NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Five years ago, Editor at Large Bob Garfield raised his hand at an Ad Age editorial retreat. He suggested that the publication wasn't doing enough to package its coverage of the changes in marketing and media brought on by the digital revolution.
The editors agreed -- and assigned Garfield to pull together the threads that ran through so many of the publication's news stories and make sure that readers understood the big picture and the significance of the changes taking place. In the spring of 2005, he began that process with "The Chaos Scenario," the first in a series of essays on the digital revolution. Now, after years of research, six subsequent essays, hundreds of interviews and travels to five continents, Garfield has turned the subject into a book, also titled "The Chaos Scenario."
Scheduled for release Aug. 3, the book documents the converging forces he believes doom mass media and mass marketing as we've always known them. The historic disintegration of "mass," he writes in the introduction, "will change your media environment in dramatic ways. It will change the advertising industry in melodramatic ways."
In the second half of the book, Garfield goes on to discuss what he calls the "art and science of Listenomics," which begins with the recognition that neither marketers nor any other institution accustomed to dictating from the top can do so for much longer. Garfield prescribes a series of measures in the digital-technology and social-media realms for not only listening to the "group formerly known as the audience," but treating them as stakeholders with much to contribute to a brand, and to every aspect of the economy and society.
"They're still an audience," he writes, "but they aren't necessarily listening to you. They're listening to each other talk about you. And they're using your products, your brand names, your iconography, your slogans, your trademarks, your designs, your goodwill, all of it as if it belonged to them -- which, in a way, it all does, because, after all, haven't you spent decades, and trillions, to convince them of just that?"
This is Garfield's third book. Unlike "Waking Up Screaming from the American Dream" (Scribner) and "And Now a Few Words from Me" (McGraw-Hill), it is not being published by a traditional player relying on traditional means. Instead, he is attempting to execute marketing, production, promotion and distribution in accordance with the very social-media principles espoused in the book.
A new imprint, Stielstra Publishing, is Garfield's partnership with former Zondervan executive Greg Stielstra and it has put together a "Team Chaos" consisting of digital design and production house AdYatra; widget house Buddy Media; production companies Creo, Fabian-Baber and Ethos3; e-mail distributor MyEmma; PR shop Edelman; digital-marketing shops Eyeblaster and Videoegg; Nielsen Buzzmetrics; and a graduate marketing team from the University of Texas.
At first, the book will be available only online -- on Amazon, via widgets located on the AdAge.com site and elsewhere, and at TheChaosScenario.net. That site is not only the center of the book's promotional activities, it is intended to be a hub for news, conversation and community on all issues pertaining to the present and future of marketing and media and commerce in general. Fittingly, Garfield will also use the venue to chronicle the progress of the project itself. TheChaosScenario.net, in other words, is a laboratory for Listenomics available for public inspection 24 hours a day.
"I hope I'm right about all this stuff," Garfield says, "because if I'm wrong, I'm gonna be wrong underneath a very powerful microscope."
The final novel element of Stielstra Publishing's plans is a national event, in October, called "30 Days of Chaos." With the cooperation of the American Advertising Federation, the Public Relations Society of America, the Direct Marketing Association, the Marketing Communication Agency Network and, tentatively, the American Marketing Association, chapter groups across the country will devote themselves to thrashing out "Chaos"-related issues, using free Stielstra Publishing video and print materials, at their October meetings.