Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Well, I finally finished The Chaos Scenario by Bob Garfield. The main premise of the book is how the internet and the instantaneous communication afforded by advancements in technology have had a highly disruptive effect on traditional media. Back in the "good old days" when wizened, cigar-chomping editors and fat cat publishers controlled the flow of information via the limited outlets of newspapers, magazines and television, the "powers that be" had the power of controlling the dialogue between companies, government, and other institutions, and the general public.
Now, with Facebook, instant messenger, texting, cell phone cameras, YouTube, and too many other variations to count, the "gates" that were so carefully guarded by the gatekeepers of yore have been effectively obliterated. Now, we're essentially experiencing mob rule in communications. People that prior to the web's invention would have gone unnoticed their entire lives suddenly become YouTube sensations, celebrity bloggers that are celebrities in their own right, or those with a single-minded vendetta against individuals or corporations that they feel have done them wrong. There's really no longer any effective way of controlling which way communication flows.
The one term Garfield uses over and over in the book is "Listenomics" wherein companies suddenly have a vested interest in listening to consumers, and serving and meeting their needs more effectively. Those companies that ignore the unwashed, interconnected masses do so at their own peril.
Another key concept in the book is how the traditional and current model of advertising is largely ineffective in the new communication model. In the days of the primacy of traditional media, consumers accepted advertising as a "quid pro quo" trade-off for "free" or reduced-cost media. Now, advertising is considered an unwanted intrusion on the user experience, yet at the same time, people expect nearly everything online to be free. Clearly from a business standpoint, this is an unsustainable model.
Overall, the book presents many more questions than it does authoritative answers, but the author invites readers to continue the conversation at http://thechaosscenario.net/blog/. For anyone that works in media, either old or new, or that has an interest in the direction that technology is taking communications, it's a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.