Wondering What The Future Might Hold For Your Agency? Read About Newspapers.

A good friend forwarded this link to a fascinating blog post by Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody.  It is longish, but if you are at all interested in the changing agency landscape, Shirky’s insights on these waning days of newspapers provide a valuable analogy to the challenges advertising currently faces.  Or doesn’t.

Or We Might Want To Find Another Way Across

Or Perhaps We Should Find Another Way Across

Shirky posits that while newspapers clearly saw the internet coming well over a decade ago, they didn’t respond by rethinking and reinventing their product along new paths but rather tried to fabricate fanciful profit models rooted in the old habits, even though those old habits were already changing and would most likely accelerate.

Shirky makes many fascinating points (and reading the following excerpt does not excuse you from reading his original post) but I found this the most trenchant for our current situation:

“When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry.  Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse.  This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times.  One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.”

I won’t pretend I have the answer to the agency world’s challenges…yet.  But I think we can draw some pretty helpful analogies between the advertising and newspaper industries, and hopefully learn some lessons from their struggles. And so to prepare for advertising’s future, I will force myself to think some unthinkable thoughts.

And I do not think of myself as Chicken Little, because I don’t think the sky is falling.

Actually, it could be opening up…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Facebook: Members Only Jacket of the Early 21st Century?

Someone Dial Up The Fixx    

Someone Dial Up The Fixx

A friend of mine makes a very convincing case for why we may look back on the whole Facebook phenom as something on the order of  the early 21st century’s Members Only jacket.  At this moment, we are all caught up in the novelty—the constant status updates, the endless movie, music and cultural trivia quizzes, even the emerging etiquette debates around friending that drive daily life around Facebook. But one thing most adults agree upon is that it is a massive time suck.

And that ultimately, may be what causes this white hot trend to cool somewhat: at a certain point, the benefits of all this new light connectedness may no longer outweigh the investment it requires.  Or more probably, in a world with seemingly infinite opportunities for distraction, this particular one may lose it’s novelty.  My friend makes a reasonable point.

But one need Facebook seems uniquely suited to fulfill became extremely obvious yesterday.  The number of continual updates and comments surrounding the Inauguration was stunning.  Dozens of people around our agency left their pages up all morning, commenting and building and sharing on each new thought someone posted regarding this historical event.  People wanted to participate and Facebook provided an outlet for all that emotion, all that desire, all those hopes and dreams and wishes.

So even if Facebook does prove to be the Members Only jacket of the current moment, a number of us will probably drag it out again sometime down the road…like when we walk on Mars.  Or learn that someone we don’t really know did something that stirs our better selves and highest hopes for our species; you know, like landing an Airbus on the Hudson.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79