Re-intermediating the Media

189/365One of the things that most excited me about the World Wide Web was the way it crushed the distance between an idea and its reality.

The mere fact that I could, with a few spare hours and a scrapper’s knowledge of HTML, create a website – a “place” on the internet where nothing was before – seemed to me, a revelation.

Over the last 20 years we have seen a dramatic transformation in the media landscape. The promise of the early web has been delivered. Now, you or I can produce web pages and whole sites without the need of complex programming or large scale resources. We can produce “media” or what largely passes for media, using a $50 webcam, a microphone borrowed in the downtime between Singstar sessions, and a point of view all held together with a dash of passion.

The easy availability of technology and the digital publishing platforms sent waves of transformation through all forms of publishing – from books, magazines and newspapers to radio, TV and beyond. The full effect of this slow moving tsunami is yet to be seen or accounted for – but the lasting transformation is in the nature of power.

In the wake of these changes, the power that was once centralised in the hands of the publishers and broadcasters has been fragmented – tossed like so many pins into a new global haystack of content, opinion and conjecture. As Ben Shepherd points out, the winner here has been the search engines and content organisers like Google:

Google came in and created a tool that allowed internet users to find what they needed quickly and easily. It reinvented search and has allowed consumers to get anything they want, whenever they want, and for the price they want – generally for free.

But we are now experiencing another wave of transformation. Where the first wave shifted the base of power away from the broadcasters towards the content organisers, this next wave of disintermediation is moving information – and recommendation – away from the search engines. As a result we are seeing people powered networks (best characterised by sites like Twitter and Facebook) benefitting from this new shift in the locus of power. Tom Ewing describes it simply:

This shift is best interested, I think, in thinking about the difference between corporate brands and ‘personal brands’. The corporate brand entering social media is urged to give up control, to surrender some of its autonomy. But Twitter’s most popular users – its A-Listers, the celebrities – are using it to regain a level of control over their presentation and perception, through disintermediation.

This trend, while still small, will have Google worried, for while they seem to struggle with the human dimension of the social web, they certainly understand the power principles inherent in social network design and its resulting viral expansion loop. Interestingly, however, most social media participants, once they reach a certain scale, invest in the creation of what can best be termed “old-school media properties” – turning what little influence they do hold into a business modelled around advertising, sponsorship and editorial.

This seems to be a zero sum game to me – properties built on new foundations seem to sit uncomfortably within business models that they themselves, helped discredit. But what has been missing is a way to re-intermediate the new media – bridging the gap between business, brands, advertising, media buying and planning, and these long tail publishers. In the last few weeks two new players have stepped into this space. MediaScope, the brainchild of Denise Shrivell is “an online directory connecting advertisers, marketers and small business to 'alternative' media opportunities in niche, below the line, emerging and independant platforms.” It is due to launch in the coming days.

Media Cafe is also staking a claim in this space – but bringing perhaps a fuller community based publishing model to market. Currently in pre-release mode, Media Cafe is also open for the population of data ahead of a launch. Interestingly, Media Cafe appears to be putting new social properties on the same footing as traditional media properties. This aspect alone is likely to raise eyebrows, but will it unleash a new wave of innovation and transformation. No doubt both MediaScope and Media Cafe are banking on it.

Swallowing the Truth

Mary PoppinsAnyone involved in marketing, in transformation or change management knows that there is a simple fact – change is hard. Getting someone to understand that their product, job or world has changed is an enormous challenge. It requires not just logic, but also an emotional response. We need to change our hearts as well as our minds – and it is easy for us to KNOW something but very difficult for us to ACT on that knowledge.

What we need to do is swallow the truth. We need to consume it, to bring it into the depths of our beings. We need to give “new truth” the chance to spread through every fibre, infect every synapse and tingle each fold of skin.

And you know what? Our “gut” tells us a great deal about the “truthiness” of truth. Items that are unsavoury are expelled quickly in an impulsive response. “Heavy” items are digested slowly and over time.

Seth Godin suggests that the future is just like the past, but shinier:

Your industry has been completely and permanently altered by the connections offered by the internet. Your non-profit, your political campaign, your service business. Not a little different, not just email enabled or website marketed, but overhauled.

But the future – or more precisely, the true future, is not just shiny. It is tasty. We are hungry for it and for the sustenance it brings. Ask yourself not just how you are forging a future for yourself, your business and your community – also ask exactly what it is that we should swallow. If it’s not the truth, it won’t stay down for long!

What the Tweet?

At year’s end we all begin to turn our attention to the future. We re-evaluate the trends that have ebbed and flowed, and we look over the horizon towards that as yet, undiscovered country.

Joe Pulizzi rounded up a number of folks to get their content marketing predictions for 2009 – and Scott Drummond pulled together a mammoth list of predictions over at MarketingMag. I won’t be making predictions this year – there is more than enough speculation out there. However, I will put forward a couple of facts that mat be useful for you to consider.

Back in November I felt that social media was mainstreaming … and it seemed an opportune time to encourage marketers (in the midst of planning for 2009) to CONTINUE to innovate despite (or perhaps “especially because of”) the changing economic conditions:

For marketers still finalising their budgets for 2009, I would recommend setting aside a small experimental budget for social media. Hive off 5% or 10% of your MEDIA budget and contact EXPERIENCED agencies and consultants (email me if you need recommendations).

But even back in November, I felt that social media could go one of two ways in 2009. Because fear is the enemy of creativity and innovation, there was the possibility that marketers would fall back on the “tried and true” – investing their marketing hopes in traditional advertising strategy and patterns of media spending. But I also felt that with the lower costs, the more precise targeting and killer metrics, that a stronger digital mix (with an emphasis on “social”) would prevail in 2009. But the overwhelming reason for my optimism lies in the fact that our AUDIENCES have already shifted – consumption and engagement patterns have been transformed – and if we want to now REACH an audience, we must participate with them on their own terms.


Interestingly, as Hitwise recently announced, Twitter (the most social of social tools) is experiencing phenomenal growth in Australia -  517% year-on-year. And it is not just for “personal use”. Traffic patterns for December 2008 and January 2009 indicate that Twitter is being used in the workplace (Lucio Ribeiro has even put together a list of 20 Australians you should be following on Twitter). And when I hear the Asia Pacific President of SAP (where I work), Geraldine McBride, mention Twitter in a kick-off keynote address, it seems clear that not just “change” but “transformation” is under way. 

As Renai Lemay noted (in an article I found via Twitter), both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull have joined the service. And while some of the leading Australian Twitter folk interviewed suggest “it's the fundamental architecture of the service that is driving growth” – I would suggest another case. We are all herd animals. We simply go where our friends go. And as a marketer or planner, that is compelling enough for me. What about you?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]