The Road Ahead: January 2010

Actions produce reactions. New Year’s predictions of continued growth in TV viewing, Internet use, mobile communications devices and apps, E-readers, order in social media and expanded “Web 3” services (including thinking with us, if not for us) are countered with jeremiads foreseeing the death of advertising, marketing and PR, the decline of critical thinking, Internet portals perishing and pay walls failing and on the bright side the possibility of bringing vast new markets within reach. The Road Ahead: January 2010

Photo By: Chris Baker

“A fateful day is coming when there will be no more advertising, marketing, or public relations,” claims Scott G. on The Club of Amsterdam Think Tank site. “Why? Simple: we’re killing our industry by being too successful at it.” 

He says the estimated 10,000,000 ads a person in the West will be exposed to in his or her lifetime is actually understated, what with “sponsored data built into your mail, e-mail, Web sites, video games, online games, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and media broadcasts. Ads are delivered by TV, radio, phones, outdoor boards, private vehicles, and transit posters. Marketing messages are sprayed on walls, chalked on sidewalks, printed on condoms, acted out in the streets, waiting to ambush you in restrooms, and beamed at you from electronic displays of every shape, size, and description, including sound-emitting urinal cakes.”  He complains that by the pound, the Sunday newspaper advertising inserts outweigh news sections 3 to 1 and the latter contain ads as well, with some of those sections, including automotive, often paid-for puffery.

Scott G, who owns G-Man Music & Marketing Miracles in Los Angeles ( where he creates radio commercials and composes music for radio and TV spots, decries a “pay to say society”, “the NASCARizing of everything,” when we can soon expect to hear: “Welcome to C-SPAN’s coverage of the Halliburton Congress, brought to you by Bechtel.

Writing for Richard Adhikari believes the Internet destroys critical thinking because it makes it “alarmingly easy to avoid any troublesome information that might provoke one to really think.” He reasons, “Most people tend to read only what interests them. Add to that the democratization of the power to publish, where anyone with access to the Web can put up a blog on any topic whatsoever, and you have a veritable Tower of Babel.” More profoundly, he cites sociologist Herbert Marcuse to note that what we like is shaped by our industrial culture. Like fish who can tell us little about water, we navigate the Internet unaware of the currents that influence our choices.

Portal perishing is what Ari Rosenberg, Online Publishing Insider, believes will happen to AOL, Yahoo and MSN when “boomers log off” because the generations behind them do not use Email, the chief source of revenue for these web portals. He says, “Once kids flip open their cell phones, they stop reading their email. It’s that sudden. For this demographic, communications occurs initially through texting and then onto Facebook.” He predicts there will be lots of maneuvering to stay profitable but the winner will be the portal that acquires or is acquired by Facebook.

Eric Sass, writing in MediaPost Online, references a Fitch Ratings report to say, “While a few select newspaper publishers may succeed with a strategy of erecting pay walls around their online content, most of these attempts will fail . . . In areas such as national, international, business and entertainment, news content has become commoditized, with the majority of metro dailies offering content so similar that readers will not feel a need to pay for it.” Sass says Fitch expects most newspapers erecting pay walls to reverse course, especially with other news outlets continuing to offer their content for free.

And, a “whole new ballgame” engendered by one of the latest Internet advances, WiFi plus Mobile, is what John Blossom sees, writing in his Shore Communications Newsletter. The continued development of gizmos now on the market will make it possible that, “Our smart phones, our eBook readers, our netbooks, our desktops, our in-home phones and our home entertainment devices can all be brought together on one seamless wifi-based communications medium.”

Blossom says: “Today we’re seeing these devices powering personal communications, but I think that the larger potential is for devices that can (affordably) connect communities with one another first and foremost with a minimum of technology.” He sees these local communities connecting to form “bottom up networks” amongst the five-plus billion other people in communities that find themselves on a different economic and cultural playing field than the rest of the world.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Michael Dobrin

    Wizard commentary in Road Ahead, Glenn. These guys are bright and while, no, they probably do not have the answers (the whole dit-dash-dot world is changing radically as we write), they give us some ideas to ponder. Scott G. is on target with his Ridlley Scott Blade Runner view of media (look, messages in the sky — oh, it’s the Goodyear Blimp) and John Blossom reminds us that there are advances ahead that will connect the 6 billion others to some common system. And I remember the promise of TV for the world (admittedly a one way connect). Indian women in Delhi and beyond would receive education about birth control or language. The technology eventually made it there — and we gave them “Dallas.” And they liked it, too. Poverty and overpopulation just chugged on.

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