I read a piece recently by Clay Shirky, who in a blog post entitled ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,’ reflected on the nature of revolutions. Periods of time when old ‘stuff’ was no longer relevant to us and new ‘stuff’ couldn’t come along fast enough to replace it. That feels like now doesn’t it?
The edges of our media space are expanding faster than our ability to make sense of them, of new technologies, of how people use them and of the shake out, that will mean some old media will fall by the wayside.
But this is an unravelling story seen from two very different perspectives. The user, swept along by the rush of the crowd to try new media, to make that media fit their lifestyle and the marketer, trying to position a brand where its’ target customer is.
We are at this juncture, living through exciting and yet worrying times because history repeatedly reminds us that the intervening years between the birth of something new and it being fully realised, is a path marked with successes and failures in equal measure.
It is our fear of failure that plays into the hands of those who make their living trying to predict the future we marketers so desperately want to know about.
A recent TimesOnline article has marketers raving about the simple insights of a young man, who whist on work experience wrote a short paper on how teenagers use media. According to him, teenagers (boys mainly) use their games console for conversations, not their mobiles, which incidentally is primarily used for text and music. They don’t read newspapers, preferring instead to get their news online and they don’t buy movies or music, seeing nothing wrong in pirate DVD’s and peer-to-peer downloads.
And what about teenage girls? I speak from experience here as I have a teenage daughter, who has Facebook, MSN and YouTube open simultaneously on her laptop and only uses her mobile or ipod for music / texting whenever she is on the move, and disconnected from her laptop.
What surprised me about this article wasn’t necessarily the insights it revealed, it was the reaction of people to these insights. It was like the volume had been turned up by this young man and for the first time these marketers could hear the authentic voice of a generation.
Who can really know where we’re going; the futurists, the edge dwellers and technology hipsters?
Egos and reputations are at stake, which makes people, who in their time gave us clarity and made sense of where we were, look further and further ahead, not for us this time but to cement their own reputations, their own place in history. They fixate on new worlds, where they can coin new phrases, name new movements and re-claim their place in media folklore. They change the language (For no other reason it seems than that’s what they feel the world expects of them) from social to collaborate to individual and so on.
I don’t have much time for them to be honest. As a user I’m loving living through the revolution and as a Marketer I’m busy trying to make sense of the changing world for our clients and helping them understand how their brand engages their customer across social media spaces.
And what will win through in the end. Which media will still be around when this revolution reaches it zenith? Well history also has a lesson to teach us about this too. New technology is only revealed in retrospect to be turning points in a revolution.
So we need to accept we’re as bound to get it wrong as we are to get it right, so move forward or be prepared to get left behind. Enjoy being part of history in the making, leave the future to the generations to come after us.