to the next thing.  Or we evolve the thing we haven’t resolved to a new place somewhat compounding the lack of resolution.

Anyway, installment one of Stuff I’ve Said Other Places was posted on iMediaConnection back on August 19, 2005 under the title “New Media to Media Pros: Don’t Label Me”.  Ironically, I arrived back at this piece after numerous, recent email and in person conversations about the evolution of “social” and what, exactly, does “social” mean.  This piece was spurred by an article in Technology Review (read it in print) called Social Machines (the link isn’t dead and seven years later this is still a good, pertinent read).

In moving to a research firm, I have found the concept of The Mathematical Mind flourishes here as it does for the media strategists I was originally referencing.  Actually, I found it alive and well in my time on the client-side as well.  Maybe even more funny is that though “Web 2.0” feels so passe, when you look at how it’s defined, are we really onto whatever the next version is just yet?  Enjoy…

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The past couple of months have been an interesting time for me. I was entrenched in a couple of new business pitches, as well as in many discussions and presentations involving emerging media.

Now that I’m coming out of this intensive time spent primarily talking about the future of media delivery, media consumption and subsequent models for planning and purchasing said media, I’ve been reflecting a bit on what I’ve learned. Where I feel I’ve gained the most insight is in how our media minds need to evolve and adapt to these emerging media trends.

The Mathematical Mind

It took me awhile to put my finger on it, but I’d have to say the biggest drawback we as media people have in fully understanding and applying “emerging media” is a want, I would say a need, for specific order and categorization in our work. We may use big words and a lot of acronyms that many don’t fully understand, but in the end, we want nice, neat, simple labels applied to what we do and how we do it. Our logical, mathematical minds always want one and one to equal two.

Think about it: We do detailed analysis on target audiences so we can label them based on demographics and behaviors that will allow us to better decide the mix of media to use which are nicely separated based on how the message is delivered to the audience. Yes, from a professional standpoint, the majority of us are the dreaded “Type-A Personality,” seeking order and control in what we do.

Case in point:

As mentioned above, the current rash of hot emerging media trends has been the focal point of my professional life for the past couple months. Most of these things aren’t terribly new (especially things like mobile, blogs, podcasting, RSS, social networks, P2P networks, etc.) per se, but are emerging in terms of advertising opportunities. Most were developed on a “grass roots” basis by people reaching out to other people, not as a means to push messaging to the masses.

I was having a difficult time sitting in meetings where folks were trying to place them into unique, simple categories. My opinion was, and still is, that most of these things don’t live in a vacuum in the eyes of the consumer, and most consumers don’t see these things as “media” or media delivery mechanisms. Therefore, we shouldn’t be placing them in silos without context around how people are actually using these things: to be more connected with others.

It could’ve been I wasn’t as articulate as I needed to be in saying that. It could’ve been that I was fighting a losing battle against rooms full of Type-A Personalities. Most likely, it was a bit of both. Regardless, my point didn’t seem to resonate.

It’s about the community, stupid

Then, the August issue of Technology Review hit my desk and crystallized my point, as much as a publication from MIT can “crystallize” anything. The cover story, “Social Machines,” provides an in depth look at the phenomenon of “continuous computing” and what, exactly, that means. In essence, it means that “always on” connectivity between the slew of gadgets we now rely on has led to people’s use of technology as a means to develop communities — of family, friends, co-worker, or others they’ve never met in person but have strong ties to for one reason or the other. It talks about the phenomenon of “Web 2.0,” whereby what once was a repository of relatively static documents is now becoming “a platform for personal publishing and social software.” And the desktop and laptop computer are by no means the sole or primary devices being used to get at these platforms.

(Before I move on and tie this together, let’s keep in mind my initial pronouncement regarding media people’s need for categorically defining things. I’m about to make a couple of broad statements about mankind and a few thousand years of history that will, in short order, lead me to my ultimate point. I only insert this interruption to let you know that I do not completely stand outside of this need to have things labeled neatly, at least when it suits me. Anyway, back to our normal programming.)

I make no claims as a cultural anthropologist, nor do I claim expertise in the finer points of human interaction, but I feel like I can safely say over the course of millennia people have proven that they will use advancements in technology as a means to draw closer together as a community. Initially, that meant physically closer together. It could have been to get things to market; it could have been to simply get from Point A to Point B. Think of the wheel.

But when you think of communication innovations, such as the printing press, the telephone, or short-wave radio, it was about the community that can be built via shared likes or dislikes simply by having discourse with others regardless of location. And that is the mindset with which things like mobile, blogs, podcasting, RSS, social networks, and P2P networks, i.e. Web 2.0, have flourished.

Thoughts on moving forward

So what does that mean? It means that we need to redouble our efforts around being focused on business objectives, as well as be consumer-centric, not media-centric, in everything we do. Define the business objective, understand the audience, and then determine the channels for reaching out to that audience.

It means we’ve got some growing pains ahead of us when it comes to our want for simply defined buckets vs. actual consumer behavior. People are empowered now to NOT be easily placed into preconceived buckets of demographics, behavior and media usage. Linear usage of media is quickly becoming a thing of the past, if it hasn’t already completely evaporated.

It means we’re going to have to define the best ways to become part of these communities of communication where ideas are freely passed back and forth, not simply consumed. It could be we move from being advertisers within content to creators of content to best take advantage of some of these emerging media. That, in and of itself, is a pretty large shift in the way we think about the business our clients are in, and our jobs of planning their media and communication.

It means we’re going to have to seek units of purchase and measure that make the most sense in a new paradigm of media usage and creation. We’re going to have to question where “media” value exists — in the delivery of a large audience, in the inclusion and acceptance within, or maybe in the development of, a community, or at some other point.

Don’t be alarmed. Much of this work is already in progress, and that’s the exciting part. Right now, we’re in a time where we can say things like “a new paradigm of media usage and creation” and have it mean something. We can all participate in this new definition of what we do. It’s like we’re all one big community or something.

Then, when digi-pod-mobi-socio-blogging takes off in a few months, we won’t be trying to figure out under what line item on a media plan it should fall.

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Having watched High Fidelity for the umpteenth time

Did a lot of traveling this summer, including a couple of trips to Asia.  So I watched a lot of in flight movies and listened to a lot of music.  On my last trip to Asia, High Fidelity was in the movie queue and I couldn’t resist.

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a taxonomy nerd – though I don’t believe in a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  Maybe a topic I’ll come back to at a later time.  So Rob’s obsessive habit of making top 5 lists fascinates me.  With this last viewing of the movie, I became a bit fixated on Barry’s challenge to Rob – name the top 5 side 1, track 1’s of all time.

I’ve been playing around with this for the past few weeks in my head, been scratching notes down, even started an Evernote notebook on it.  I couldn’t get to just five.  So, instead, I settled on three thematic lists of the top 5 side 1, track 1’s of all time.

I’m sure Barry and even Dick would mock me.  In fact, I know that Barry would since I’ve included a track that he crucified Rob for.  Alas, though, I’ve got these lists out of my head and here in black and white so now I can move on.  So, without further ado…

Top 5 Side 1, Track 1’s Before My Time

Here’s my list for pre-1974….

  • Black Dog, Led Zeppelin IV.  “When it comes to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.”  Mike Damone, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Never worked for me personally, but I could see how it could…
  • Two of Us, Let It Be.  “Two of us wearing raincoats / Standing so low / In the sun / Two of us chasing paper / Getting nowhere / On our way back home.”  Not sure why, but perhaps my favorite Beatles lyrics.  Also something about the happy go luck-iness of the whistling at the end.
  • Hear My Train a Comin’, Blues.  Slight technicality here – it was released in 1994.  But Hendrix doing an acoustic, raw demo like this is just amazingly awesome.  Listen if you will and you will see why this technicality must slide.
  • Sunday Morning, The Velvet Underground & Nico.  “It’s just a restless feeling by my side.”  Andy Warhol.  Lou Reed.  So good.
  • Strange Brew, Disraeli Gears.  This may not have been on my list a few short months ago, but my guitar playing 12 year old son has me re-listening to a lot of stuff these days and Cream is one of them.  Unbelievably talented trio, amazing rhythm section – and Clapton (he is god according to the Brits and all).

Top 5 Side 1, Track 1’s of My Formative Years

More or less 1987 to 1995 or so.  From when I started paying attention to MTV (especially 120 Minutes) through college.

  • Teenage Riot, Daydream Nation.  “Everybody’s talking ’bout the stormy weather / What’s a man to do but work out whether it’s true?”  Exactly.  Great Side 1, Track 1, Line 1.
  • My Name is Jonas, The Blue Album.  I was hooked on the geek/math rock thing from this song forward.  Unfortunately, Rivers and the boys have moved to something else of which I’m not sure what it is, but this one remains in the iTunes forever.
  • Stop!, Ritual de lo Habitual.  My high school Spanish teacher had us translate Sting songs because he released stuff in Spanish and my teacher liked him.  This song, however, was the first time I willingly – and for no educational purpose – translated Spanish.  Again, what Perry et al have devolved to is sad – I’d never willingly want people to go back on heroin, but the music was better…
  • Ana Ng, Lincoln.  I am a Gen-Xer.  I like irony.  A lot.  Maybe too much.  They Might Be Giants bring it in all it’s glory.  Also the white boy sampling – “When I was driving once I saw this painted on a bridge / ‘I don’t want the world, I just want your half.'”  If I ever get around to a Side 2, Last Track list, Kiss Me, Son of God from Lincoln will surely be on it.
  • Debaser, Doolittle.  Based on a Salvdor Dali movie – didn’t know that at the time.  It’s not like Black Francis churned out easily understood songs.  But, damn, they sounded good.  “Girlie so groovy / ha ha ha ho.”  Yeah.
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nevermind.  That 12 year old guitar playing son of mine asked me what I thought a great album was, so I bought him the 20th anniversary edition of this one and told him to pay no mind to the other Seattle bands of the time.  He tells me Curt is an underrated guitarist – I say his lyrics were great and what I always think of with this album is the rhythm section – Krist’s bass lines and Dave destroying the drums.

Oops, that was six…

Top 5 Side 1, Track 1’s In My Non-Formative Years

So the this is my I’m a grown up kind of list I guess.  Important to note, as you may have guessed from my formative years list, I’m not much of a Radiohead fan.  Not an apology, just letting you know that you won’t find them here.  I realize for many that’s a hard pill to swallow.

  • Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Funeral.  The other album I referenced when my son asked me about great albums.  Also, if you’ve seen them live, let me know who is better live that still plays live.  I can’t think of anyone.  “We let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know / Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow.”
  • Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, White Blood Cells.  Could be the best Side 1, Tracks 1-4 (Hotel Yorba, I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman, Fell in Love with a Girl).  Had a hard time only having one White Stripes album on this list (not to mention The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather).  I think it came to this because it was the first White Stripes riff my 12 year old learned…he got into it after we watched It Might Get Loud together.
  • Third Planet, The Moon and Antarctica.  “The universe is shaped exactly like the earth / If you go straight long enough you end up where you were.”  Love that.  Had a bit of a moment with Modest Mouse when they were featured on The OC (maybe not as bad as the moment I had when The Flaming Lips were on 90210), but a moment nonetheless.  Both bands have returned nicely from these moments of randomness.
  • Caring is Creepy, Oh Inverted World.  That jangly sound of the initial cords is just so The Shins.  Maybe didn’t change my life as much as it did Zach Braff’s in Garden State, but good all the same.
  • I am Trying to Break Your Heart, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Similar to one White Stripes album, same for Wilco.  Being an American aquarium drinker gets YHF on the list…

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