Monday, July 05, 2004

No Demand For Messages

I had the honour of meeting Doc Searls at Supernova. What a great down to earth person he is. Funny and dead serious at the same time. Had a short chat with him about radio and discovered he'd been shortwave radio listening a lot in the past - quoted listening to PJB (callsign for Radio Netherlands on Bonaire) back at me in a flash. I note on Terry Heaton's site a great quote from Doc from the past. In May of 1998, Doc offered a prophecy in the form an essay called, "There is no demand for messages."

The Web is not TV. Repeat after me: the Web is not TV. Excite, Lycos and Yahoo see themselves as the new TV networks. They may have newfangled services, but they make money the old fashioned way: by aggregating scarce access to dumb eyeballs. That model will fail once the Web starts meeting its promises:

1. the need to know; and
2. the need to buy.

In economic terms, these are the only promises made by the Web. Neither of these are met by this year's "portals," last year's "push," or the original notion (circa what, 1995?) that all people really want is to surf through Web sites the way they click through TV channels...the main reason I got out of advertising and PR was this epiphany:

THERE IS NO DEMAND FOR MESSAGES

Let me see a show of hands:

Who here wants a message? Right: none.

And who wants to shield themselves from messages they don't want? Exactly: everybody.

TV advertising has negative demand. It subtracts value. The day will come, hopefully soon, when we will measure demand for advertising on a customer-by-customer basis, and not just by its indirect effects on large populations. When that happens, and direct vendor-customer conversations start adding serious value for both parties, that new conversation will disintermediate most media. Companies will drop advertising like a bad packet.

Looks like that time has come

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