Commentary

Media X: Future Shock

I know why you're all so dazed. The skinny dead singer's rehearsal movie came out and you're overcome with grief, a compulsion to speak in a falsetto, and a burning desire for facial reconstructive surgery.

Look, I feel bad about Michael Jackson, too, but when it comes to this week's cultural milestone with massive implications for marketing: This is most definitely not It.

You know what is? 40 years ago tomorrow, we all hit Enter.

That's when a team of scientists at UCLA sent a message to colleagues at Stanford over a computer network called ARPANET, which we know as the Internet. That was the birth ping of our glittering Digital Age.

As you know, and if you don't, 2 or 3 million seminars and conferences will be happy to tell you endlessly, technology has turned everybody's world upside down. So you would think that after suffering through a decade of chaos, business communicators would be ready for any future dislocations.

You would think. And you would be wrong.

This week, I and my day-job colleagues at UCLA's University Communications and Public Outreach attended a talk by former Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel, who will be teaching at UCLA Anderson School of Management in the winter.

During the Q&A, he was asked why newspapers are in such deep doo-doo. Stengel is a straight shooter, so he minced no words: Whether or not they anticipated how digital would impact their business, he said, newspapers chose not to respond to the transformation.

So now the newspaper industry is toast, and it's got plenty of company. I don't care how many conferences or seminars we attend, almost every media, marketing or advertising person I know is relentlessly focused on how to do business today. Tomorrow? We pay it lip service, but no more.

We need to cut it out, and I mean now, because digital is not nearly done with us. We need to figure out how to get ahead of the future.

This was brought home to me forcefully when preparing a Web story on the Internet's 40th birthday. We canvassed some of the university's best thinkers -- an artificial intelligence expert, a neurosurgeon, a digital media artist, a sensor technology expert, even the professor who led that team of scientists on Oct. 29, 1969 -- and asked them what 2049 would be like.

The one prediction they all made: Forget all this chatter about screens. Screens are the aperitif in the digital dinner we've just started consuming. Sooner than you think, the Internet will be everywhere: on our walls, on the sidewalk, in our hair, in our fingernails, inside our bodies.

Are you ready for when your consumers can access Twitter just by blinking? What about the ethics of nanomarketing? When cross-platform includes the clothes we're wearing, does that change what we mean by engagement?

You may think the recent past was rough. But that was merely prologue.

The next marketing buzzword may just be "anticipate." Because if you don't, your future prospects could be deader than you know who.

4 comments about "Media X: Future Shock ".
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  1. C.t. Trivella from NAS Recruitment Communications, October 28, 2009 at 9:34 a.m.

    Boy have you hit the nail on the head!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 28, 2009 at 9:52 a.m.

    Those on top of the newspaper forum want you to believe their crashing is all due to technology. Some actually believe that kool aid themselves. However, actually it came falling due to very poor management leading a blind marketing staff. The CYA mentality and get what I can out of it mentality as well as being reactivity being years behind vs a proactive mentality ruled and still does. Examples exposed would implode too many egos and the sheep follow. And of course, technology has its part to play, but it is a result, not the cause.

  3. Harold Cabezas from Cabezas Communications, October 28, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.

    Thank you. I could not agree more-endless fights over TV vs. Radio vs. Newspapers vs. Outdoor....it's all media, it's all content, it's all information....and it's all going to be FREE. Whether media executives like it or not, with few exceptions (cable subscriptions becoming synonymous with broadband charges-one connection fee, content included....) this is the way of the future, and it is closer than many would like to acknowledge or discuss.

    It's getting really interesting, and we have a front-row seat.....

  4. Katherine Ryan from Independent Consulting, October 28, 2009 at 5:35 p.m.

    I agree. It's similar to the music industry blaming technology for its demise. Instead of crying whoa is me, newspapers need to embrace technology and the new digital era it has brought about.

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