The wrong question

For the last six years, people in big media have been asking me one question: "How will new media work for the big advertisers?" This is paraphrased over at:  gapingvoid: the multi-billion dollar suicide pact between clients and television.

While it’s human nature to be selfishly focused on your issues, there is a bias implicit in the question that’s fatal to the entire discussion. The question shouldn’t be, "How do we use this different media to replace the media* that’s broken?" (*"media for big advertisers".)

The right question is, "How does this new media change the game for all the players?" How does it move upstream and influence everything from what gets made to who makes it to how much is charged…

Can the world of blogs etc. help Budweiser? Only on the margins. The world of new media is not the place to launch the next one-size-fits-all mega brand, nor is it the place to shore a flagging brand like that up.

Instead of using new media to promote the next megafilm from Disney or Julia Roberts, it permits movies like WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price to get made at all.

Instead of using new media to promote brands like Budweiser, it permits that very same megabrewer to launch brands that tell a much more vertical, more focused, more powerful story to a smaller group of people.

Instead of promoting mainstream political parties and mainstream political ideas, it provides donations and vocal support to the fringes.

I don’t think new media leads us to products that are better or more healthful or honest, necessarily. I think it clearly leads us to products (and the stories about them) that are far more focused. Not only isn’t there a cost to specialization, there’s now a benefit to it. Focus is no longer expensive. Mass is.