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Sea changes for media

The ocean went away. That's chilling description of what happened moments before last Christmas' Tsunami. Well, Happy New Year because the ocean's going away again and the astute are headed for higher ground. I'm talking about the Tsunami-like changes sweeping through and redefining what we once knew as "the media."

An early observer of this sea change, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell described the shift as "Application Separation." In the old days you needed a tower, a license, equipment, people, money, etc. Today all you need is Internet access.

Terry Heaton's report summarizes Powell's view: "one no longer needs to own the infrastructure in order to publish, distribute or broadcast content. This is turning the media world upside-down, and most of the traditional media response, I'm sorry, falls under the category of "they just don't get it."

Terry's insights and advice are food for thought for broadcasters and marketers alike. Do you think the choice of channels is the only place where an increasingly sophisticated consumer is exerting their will?

Here's how I see Terry's action plan for broadcasters adapted for marketers...

It comes down to push vs. pull. The old media model was push: the programed, you watched. The monolithic media force fed decisions because it was based on BROADcasting--a term taken from how farmers spread seeds.

Imagine if the soil got to pick which seeds it received and when. Or even, the soil got to pick the farmer. That's a "pull model" and the soil is the consumer increasingly calling the shots. TiVO and DVR's are only the beginning and will one day be remembered the same way we remember cassette tapes.

Ping. Pluck. The sounds of TiVo navigation should sound to us like the songs of morning birds. It's a new day for media and those of us who market through it. I took Terry's advice to the oldstream media and adapted it to marketers...

1. We are no longer advertisers, we're communicators: instead of standing on a stage speaking into the darkness, we're seated in an intimate lounge where really real beats newer than new.

2. Application separation can work for us: instead of fighting declining frequency and diminished reach, we can seek ways to more directly connect with consumers.

3. The buyer is in control: the stream of control no longer emanates from our media messaging. Capturing and holding consumer attention and ultimately persuading them is more personal, genuine.

4. Transparency is the new currency: Consumers are gaining more control and will reward those who give them more with their business. Draw back the curtain and show them the real you and how they can participate.

5. You can't leap half-way: This wave of change isn't a fad or trend. It's a whole new reality. Giving it lip service is possibly the only worse thing than doing nothing at all. Be a fraud and you'll be left behind.

When the Tsunami hit dogs, birds and other small animals were the first to scurry for higher ground. They understood the true currency of life is survival. The more sophisticated two-legged creatures were stymied by intellect and disbelief. Holding on to our increasingly quaint notions of "how it was" will neither serve us or our clients.

The sea is coming. I'll see you on higher ground.


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