The social media revolution (in 15 minutes)

Gastronomy and the future of newspapers
July 7, 2008, 12:53 pm
Filed under: My stuff | Tags: , , ,

Here is another one of mine, cross-posted on my ‘professional’ blog. This deals with one of my themes – the inability of many, especially journalists, to understand the nature of the shift that is taking place as they seek to understand the future through the lens of the past. It also deals with what I think is probably the single greatest shift that is taking place in terms of access to information – the shift from institutions to processes.


Scoble is right – Google type search will loose its dominance
September 3, 2007, 4:04 pm
Filed under: My stuff

A few days ago A-list blogger, Robert Scoble, put up a post in the form of three videos which have created quite a stir. The essence of the clips was that machine based search (i.e. Google) was going to be replaced by forms of social search (i.e. Facebook and Mahalo) – something he calls a Social Graph. Most of the reaction has been negative – with various techy types taking issue with the details of his analysis and of course there have been howls of protest from the search engine optimisation community, which by now is a significant industry in itself. To try and prove a point, Scoble also tried to post his information in such a way as to make it invisible to search – a tactic which backfired, because Google actually found it pretty quick and of course all the reaction to it became highly visible.

However, Scoble is almost certainly right in the direction of his thinking – even if the details are askew (not that I would know).

Continue reading

Clusters, worms and Facebook
August 7, 2007, 2:43 pm
Filed under: My stuff

I think it is time to try and pull together some thinking on the whole social network issue. I first (rather belatedly) clocked that the creation of networks was going to be an important area to watch back in March – and also got excited about the potential of Ning things to create social networks for ideas in May. However – that was in BFE (Before Facebook Explosion) time. The explosion of Facebook has really kicked things along and stimulated some interesting discussion as highlighted in some recent posts by Steve Rubel and BL Ochman.

One thing is clear. Even if the Facebook bubble bursts, some sort of watershed appears to have been crossed that is affording us some clues to the future landscape of the social media world as well as to the likely behaviours of the social media citizen.

There seem to be three patterns emerging:

  • On-line social clusters will be the new media (and the old media will dissolve)
  • Content will be floating and worm-like (a medium in its own right)
  • The emergence of “The One Place” – a utility type provider / manager all aspects of a social media citizen’s on-line persona Continue reading

The Curve of Common Sense
June 8, 2007, 4:13 pm
Filed under: My stuff

The role of mediation is a biggy in social media. If, as seems likely, the influence of the traditional media is going to decline in the face of huge growth in citizen media or consumer generated content , who is going to perform the role of guardian, gatekeeper, arbiter of standards and quality – and all the other things most traditional media players like to think it is they do? Is there a risk that everything will slip to the level of the lowest common denominator – not so much the wisdom of crowds, but the stupidity of the herd? Continue reading

Its a Ning Thing – a MySpace for ideas
May 29, 2007, 2:06 pm
Filed under: My stuff

A few weeks ago I highlighted a couple of interesting things going on in social networking and flagged that this was going to be an interesting area to watch. Having thought about it a bit – I think this is going to be more than just interesting, but a very big new area. Continue reading

PR is Dead
April 10, 2007, 4:26 pm
Filed under: My stuff

I have written this as a follow-on / adjunct to the piece I wrote on the future of advertising – and also as a build to this article by Dan Greenfield. I have decided to call it PR is dead shamelessly following the link-baiting success of a piece also posted today called Microsoft is Dead.

My view would be that PR doesn’t have a future collectively speaking. Defining PR has always been difficult, and there is no other communications discipline which encompasses such a wide range of specialisms. There is a tenuous glue which holds the bits of PR together, which is either the fact that it isn’t advertising, or the fact that it operates primarily in non-owned or controlled channels. This isn’t strong glue – especially since operating in a non-owned channel is now where everyone is headed.

There are three forces conspiring to dissolve PR. The first is the subject that increasingly comes up whenever PR people are gathered together – eloquently expressed in this piece by Matt Shaw – but which could be summarised as the statement that “everyone is a PR agency now”. The advertising agencies and especially the media agencies are now colonising our patch. But before we develop too sharp a sense of outrage at this fact, it is worth remembering that PR people have no automatic rights of ownership here – you could easily say that the only reason we have ended-up on this patch is because no one else has seen it as desirable real estate.

Both advertising agencies and media agencies are currently limited in their ability to “do” PR. In short, ad agencies don’t really get it yet and are still chained to expensive creative dinosaurs and media agencies don’t know how to create their own ideas, they just know how to sponsor other peoples’ ideas. But, especially in consumer brand areas, they command the heights through their share of budget / client attention and superior measurement metrics. They will learn how to do pull, rather push, communications, very quickly. (Or to be more precise – how to do “Up” rather than “Out” type of communications, accepting the consumers are in control of what information they pull “Down”).

Once everyone is on the PR patch, you could say that is a good thing – a victory for PR. To paraphrase the words of Lou Capozzi, the zero will have been stuck on the PR budget, but will it still actually be a PR budget and will PR still be seen as a separate discipline? And will the people currently in control of the PR budget now be in control of this larger one? Probably not in my view.

The second – which hasn’t been debated enough, in my opinion – concerns the role for PR in a world of transparency. Like it or not, PR has always been about creating and operating in a zone that sits between the messy reality of a brand or business and its perception by its audiences. That isn’t to say it is about spin, manipulation or deception (although it often is) – but more about stage management, direction and presentation. The issue now is that this space is being squeezed and the barricade that PR constructed to protect image and reputation is being stormed. The Public is not going to need or tolerate the presence of intermediaries to manage their Relations with brands and businesses. At this point I will have no truck with anyone who says good PR is always about being open, honest and transparent and there is no role for spin and “the dark arts” of PR. There is a world of difference between facts and objective realities – and the presentation and perception of those facts and realities. And this isn’t the world of lying – but it is the world of PR. Anyone who denies this is the case either has their head in the sand, up somewhere else where the sun don’t shine or hasn’t been in the PR business for any length of time.

My view is that as this space disappears, PR will be more about shaping how companies respond to incoming communications and manage upwards content feeds. But whether this will really still be PR and best managed by the people formerly known as PRs will be anyone’s guess.

The third force which is dissolving PR is the issue I referred to in my piece on the future of advertising – namely the fact that the whole market will re-align around specialists and aggregators. Some PR agencies may evolve into aggregators – they have a better chance of doing it that most ad agencies – but for the rest, PR will fall apart into the collection of specialisms it really is and be on the rail along with a whole range of other specialisms (including advertising).

So the death of PR as a discipline is both good and bad news for those people in it. The skills PR people have will be in increasing demand, but the houses we currently live in will be knocked down and we will have to find new places to live.
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The Future of Advertising
March 27, 2007, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Links, My stuff

There seems to be a lot of conversation about the future of advertising going on at the moment. See Pete Blackshaws’ post of yesterday, the rather lengthy Bob Garfield article in Advertising Age Pete refers to – and also the consistently stimulating Hugh Macleod.

Here’s my take. The 30 second ad has a healthy future – but not the sort of 30 second ads upon which the ad business is currently based. In the future there will be small specialist agencies which will knock out 30 or 60 second visual stuff for placement in paid-for channels for a fraction of the price traditional ad agencies currently charge. They will be able to make a living out of this because they won’t have the vast bloated infrastructure of planning, account management and hugely paid creatives to support. The content they produce won’t be “creative” in Cannes award-winning sort of sense. It will be basic, good old-fashioned, product benefit, information and price focused stuff. It won’t struggle (and fail) to carry an entire brand narrative in the way that most of current advertising is struggling (and failing) to do. The agencies that produce it will just be one segment of a whole swath of specialist content creators out there.

This doesn’t mean the end of creativity (or creatives). There will still be a market for the creation of creative content – but this will be shaped around the production of floating digital content packages that are rooted in bringing alive brand stories. The floating bit means that these packages are not tied into set channels or web sites – but are available for consumers to pull down and share if they wish. This is the essence of (RSS) feed-based, pull communications and is the fundamental structural shift inherent in the techy side of web 2.0 (see the fantastic Michael Wesch video).

The thing this content brings alive will be brand stories. Brand stories are absolutely not brand propositions. They are much broader, more credible and more relevant than brand propositions – most of which will be exposed as utter nonsense, designed to create spurious differentiation and the illusion of choice. Here’s the rub. We will find that in many categories the range of available, credible stories, is significantly less that the number of brands. In some categories there may only be one available story. Ouch! If a brand therefore hasn’t staked-out its territory and got itself a functioning, credible, authentic brand story within the next three years – it probably won’t exist in 10 years.

Sitting in-between clients and the creative specialists will be creative aggregators. These will be the closest thing to what we currently call an advertising agency. Their job will be to bring alive brand stories, and be the originators and creative stewards of ideas on behalf of clients. Ideas, networks and communities will be their currency – rather than ads, PR, DM or promotions. They won’t produce one-off advertising or PR campaigns but will be more in the business of 24/7 content creation and management. Neither will they own the means of creative delivery – they will contract this out to the specialists. Implicit in the production of effective content will be the ability to be tuned-in to the various consumer or citizen networks which will ultimately determine how (or if) the content is distributed. Media planning will be dead, because the distribution network will be self-selecting – consumers will be self-planning! Will existing agencies manage to transition themselves into aggregators? Some, possibly – but most will probably form from scratch from the cast-off fragments of the imploding traditional agency business. If ad agencies are to achieve the transition, the first thing they will have to do is cut themselves loose from expensive and inflexible dedicated creative resource by spinning-out their creative offering in the way Saatchi spun-out media 20 years ago.

So that’s the future of advertising – in my opinion.

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