Commentary

Movin' on Up

My summer reading has been a book called "The Journey of Man," by Spencer Wells. I recommend it. Subtitled "A Genetic Odyssey," it tells the story of the migration of our species, Homo Sapiens, out of Africa and around the world. Like you, I knew that the human race was descended in some way from common ancestors with the ape family. But I imagined it had all happened millions of years ago and that the peoples and cultures of various parts of the world were similarly old. It turns out that genetic evidence allows scientists to conclude that humans are all much more closely related than most of us imagine. Wells informs us that all modern humans around the globe are descended from a common ancestor who lived in Africa only about 2,000 generations ago -- a real life Adam from whom we all spring.

The tracing of the spread of mankind all over this planet is made possible by examining the DNA of living humans. It is based upon the simple fact that those humans who live closest to each other are most closely related genetically. This, of course, would logically happen since humans, until recently, were relatively immobile -- being born, living, marrying, having children and dying all in the same small geographic area. However, at the same time, we all carry with us common genetic markers that literally show where we have come from over the course of thousands of years by how closely related we are genetically to humans in other parts of the planet. Indeed, over our whole lifetime as a species, Homo Sapiens has been relentless in moving and adapting to new and changing environments all over the world.

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But, what causes humans to move? Basically, we move out of necessity -- the herds we hunt disappear or the crops we grow fail. Or, we move out of a desire for self-improvement -- we hear that the grass is greener and the animals are bigger in some other part of the known world. As climates changed, directly influencing the number and variety of the animals we hunted, we moved to newer territory where the hunting was easier. Many generations later, after we developed the technology to grow crops, we moved where the growing seasons were longer, the soil was richer or the rainfall more dependable.

In these ways, our species emerged out of Africa about 50,000 years. One branch spread along the southern Asian coast and across the water from Indonesia to the island of Australia. Another branch spread through the Middle East into central Asia, from whence it further branched east toward Siberia and the land bridge to the Americas, as well as west into Europe and southeast into India. Along the way, our ancestors learned to endure, prosper and adapt in all forms of climate while hunting and domesticating the animal species they preferred and growing the crops they liked.

We at MediaPost have done our own evolving and adapting and are now making a move to new geography. We started seven years ago as a would-be technology company. Our mission back then was to facilitate electronic communication between buyers and sellers of advertising media in an effort to make the process simpler. In those pre-Internet days, we were intending to use dial-up, modem based bulletin-board like messaging to connect buyers and sellers. Then the web came along and we adapted to the new technology and opportunity.

But, we had to tell the two sides involved in advertising transactions about our services, so we began publishing a weekly newsletter called the MediaPost Monitor. It's purpose was to inform media buyers about what we were doing and, more broadly, about how they could utilize the many web tools beginning to emerge from others to aid their buying needs. So, people began to join MediaPost to get news, information and tools that could help them do their jobs better.

So much was happening that, in the Fall of 1999, we began publishing Just an Online Minute on a daily basis, with news, research and opinion on the rapidly evolving field. In June of 2000, we added to the mix MediaDailyNews, with more and broader news sources, and the monthly MEDIA Magazine, with in-depth features, personality profiles and color. In February of 2002, we changed our diet by backward integrating coverage into the traditional media, since online media were going through what looked like a long period of drought and famine. Even though traditional media were also hurting, there were plenty more big animals to hunt in that territory than in our home territory of online media.

In short, like our early ancestors, we have had to adapt frequently to learn how to survive in a very tough and ever-changing environment. But, also like our ancestors, we have managed to invent along the way a system that enabled us to subsist, and, with the passage of time, has allowed us to achieve a measure of stability.

Now, forced to make a decision by an expiring lease, and realizing that all of the big animals and fertile growing fields are about 50 miles to the southwest of our longtime Westport, CT home in a little place called New York City, we are pulling up stakes and moving. Like the Journey of Man, not all of our clan will make the move. Some will stay behind. We lose traditional media editor John Gaffney, who will remain a contributor from his new home at marketing consultants Peppers & Rogers in Norwalk, CT., and art director Stacy Lindsey, who will freelance while looking for a new professional home.

But, also like our early ancestors, the move to a different environment will end up changing us. We'll meet new people and learn to live in new ways. We are looking forward to the help of new contributing editor, Joe Mandese, who knows the territories we will inhabit better than anyone. Life in the new surroundings -- the world capitol of advertising and media -- will challenge us and, I believe, allow us to prosper in the future in ways we cannot even imagine now.

Editor's Note: MediaPost's new address is 16 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011. Telephone 212-204-2000.

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