The organic “spread” of information

Terry Heaton's subtle turn of phrase captures the most important asset that the internet provides the world - the organic “spread” of information. Terry is writing about Rupert Murdoch's plan to move to a pay model for online content of his fleet of newspapers.

What does this phrase - the organic "spread" of information - mean? Today, if you want to communicate a message, you don't do it with advertising as your primary tool. You spread your message through people who want to share it with people they know.
Feed and seed
Last night we went to our neighborhood "listening room" called Feed & Seed. This is an interesting amalgam of concert hall and church. On Friday and Saturday nights, acoustic and bluegrass bands play in this converted hardware and seed store. On Sundays, they do church. The concerts on Friday and Saturday nights are free, and the place has been packed every time we've been. In front of the stage, there's a dance floor, and folks from little children up to a 91year old gentleman (last night) waltz, mountain clog and simply move to the music.

Philip Trees, the pastor and MC, told us last night that he doesn't do any advertising. Word of mouth and a website lets people know whose coming. They ask donations for the band, and they sell snacks to generate a bit of revenue.

Feed and Seed is a success because it offers a great venue for "the organic 'spread' of information" for community and musical enjoyment. How appropriate that an old building that once served the farmers of this once small country crossroads, and is now serving one of the fastest growing communities in North Carolina. Feed and Seed is growing because they are "spreading" in living form their mission to Pray, Love, Care and Help.

I'm convinced that the power of human connection drives "the organic 'spread' of information. Whatever it is you want to communicate, making connections with people in such a way that they want to share it with someone else is the key. The internet is a tool for this to happen. It doesn't replace but facilitates the value of this human connection.

Quick Takes: The conversation that isn't

Watch this video produced by Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions about the conversation that needs to take place between advertisers and consumers.

I see this video from a number of angles. Let me give you one.

Put your consultant in the chair of the advertiser. You hire the firm thinking that they are going to bring their years of expertise to the task of helping you. What you find out is that they have a box full of numbers, and they are going to throw those numbers at you until some of them stick. 

The listening that goes on is for cues that signal - "This is how to approach this client."  Friends, there is no conversation here.

Here's what should happen. Don't buy a box. Chances are the consultant bought the box from someone else, and they only know one way to use. Look for a craftsperson who builds boxes. They show up with tools. When you tell them that you want a mission-style design, they give you mission-style, instead of suburban traditional. And if they don't know mission-style, they know where to find it.

I had a conversation with a colleague this week who has moved from the consultant's chair to the executive director's chair. This woman is bright and smart, tremendously insightful, and will do great work with this organization. She told me that she sees the consultant game changing. Narrow niche experts are not going to be able to do as well as they did in the past. Instead, generalists who are able to work with a wide variety of situations will be more valuable. When I asked her why, she said, "Because it is so much more complex. No one solution is going to work in every context. So, the consultant has to be able to flex with the consultant's need."  I totally agree.

So, the key is the conversation that takes place. If your relationship with your consultant is like this video, pay him off, and hire someone who knows how to listen and respond.

HT: Terry Heaton at POMO blog

Quick Takes: Another Cue to the Growing Conversation

Doc Searls points to a posting by Terry Heaton who points to a posting by Jeff Jarvis who is commenting on this report on the shift in advertising usage .  Here are a few quotes.

Terry Heaton:

Nielsen has released new data from its "engagement panels," and it's not good for the status quo. Only one-third of the 1,000 panelists could recall any TV commercials they had seen, and 21% of viewers could not correctly recall at least one TV program they had viewed. ...

I have never been more convinced that the business model of television is at serious risk and that broadcasters who continue to believe that their real competition is the guy across town (see Steve's excellent piece below) are on a one-way path to the tar pits. It is not a time for same-old, same-old, and reaching for revenue in a multi-platform delivery paradigm alone is not going to produce enough revenue growth to offset losses to our incumbent businesses.

Local information is rapidly becoming commoditized, and that's our core competency. You can't scale a content business in such an environment; the economics have to come from elsewhere.

Veronis Suhler Stevension Report:

Total communications spending expanded at a CAGR of 5.9% in the 2001-2006 period to a record $885.2 billion, driven by strong gains in alternative advertising, marketing, and institutional spending
While consumer media usage dipped 0.5% in 2006, institutional time spent with media increased 3.2%, according to the first-ever analysis of business media usage patterns
Overall communications spending is projected to grow 6.4% in 2007, exceed $1 trillion in 2008, and post a CAGR of 6.7% from 2006 to 2011 
Internet advertising is expected to become the largest ad segment in 2011, surpassing newspapers

While communications spending growth accelerated in 2006, outpacing nominal GDP for the fourth time in five years, consumer media usage declined following two consecutive years of decelerating growth, according to exclusive data released today by Veronis Suhler Stevenson ...

Jeff Jarvis:

The report also says that our total media usage is declining, though what’s interesting to me is that part of this, they say, comes from efficiency and that’s an important concept in the morphing of media: The internet exposes the inefficiencies of old media for both “consumers” and advertisers. The internet makes direct connections. Note also in the report that we are taking in less ad-supported media because there is more media without ads and also, again, because we can connect directly to information around advertising.

Doc Searls:

The vector here is not toward more advertising online. It’s toward less advertising overall, and a less “mediated” world.

This is a world where The Media will only be part of the mediated picture. Consumers will always be legion, but with producers and intermediaries becoming legion as well, what makes the rest of the picture? The short answer is anything. This should be good for the economy, as well as civilization, even as it threatens every institution that ever called itself “media”.

Me: The conclusion is that what is happening is that people don't need institutions to manage their interaction with people.  All they need are tools and a desire to be in conversation.  Whether it is a blog or a Facebook site, people more quickly, more efficiently and more effective can find out what they need to know.

Smart businesses will understand that bringing their customers into conversation with them, not for the purpose of advertising their products, but for the purpose of making them apart of their organizational community is going to be a key to the future of their business. 

When reading any media derive content, ask yourself, "Is this a monologue or a conversation?" Do they really want to know what I think? Ask them? If they respond, they maybe, just maybe, a conversation is starting.

An Additional Thought: It isn't that by abandoning the mediating institutions of the media from our interaction, that we are abandoning structure all together.  The difference is that whatever organizational structure we need is developed in service to the conversation, rather than as the controlling structure of the conversation.

An application of this perspective is to the political process that we are now in.  The parties, their media consultants, their fund raisers are all working over time to organize the conversation that they want with us. Just look at these two reports from yesterday.

Modern road to the White House 'verges on insane', say Gingerich.

US public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll

So the cue in all this is that the conversation happens out of view of the media, because they are still focused on an institutionalized conversation that they control, rather a genuine conversation in which they take part.