Consumerism & Journalism: Why Negative Demand Doesn’t Matter

by Dan Blank on December 23, 2006

Doc Searls reflects on the negative demand for advertising and messages – and that relating to customers is the approach companies should be taking.

I want to look at this in two ways:

  1. Consumerism
  2. Journalism

Okay, on the consumerism side, I find this hard to admit, but advertising serves the purpose of letting me know what is cool. Which company is spending more money to get me interested in something. I realize that none of us want to admit that we strive to be cool, that we want to buy products that make us feel relevant. But many of us do, at one time or another throughout the year. Personally, I don’t do it for many purchases, but there are some.

I just got back from Target where I bought an Xbox 360 game for my wife’s cousins. I was asking employees which game is cool? I really didn’t know which game they would like – I wanted a status game, one that the kids would feel was cool because other kids were buying it.

As much as I avoid advertising as much as possible, yes, I like seeing those iPod ads with the splashes of color. I would bet our culture would change dramatically without it. Does it make us sheep? Perhaps. Is it nice to be a sheep sometimes? Yes.

Now the flip side of this argument is that the opinions and reviews of real people and unbiased reviewers should be the better measure of what is cool. I firmly agree, and certainly checked all the reviews on the XBox game I bought when I got home from Target. Also – to buy that game, I didn’t rely on advertising, I relied on word-of-mouth. So is advertising in jeopardy? Probably not. I simply have access to more people who can back up or tear down advertisings claims.

Onto journalism. With the revolution in publishing – anyone can publish words, photos, audio, and video for the world to see – and the world actually has an interest in looking online for these things. Not only that, but search has untethered people from the gatekeepers – people can find you, even if you are tucked away in some corner.

But will this information overload have a negative effect on journalism. Similar to Doc’s thoughts on advertising – will journalists and media companies and individual producers of content find that increased competition has flattened their business model?

I suppose this is an issue of scale – how do you have a profitable and growing media business? With so much content, and so many people aggregating it in new and flexible ways – how do you experience a firm presence in this space?

While people may not be asking for more news, for more information – they will get it anyway, and in the end, they will really like some of it. You can see the long tail as a limiting factor to growth, or as the ability to capture a niche like has never before been possible.

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