Saturday, October 21, 2006

Advertising and journalism -- a discussion in San Francisco


Posted by Leonard Witt at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2006

Will Giving More People Voice Help or Wreck Community?

Interesting debate at the San Francisco Chronicle between "Chris Anderson,
editor of Wired magazine and author of "The Long Tail," an economic
analysis of how technology is changing our world for the better," and
"Andrew Keen, a Web entrepreneur and author of the book "The Cult of the
Amateur," to be published in May, (who) is not convinced that technology
is bettering us or our society. He believes the new, freewheeling Internet
is diluting our culture by celebrating mediocrity."

I side with Anderson, but Keen has some things that must be pondered as we
move forward.

Here is the final question and their answers:

Q: I wanted to wrap things up by asking where are we going to be in 10
years and where is this movement taking us?

Anderson : I think that the genie is out of the bottle and is going to
stay out of the bottle, hat people given a voice won't give it up. The
tools of the spoken text and video and music and democracy are only going
to get more powerful and we're going to have more freedom to do so, and I
suspect that more people will find a voice. That's a trend that's not
going to stop.

How it changes our culture overall as we become less and less of a
cultural lockstep of shared culture and more and more of a tribal culture
where we have our niche interests? I think the jury is out as to what
that's going to do to us.

Keen: I think we are seeing more fragmentation. I think we are seeing more
anger. I think we are seeing this radicalization of culture and life. I
think that technology seems to be almost coincidental and has exploded
around this at the same time that Americans are very angry about many
different things.

It has nothing to do with blogs or technology, but all these things are
coming together in a way that concerns me and I think that if our
traditional institutions of politics or culture or economics continue to
be undermined by this personalization and radical individualization of
things, then I think we will be in trouble.

I think that if the Internet becomes more and more of a soapbox to trash
elected politicians and mainstream media figures and to conduct these
witch hunts on anyone who ever makes a mistake, then I think that
eventually we are going to find ourselves in a world where we're just
going to be staring at a mirror.

It's going to result in what I call cultural and economic anarchy, and I
don't think that is a good thing. I think it will result in less
community, which is ironic given the fact that this thing is supposed to
be about community.

Here is another good exchange about advertising:

Anderson: People misunderstand free. Most media is, in fact, already free.
Television is free to air. Radio is free to air. Newspapers are basically
free. What newspapers sell is advertising.

The nominal price we charge for products, which by the way you are losing
money on, is simply to qualify the reader or someone who is inclined to
read the advertising. So, we're essentially already in a world of free

Andrew suggests that music revenues are declining and actually that is not
true. CD sales are in decline, but if you include digital singles sales
including ring tones and then include ticket sales for live shows, the
music business has been relatively flat and actually rising of late.

You have to see it in a much broader perspective of the business. Selling
the product is only one way to make money. Selling around the product is a
much better way to make money.

Keen: Other than a normal business model, how would you feel if
advertisements were sold in your book?

Anderson: Online, fine. If it doesn't interrupt the flow, I have no
problem with it.

Keen: I think one of the most pertinent things about what I consider to be
a cultural golden age in the 20th century of mass media was that
advertising was not packaged in movies. It was not packaged in music and
only marginally packaged in newspapers.

I think what's happening is that increasingly you have this collapse of
advertising in culture so that you have more and more product placement in
movies. You have more sophisticated ways of tying brands into music so
that ultimately, you're right. Obviously, there will be a music business.
There will be a culture business, but advertising will be so central to
it, that the value of culture is going to be profoundly undermined.

When you buy a piece of music, which in some sense is being paid for by
Wal-Mart or McDonald's, then I think its core value is much less than if
you buy a disc which simply contains music. I see with digital downloads
this becoming an increasingly central part of the business model, because
if you can't sell the thing, you have to figure out a way that advertising
sells it.

Anderson: What does that mean? Buy music being paid for by Wal-Mart? What
does that actually mean?

Keen: It means, for example, on YouTube there seems to be more and more
sophisticated ways of building brand placement into cultural sales of one
sort or another.

Anderson: Give me an example. I don't follow you.

Q: Smirnoff's "TeaPartay" ads on YouTube would be a good example. They're
watched for comic value, but advertising is implicit.

Anderson: Do you have an objection to people watching Smirnoff ads on

Keen: I don't have an objection to any of those things. What I would like
to defend is cultural sales independent of advertising, which I think that
the digital revolution is undermining.

Anderson: Are you against advertising?

Keen: I'm not against advertising. I'm against the collapse of advertising
in context.

Anderson: Let's talk about the last 20 years. Your concern is that
advertising is more pervasive in our culture in the last 20 years,
something, by the way, I wouldn't necessarily disagree with.

Keen: Again, I'm not against clear advertising. What I'm against is
content, whether it's music or movies, being sold as movies or music but
really being financed somehow by a business looking to advertise.


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