2010 – The Year Everything Was Supposedly Dead; 2011 – The Year of Scale and Synergy

This was a great post by one of my favorite blogs.


Digital Tonto

Happy New Year! I’m so glad 2010 is over!  I can’t remember a year that annoyed me so much.  Every time I turned around some jackass was proclaiming the death of something:  Old Media, The Web, E-mail, whatever…

At first, I would be intrigued, click on Twitter links and read stuff that I couldn’t understand.  Then I would brush up on my acronyms, check some facts and eventually realize that it was all crap. When I would point out the inconsistencies and non-sequiturs, people would write me nasty comments and say that I “didn’t get it” (which was true).

I do have greater hopes for 2011.  The stakes will be vastly higher and that’s likely to engender more serious thinking and business-like approaches.  The coming year holds great promise, lots of challenges and it’s only just begun!

The Death of Old Media

In 2010 it seemed that social media was all anyone ever wanted to talk about.  Facebook hit 500 million users (and, reportedly, $2 billion in revenues).  LinkedIn and Twitter became all the rage.  Nobody talked much about MySpace, Friendster and countless others that tanked, they were too busy proclaiming “old media” dead.

How did that turn out?

As you can see, traditional media stocks came roaring back in 2010 (and even the ones at the bottom, it must be said, did better than Google).  A weighted traditional media portfolio would have comfortably outperformed the S&P 500.  Not too shabby, huh?

And why not, these companies make money.  How many social media companies can say that?  Yahoo’s recent decision to dump Delicious, among other things, reflects the growing realization that professional content is indeed still the heart and soul of the media business.

Of course, the media publishers are only part of the picture.  What about those ad agencies?  Surely, those fat cats’ days are numbered.  Haven’t you heard of disintermediation?  The day of the middle man is over.  Don Draper RIP!

On the other hand…

The Death of The Web

I like Chris Anderson of Wired.  He puts out a great magazine and both of his books, The Long Tail and Free were outstanding.  Nevertheless, I was a bit miffed when he wrote a cover story proclaiming that “The Web is Dead.”

As I explained in a reply, he made a very weak argument.  Many of the “apps” he was touting are actually highly dependent on the Web.  Moreover, it would not only be undesirable, but highly unlikely, that we would return to the “walled garden” era of AOL.  The Web has succeeded so fabulously because it gives us what we want: universality and connectivity.

Most of all, I thought that it was excessively sensationalist for a magazine that I’ve come to expect a lot more from.  He could have written about “The Rise of the App” or “The Extended Web,” but no, he had to assert that what’s exciting and new must constitute a negation of the old.

2010 was that kind of year.

The Death of E-mail

Most recently, I read an article in The New York Times that now proclaims e-mail dead.  It seems that the kids don’t like it because it’s too slow and uses antiquated conventions like “cc” and “bcc.”  They even did some legwork and found a 17 year old girl in California who says that e-mail is “lame.”

Having lived overseas since the middle of the Clinton administration, I’ve always been a big fan of instant messaging for staying in touch with friends spread out over the world  (although with my Fred Flintstone-like thumbs, I’ve never really enjoyed texting).

Nevertheless, I still use e-mail because much of my correspondence requires a longer form.  When I am put in “cc” I am comforted that I don’t have to reply.  No office intrigue would be complete without “bcc.”  The kids, of course, don’t value these things because e-mail is not chatty, but a more formal mode of communication than they have a need for at this stage in their lives.

Oh, and the evidence for the “big decline?”  They cite that traffic on Yahoo mail and Hotmail dropped 6% and Gmail increased by 10%.  Huh?

The Death of Death?

All of the false “deaths” above use the same tortured logic.  They assume an increase in one thing must imply a decrease in something else.  There’s no reason that has to be true and, in fact, it’s usually not.  Over time we tend to get more stuff, so while the overall composition might change, most things continue to grow.

The above is a chart from our good friends at the US Census Bureau.  It shows an significant increase in world population over the next four decades.  If we applied the “increase in one thing implies the decrease in something else” rule, we might conclude that such an increase in live people must entail a consequent decrease in dead people.

Of course, that’s ridiculous, but no more absurd than much of what we’ve heard this past year.  As the economic crisis gives way to modest growth, histrionics will become less tenable.  Work needs to be done and things achieved.  Polemics are a poor substitute for progress.

2011 – The Year of Scale and Synergy

Rishad Tobaccowala, the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of VivaKi and one of the smartest guys in the business, recently spelled out the four key trends for 2011 which are: Mobility, Retail Renaissance, Purpose Driven Marketing and the new framework of paid, owned and earned media (POE).

Two things should be clear.  Firstly, while Apple’s iOS unleashed possibilities, Google’s Android will bring down prices and bring penetration to scale.  Second, none of the four trends work in isolation, but must be integrated.  Therefore, success over the next year probably has very little to do with technology and everything to do with effective management.

Cottage industries, like social media marketing, will need to learn to value cooperation over controversy. Strategic planners will have to build skills beyond PowerPoint and Excel and agencies will need to treat publishers as more than mere “suppliers” (which was a stupid idea to begin with).  Adolescence must give way to adulthood.

To paraphrase Albert Camus, we are like Sisyphus at the bottom of the mountain, ready to renew our labors and struggle toward new heights; with our hearts full, our spirits awakened and our minds (hopefully) at ease.

Have a great year!

- Greg

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