Category Archives: future of media

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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Filed under advertising effectiveness, analytics, future of media, measurement, twitter

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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Filed under books, communication platforms, future of media, McLuhan

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…

————————————————————-

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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Getting tough at hanging onto things that should be rolled over

I’ve spent the past few years living in a Comcast cable market.  Coming back to Austin, TX meant coming back to Time Warner Cable, so I’ve only recently been exposed to rolloverorgettough.com.  This is TWC’s promise to fight hard for their subscribers in negotiating with those mean, old broadcast TV stations and cable networks.
I especially liked the following paragraph from the “How TV Works” section of the site:

“In addition, the growth of the Internet has brought countless new video options into consumers’ homes through services like Hulu, NetFlix, Amazon, and the programmers’ own websites. Right now, the broadcast TV networks generally offer that programming free over the Internet — and free over the air to any household with an antenna — but believe that customers who receive the exact same programming from their cable, satellite, or telephone company should pay a fee for it. That’s like putting a tax on the customers who get it from cable, in order to subsidize the viewers who get it for free online or over the air. We just don’t think that’s fair.” (TWC’s emphasis)

Checking my bill, it seems I’m paying my protector, Time Warner Cable, to get access to the Internet as well as cable TV.  So, I’m paying to get cable from TWC to subsidize the Internet that I’m also paying TWC for?  I’m a bit confused on what, exactly, is free here.
As it pertains to broadcast and cable networks feeling like people should pay a fee to get programming over TV but not over the Internet, is TWC saying they’d like to go to the model currently used on TV where those broadcast and cable networks charge TWC (and other cable, satellite and telcos) for the right to carry their programming – carriage fees, that 40% of their costs in the TV world?  I’m sure the broadcast and cable networks would be happy to have that discussion…
(Actually, they’d probably like to flip the model and have these “network hogs” – i.e. video providers on the Internet – pay extra to ensure better experiences – more on network neutrality soon, stay tuned.)
I’d posted over a year and a half ago on the issue that was brewing at that time between TWC and Viacom as it related to carriage fees and the “not fair”-ness TWC was claiming over video content Viacom was providing for “free” online.  There have been more than a few subsequent issues between cable companies and media companies since then, but the song remains the same.  Here was my summation then that still seems to be the case now:

“New distribution of programming doesn’t run so well under old monetization systems. In the process of improving the infrastructure of media delivery, access providers and media companies did a short-sighted job of determining the value of the shifts in media usage that they caused by improving the infrastructure. They never developed a model that appropriately valued media usage that is more driven by people’s schedules of desired use via two way cables than their schedules of distribution through one way cables.

So they are left to squabble over which antiquated levers and buttons they can pull and push to make a buck, ultimately, at the expense – in terms of money and, perhaps more importantly, time and convenience – of their most valuable assets: people who pay for access and are fans of programming (not pipes).

Kinda makes all the talk of “if the content is good, people will come” irrelevant, really. If the content is good and people come and no one makes sufficient money to produce more good content it really doesn’t matter.”


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Filed under bad media, digital distribution, future of media, monetizing media, TV, video

New Thinking on Old Media

Fabulous, succinct thinking from Clay Shirky and Steve Johnson on old media. Thank you.

And this is the time of year I wish I still lived in Austin…SXSW Interactive sounds great this year as I track friends who are there via Twitter (#sxsw).

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Filed under conferences, digital distribution, future of media, local, media on media, media usage, monetizing media, twitter

Find-ability + Relevance > Reach + Frequency

Ah, preparing for and being at conferences, such as the iMedia Brand Summit (#imedia for you “twits” out there as Brad Berens from iMedia so eloquently put it today) always make the mind think freely about this industry we are in and all trying to make better. Thus, I’ve actually posted twice in less than a week…and now thrice. As per usual, the idea here isn’t fully baked, but it is an interesting thought w/ which to toy. That thought is this…

Find-ability + Relevance > Reach + Frequency

Note I am not completely sure what Find-ability + Relevance equals just yet (not “engagement”, please, dear Lord, not “engagement”), just that the combo is more valuable than the staid addition for reach and frequency. Here’s what I mean…

It’s a digital world in which we inhabit. As such, it’s a world of 1’s and 0’s that is becoming more and more search-able. And the goal of any search is finding what one wants. Thus, find-ability – the ease w/ which a person seeking something can connect that something w/ your brand – is much more valuable than reach – the percentage of a pre-conceived demographic audience that you think you need to reach.

In order to ensure your brand being found leads to what you ultimately want – sales, perception changes, and whatnot – your brand must be relevant. That means regardless of where, how, when, how often, in what form, etc. your brand shows up, it is always providing a benefit to those who were either seeking the context w/in which your brand is appearing or the application of your brand at the stage in which those people are seeking it allows them to take the next step in their journey. This can occur “frequently” or it could occur once – but the key is that when it does occur, it is seamless and beneficial. It is not done a certain amount of times just for the sake of doing it a certain amount of times (i.e. frequency).

One of my interpretations of (now former) CMO of Travelocity Jeff Glueck’s keynote today (note: this is my interpretation based on the things that have been rolling around in my head that I referenced earlier, he didn’t say or even insinuate the following) is that digital is a key base medium not for it’s measurablity or DR potential, but as the place where relevant experiences begin and are nurtured based on how easily one is found.

Not figure out how you want things to look in the offline world and let that drive the “brand” and then augment w/ online and figure out emerging channels like mobile and apps and stuff once you nail that offline. But realize that their is legitimate, scaled behavior tied to digital media that can be a basis from which all things start – and all that other media can serve the purpose of driving measurable results through these find-able, relevant media.

Fun to think about how you can turn the status quo on it’s head, isn’t it?

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Filed under digital distribution, future of media, media mix

Letting Megadeath Replace Killer App or There’s No Emergence without Merging

Note: There will be no mention of Dave Mustaine in the following. However, I’m digging the Sufjanness of the title.

Of late, a term from The Bubble has been rolling around in my head. Not because I’ve heard people using it, but because the behavior that it implies I’m seeing – again. That term is ‘killer app.’

Why? Probably because when folks are feeling they are in desperate times, they tend to reach for something, anything, the proverbial ‘silver bullet’, that will make everything better. And though no one is saying ‘killer app’ these days, much chatter abounds about Twitter, iPhone, Facebook, Orkut, Vimeo, et al and the various cottage industries that have sprung up around them in the form of apps for these platforms or the fact that these things can be reduced to apps that live on other platforms that can also be reduced to apps and live on these things platforms, too.

I completely get the need to have first movers and early adopters pushing the bounds of what is possible and creating buzz around “emerging” media and platforms. I am fine w/ account planners, media/marketing pontificators and prognosticators, bloggers and the ilk spending the majority of their time on Twitter talking about Twitter and the social and anthropological relevance of Twitter and the various ways one can get Twitter, use Twitter, and tweet about Twitter. I’m guilty of playing that game at times myself. I actually learn a lot from these folks – and do my best to filter out what the video link above mentions in an all too honest assessment of the environments. Bitterness, arrogance, hipster inside-edness and flaming is pretty rampant, but if you wade through it – and give as well as you take – you can see wonderful examples of many and varied best practices abound.

Anyway, the magic moving forward will be, IMHO (wait, I’ve got more than 140 characters here) – in my humble opinion – is realizing if your role is one of a zealous quest for turning over the next killer app and it’s relevancy in and of itself before it “tips”, or if you’re responsible for harnessing the disparate powers of these platforms to achieve something greater than the sum of the parts.

What I mean by that is this – IP/digital is practically ubiquitous. The infrastructure is built and it is solid. What we are seeing now are not ’emerging’ media, but new business models and communication platforms in their Gutenberg printing press stages. The winners in the new new media age will be those who can develop strategy to synthesize killer apps either as they arise or as they’re relevant. The winners will be able to decipher – i.e. have enough knowledge of IP/digital platforms – what the avant-garde of the media/marketing industry are talking about and doing and applying it to the early and late majority.

In a nutshell, those who can make the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts – and, most importantly, provide benefit to a large swath of the people that matter to them most – their customers.

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