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02

Jan

We Are In a Post-Media Society

It is common conception that social technology (and the free exchange of digital information) have “changed” advertising, presenting “new challenges” for marketers and the enormous, esteemed agency world. This, I argue, is a vast mischaracterization. The advertising industry is not changing; the entire concept of consumer content interruption, upon which the advertising industry has been built, is becoming obsolete. 

The concept of interruption was created in the media-channel era. A medium, like TV or Radio, has, by definition, a single point of access and a single means of consumption. (e.g., 88.6 FM is a medium. It’s access point is a radio receiver). Because of this, the order, rate and method of content delivery can be controlled, an “interruption space” can be created and brand messages can be effectively interjected. This interruption space is where the entire, trillion-dollar advertising industry was born and currently lives.

However, this is not how content consumption works anymore. In a sense, we are in a post-media society. Content is not delivered through channels with a single access point, it is accessed directly making it impossible to regulate. And yet, we hold on to the same antiquated concept of interruption. It is no coincidence and is extremely telling that advertisers call this new world “social media.” This phrase demonstrates the immense misunderstanding of the new content environment by anyone who uses it. 

Facebook and Twitter are not media channels and thus, cannot support the concept of interruption. Moreover, those media channels we do have left will soon be gone. As Wired mentioned two years ago, we now consume the majority of internet data outside of the World Wide Web (which could have conceivably been called a medium). And as Business Insider illustrates, offline media have either totally collapsed or are about to.  And this includes TV, which still comprises the lion’s share of ad spending. Cable cutting will continue to grow exponentially as alternate pay-for-content models continue to emerge. And none of these models will qualify as media.

We do not consume content through media anymore. And without media there is no interruption. Without interruption, there is no advertising.

Working for an advertising agency now is like working for a record company in 2001. We are due for a huge, painful and inevitable collapse. And here’s what it will look like on the other side:

Products and services will be differentiated by the quality of experience they provide. Thus R&D will replace corporate communications as the single greatest determinant of corporate success. Because of this, corporate communications will assume one of two new forms: 

The first is corporate communications as a part of the product experience. This includes refining user experience, creating product features, designing product interaction/interface and customer service. Creative minds will be very much a part of this process but they will be intrinsically linked to product management. This leaves little room for a third party agency of any serious capacity.

The second form is corporate communications as content creation. Content that has entertainment value independent of it’s brand will be extremely valuable for certain businesses. Red Bull is a prime example of this (http://redbullrecords.com/). Content creation also leaves room for creative minds, however, they will be totally indistinguishable from actual content creators (filmmakers, screenwriters, musicians, artists etc.) and nothing like the copywriters and designers around today. Thus, content creation companies will look nothing like advertising agencies and more like studios or production houses.

In short, social products/services with exceptional product experiences will rise to the top, and advertising will have no role to play in it. Agencies have begun to assume some of the above roles, not realizing that they will bring about their own demise. Because of this, it’s actually a really eye-opening time to be employed in the agency world. But this will not last. The moment these alternate content delivery models reach critical mass, the concept of interruption will be gone and the $.5 trillion media industry will totally collapse. Though it’s hard to say when exactly this will happen, ad spending data (and the previous link) suggest that growth has already stalled and we are at the top of the bubble right now.

© 2013 Tyler Gaul all rights reserved. 

13

Jul

Why I Support Daniel Tosh and Jokes About Anything

A joke makes a thing funny by illustrating the absurdity within it. Therefore, all funny jokes about, say, rape (like the ones for which Daniel Tosh is now being berated), are illustrating the absurdity of rape and are thus either opposing it or a topic surrounding it, or, at least not supporting it. Thus, the only thing to do in the case of the recent Tosh debacle, is to decide whether Tosh’s jokes are funny or not, which is almost never productive, particularly when an organization like Jezebel is predisposed to evaluating jokes on certain topics (like rape) differently than they would evaluate jokes in general.

No one can ever argue that Tosh’s jokes are not insensitive. They absolutely are. But “insensitive” in no way translates to “wrong.” There is nothing close to a moral imperative for one to “not be insensitive” - though, in a given setting, sensitivity certainly is nice (for instance, in another person’s home or hospital room). In the setting of the comedy show, however, like Tosh’s, where one is paying to see his particular  schtick, it was the outcrying audience girl who was being insensitive or, more accurately, rude. [Though, as an aside, his reply to this was in no way funny, smart or valuable.]

If this entire issue is about bringing about constructive, positive change for serious issues, instead of inhibiting their progress in society, I would argue that oversensitivity and the unilateral condemnation of jokes along a certain topic, are much worse than making the jokes themselves. Oversensitivity represents an inability to examine a topic in a plain, honest manner and thus an inability to create a constructive plan to move forward. 

So shut up, Jezebel and all you inane supporters of Political Correctness. Your smug sensitivity and subsequent denial offend me.

06

Jun

Evolving Capitalism and The Real Problem with SOPA and CISPA

Recently, in a stunning demonstration of thriving, internet-fueled democracy, millions of internet users spoke(ish) out in strong opposition to the SOPA and PIPA legislation. Reasons stated for this opposition varied but were mostly centered around the restrictions to freedom of speech, the unbridled enforcement power given to an elite few and the cumulative interruption this would have on the basic function of internet as a whole. While I agree with these sentiments in a superficial/practical sense, I would argue that there is a more fundamental error at work here.

More fundamentally, these bills represent the reluctance among the commercial-political world to recognize that the current commercial model is broken and done. For better or worse, the system of tightly controlled propriety over one’s goods and services and their distribution channels is gone. Instead, a more Karma-like system has begun to emerge, where goods and services are offered up freely to the general commercial community and are returned in a loose, non-linear fashion in the form of — for lack of a better description — Internet Equity. As the Internet monetizes as a whole, the Internet Equity pays dividends to its proprietor. This exchange is amorphous and irregular but just as real, progressive and, in the end, Capitalistic. But because the exchange (not to mention the distribution) is not controlled and owned, profits will be disproportionate to those from the past model. 

The principle is this: When an institution is fixed (as in “fastened in a secure position”), is swells. When it is in flux, it stays small and lean. 

This is the future of our global digital economy (it is no accident that this phrase mirrors the established “Global Political Economy” — it is my belief, which I wish to express, that digital means will replace state politics as the main determinant of economic activity). One way of looking at it is that, within this new model, there be fewer billionaire industry moguls and more millionaire industry facilitators — fewer millionaire musicians and more

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13

Apr

Why Augmented “Reality” and 3D “Printers” Are Bullshit

These two over-hyped concepts use a classic bait-and-switch to exploit the overly excitable community of “new media” groupies who currently saturate the social webosphere. “Augmented reality” is a video graphics effect that uses a visual recognition algorithm. “3D Printers” are manufacturing equipment that can build from digital modeling software. These two concepts have nothing to do with “Reality” nor “Printing” (respectively), but, by appropriating both of these words, add a thick layer of mystical magic to what are otherwise two easily understood, unprofound concepts.

In an era when everyone is their own social media marketing expert, the marketer becomes the marketed-to and shifty little gimmicks like these become the overnight currency of this self-contained, self-referential, Mashable micro-economy. Like any gimmicky fad, it is almost pointless to criticize these concepts because they are ephemeral and will kill themselves in due time. But it is at least worthwhile and interesting to note how simple marketing tricks are still very, very effective and the bulk of active, “empowered” consumers still totally undiscerning. 

UPDATE: As my friend Jonathan Rouse just pointed out, Tupac “Hologram” is another great example.

01

Mar

Why music, movies and art are worse now than they were 10 years ago

This argument comes out of a basically unfounded “feeling” that the overall quality of art and culture around me has dropped significantly since [let’s say, its peak in] 2003. Since then, I feel that we are in a perpetual state of waiting for ex-geniuses (for me, Wes Anderson is a perfect example) to release something new, which we then consume somewhat reluctantly while wincing in disappointment at its utter mediocrity and striking resemblance to past works. I attribute this intuitively to the loss of a rich cultural context, which is caused by the profusion of digital media and content in the last few years. This is my argument:

In the past, culture artifacts (in the form of ideas, art, music, news, etc.) were distributed slowly through limited means. Music and film were distributed in physical form, ideas were spread through controlled, offline media like radio and TV and we communicated with each other via land-lines or face-to-face communication. This created an inherent delay between the time in which these cultural artifacts were created and the time that they became culturally ubiquitous. During this period of delay, society developed a rich cultural context out of which, a new generation of artistic expression could be created. In this way, there resulted a natural rhythm to cultural shifts and movements, which, at least in the last century, has mostly tracked with the decades. “The 60’s” had their own socio-cultural movement, which by the early 70’s, was reduced and replaced with a the socio-cultural movement of the “70’s.”  So long as new ideas were spread through limited means, culture had time to develop into a rich context, which supported the creation of a new culture…ad infinitum.

However, the means of distribution (of culture) is now digital, allowing ideas and art to be spread and become ubiquitous almost instantaneously. This removes the period of latency during which a cultural movement can develop into a rich cultural context.  This leaves culture, instead, in a constant state of indeterminate homogeneity out of which it is impossible (beyond the occasional, isolated exception) to produce

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28

Feb

Comparing the media landscape of the past to the media landscape of today is hard…

30

Dec

Tech Horoscopes, 2012

An overview on the current race towards absolute social…everything (web, commerce and entertainment)

Apple - Winning the battle, not the war, and not even that for long

Apple is in an arms race of hardware and patents that can only be won by a series of consistently correct tactical decisions as well as maintaining organizational superiority. In other words, because Apple’s victory can only be tactical, it does not have a strategic advantage. Apple’s acumen with generating fanaticism is limited to its ability to create real technical differentiation. However, open source software and second-tier hardware will gradually but effortlessly creep over all of Apple’s territory in the same way that it has already gained a plurality of the industry ( Android: 42%, Apple: 28% – Source). In years past, and in a different category, being first and a pioneer would lead to domination (Xerox, Kleenex, Coca-Cola over Pepsi, Nike over Reebok). Now, however, pioneers act more as door men for smaller, more agile innovators (or Tweakers, according to Gladwell) and consumers are infinitely more concerned with value than brand. Consumers are on board with Apple’s benevolent dictatorship only as long as it yields the best product around. That battle will become increasingly difficult to win.

Google - Set to win but squandering its advantage

Google is currently floundering under its own bloated weight and dry, cutesy culture, which, I would assert, is the result of its pursuit of hyper-academic and hyper-technical talent.  This has led to the release of several deplorable products like Wave, Buzz and Google+, all of which are crafted like the space shuttle but are completely out of touch with real, visceral human experience.

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17

Dec

Emotional Thinking

Not minutes ago, a prospective tenant, his girlfriend and our property manager walked into my apartment where my roommates and I have be chaotically hosting company for several days. His eyes widened as he was greeted with a somewhat massive amount mess and clutter. He walked around speechless with obvious horror and disgust. It was absolutely a condescending sort of disgust but, to his credit, seemed mostly involuntary. As his girlfriend walked around asking thoughtful questions in ernest, he took small reluctant steps around the apartment wondering what kind of monsters my roommates and I must be to live like this. I tried to engage him but he would at most push out a distracted nod or a quiet “okay.” We went through the whole apartment like this until we ended in the kitchen, where the oven, which was pre-heating in advance of my frozen pizza, beeped, indicating it had reached 425º.  

"Your OVEN is on," he said. It was his emphasis on the word "oven" that struck me. My OVEN is on? In contrast to what? Some OTHER sort of heat source in my kitchen being on?  Were you wandering around with an amp usage indicator wondering what things were using power in my house and discovered that, in contrast to perhaps a lava lamp or my dishwasher, my OVEN was on?

He had made it sound like this statement was at the end of a long list of reasons why I, my living habits and my apartment repulsed him; a list that had been running through his head since he arrived. 

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30

Sep

I love this video. Uniquely, without reason and more than all other videos.  Universal love is an oxymoron.  Perhaps it should be called “universal awareness.”  This is one of those ideas that’s both peripheral and somehow central to the main question of what it means to “be” at all.  It’s the idea that fully charitable self is no longer a “self” at all and is thus no longer charitable.

For further reading check out this article:  http://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_3/westmoreland_june2008.pdf

08

Sep

Three Speculative Essays on an Overly Lofty but Significant Topic

I’m thinking of writing a post about an idea that is frequently affirmed “in theory” by those with whom I discuss it, but is nothing more than pure conjecture in reality. That said, A) There’s something to be said for the great many intelligent but generally unfounded works of thought (by such revolutionaries as Simone de Beauvoir, Slavoj Zizek and Jacques Derrida, not to mention all the literary greats), and B) I’ve seen a few things start to pop up (with varying degrees of academic rigor) that seem to be in agreement with me.  On the one hand, I find an advocate in the pithy John Mellencamp in his recent statement at the Grammy Museum and also in Venkatesh Rao in his recent work A Brief History of the Corporation. The theory holds as follows:

  1. the cultural zenith in 2002-2006 and its technological pre-conditions 
  2. the shortening of the time between cultural revolutions (cRPMs)
  3. the permanent narrowing of cultural significance, depth and meaning and thus the narrowing of artistic significance, depth and meaning.