A brief history of digital media

An excellent place to start if you're new to digital marketing (by the guys at Three Minds Organic). They don't post too often, when they do, it's considered, smart and almost always worth a read. 

The Good Old Days
In an era that now seems as antiquated as betamax, advertising was once simply a message created by an agency and distributed through mass media channels to a large passive audience.

It was one-way communication knotted to a piece of popular content, eagerly gobbled up by the viewer, reader or listener. Creating content was difficult and distribution channels were owned properties which created a power structure that favored the publisher of content. Enter the Internet.

Web 1.0 (Also the Good Old Days)
Like a telephone in a world of telegrams, Interactive changed the game by allowing user to interact with the content and with each other around the content. Users could choose what was interesting to them, when they wanted to view it and create a personalized experience. Remember the thrill of the "You've Got Mail" voice popping up, or setting Yahoo to display NFL scores every time you showed up?

As web publishing became easier and access to the internet grew, the proliferation of websites exploded allowing users to choose from millions of sources of content on demand or to create their own. This began the transformation of the media industry.

Channels that were once held by a small number of companies were opened to consumer and any digitized content was easily sharable. Now consumers started to question their existing media consumption.

Why should I pay for a song when I download it for free on Napster? Why should I watch the Office on Wednesday at 9:00, when I can watch it whenever I want on Hulu? Why should I read a blog when I can write one?

"It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry," says Clay Shirky, adjunct professor of New Media at New York University. "Because the core problem publishing solves -- the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public -- has stopped being a problem."

Now (Soon to Be the Good Old Days)
Looking across the web today you will see many sites and publishing platforms set up explicitly for user created content - Blogger, Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube to name a few. Given the opportunity the general public did not waste time in becoming a producer as well as a consumer of content. A testament to this are the 100,000,000 videos on YouTube with over 20 hours uploaded every minute.

The Internet is fundamentally different from previous media channels in that it supports communication in groups. The number of connections possible is the square of the number of participants, so as the group grows contacts increase exponentially.

Because it is an environment that supports social activity and benefits from the involvement of more people, the web is moving from a place where people access content...to a place where people access people in an information and content rich environment.

ComScore Data Passport 1st Half 2009

Pace of change is rapid
All of this change has happened with unprecedented speed. Television took 13 years to reach 50 million viewers, Facebook added 100 million viewers in 9 months.

A paradigm shift in attitude toward customer and technology is required to meet customers changing expectations. In order to keep up with the speed of change it is imperative that marketer engage in a dialogue with customers which starts with listening. Once this dialogue is in place interactive offers a great platform to quickly create prototype experiences, test, measure and garner customer reactions.

Dell is a great example of a company that has drastically changed their approach to customers and experimented in communications. In response to customer service achieving the ignominious title "Dell Hell", executives launched IdeaStorm - an owner community that allowed customers to voice their concerns, executives to listen, community managers to respond and owners to assist one and other with issues. The results speak for themselves: reduced negative buzz, 7,000 consumer generated product ideas, and increased customer satisfaction.

Beyond communications
Nike+. Iphone. Logitech I/O2. Fiat Eco-drive. The impact of digital has gone beyond the marketing of products to the very products themselves or services that add value to the product. In the best examples there is native integration of social, data analysis and applications.

The Microsoft Zune (MP3 player) is a good example. Zune owners download software and create a profile. Users can friend other users, discuss music and comment. As they listen to music on their computer, the site visualizes listening data so users can see who their top artists or songs are and they can view their friends listening habits. Users can rate songs, share songs, write reviews and subscribe to bands news feeds. Data on users listening habits is analyzed to provide recommendations for new artists and new friends within the community. All of this enhances the total customer experience by improving music discovery and social interaction.

Increasingly offline experiences are being integrated with an online experience.

Beyond the desktop
As cell phone networks become more powerful and wireless networks have broader reach we are moving to a world of ubiquitous access to internet. Where there will be no such thing as offline. Devices are changing to reflect this. Phone screens are growing and laptops are shrinking to accommodate this mobile behavior. The impact of this is on immediacy of information and customer decision making is huge.

ComScore Data Passport 1st Half 2009

One powerful example was the news coverage of the protests in Iran in early 2009. The first reports came from the phones of Twitter users who were there. People concerned with this event found out about it and angrily demanded that traditional media outlets cover the story.

Ubiquitous on demand information will surely impact shopping decision. Amazon currently offers a mobile shopping application that allows price comparison to their online price anywhere.

"In a world where media is increasingly global, social, ubiquitous, and cheap....the question we all face is how can we make best use of this environment, even if it means changing the way we have always done it"
- Clay Shirky