LISTEN -- Introduction (Part 3)

"Chaos" Revisited

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(In Part 2, we discussed creating two-way lines of communication with your audience)

The art and science of fostering this kind of dialogue is what I call "Listenomics" – which is what this volume would be called if it weren't for "Wikinomics" and freakin' "Freakonomics," two fine books that went all -omic on the publishing world before I got a chance to. But the remarkable thing about "Listenomics" isn't the coinage, it's the nature of the world in which it will flourish – a world very unlike anything we've experienced before.

See, the thing is, "The Digital Revolution" isn't just some news-magazine cover headline. It's an actual revolution, yielding revolutionary changes, and thousands or millions of victims, and an entirely new way of life. It's not just that you can talk to your refrigerator or bank online or EZ Pass your way through the toll booth while those other suckers in the right lanes are backed up clear to that horrible rest stop with the price-gouging Sunoco and ammonia-scented Stuckey's.

Those are just minor conveniences afforded by the very same binary code fueling the real conflagration. Maybe you've been too busy fiddling with you smart phone to notice, but the mass media and mass marketing structures that have more or less defined your connection with the world for more than a century are in flames.

As you shall see in the first chapter, dubbed "The Chaos Scenario," the times they are a changin'. Traditional media are in a stage of dire retrenchment as prelude to complete collapse. Newspapers, magazines and especially TV as we currently know them are fundamentally doomed, as they shudder against three concurrent, irresistible forces: 1) audience shrinkage with consequent advertiser defection, 2) obsolete methods – and unsustainable costs – of distribution and 3) competition from every computer user in the whole wide world. What you call articles and TV shows and songs, and what the media industry calls "content" will never be the same again. This will change your media environment in dramatic ways. It will change the advertising industry in melodramatic ways.

Madison Avenue, after all, exists to create ads to subsidize the vast expense along the vast expanse of old media. It has footed the bill for Gilligan's Island, The New Republic, The Family Circus, Rush Limbaugh, TRL, and The Wall Street Journal not for the fun of it, but because marketers depended on those media to reach mass audiences. Indeed, they've paid increasing premiums for the opportunity as audiences have shrunk, because even in a fragmented media world, the largest fragment – network TV – is the most valuable.

But now they realize that they are losing not only mass but critical mass. When that is gone, marketers have no reason to advertise, no place to spend their $67 billion a year. Therefore, as culturally improbable as it may sound, the days of Madison Avenue dictating messages to you are all but at an end. Goodbye, Mr. Whipple. Fondle all the Charmin you want, but do it on your own time.
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