It takes a while for opposing forces to arrive at a consensus. During the time when there is widespread disagreement about an issue, lines are drawn in the sand and people take very rigid and unbending viewpoints. But when common ground finally emerges-after much name-calling and gnashing of teeth-it often develops that nobody was totally wrong. Nor totally right. And during the time when the debate is raging, nothing seems clear. When it's over, the solution is often the model of simplicity.
That's how it is with starting a new publication, a subject with which I am the most familiar. I've gone through the process many times, with varying degrees of success and failure, and each time I experience total uncertainty as to how things will eventually work out. But as you keep going, the picture becomes less murky, and a sense of order begins to take shape.
To succeed, or even to fail, you've got to be willing to go through periods when everything is up in the air (I've often wondered why I would want to subject myself to that feeling).
Last week was one of those rare times when various forces started coming together and things seemed a little clearer, at least to me.
I'm one of those people for whom surfing the Internet holds no fascination. I have not fallen prey to the siren song of the computer, although I acknowledge that it's a valuable tool for most other people.
I am waiting for the day when I can turn on my TV and get everything I could ever want-
"Seinfeld," movies on demand, all the NBA games, blowups of family pictures, e-mail, the best TV commercials of the last 50 years (by category), financial data on our company, page layouts of our various publications as they evolve and background information on any subject of interest.
I read last week that the day when all this happens may be about to dawn. When Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast cable system, the debate over whether to deliver a wide array of services over phone lines or cable lines was suddenly over. All that's now needed is a high-definition TV picture, allowing sharper images and more information.
The new order could provide consumers "an entirely different kind of TV service: more channels, cleaner pictures, better sound, on-screen interactive TV guides and new high-speed modems that allow instant access to the Internet using cable wires," explained The Wall Street Journal.
The higher-speed network, known as broadband, is essential to expand the market for new media "beyond computer nerds to the far-larger audience of couch potatoes," as The New York Times put it.
That's me, and all I can say is that it will be worth the wait. My only question is: Can't satellite television deliver all that without the huge expense of upgrading the cable lines? But either way, I'm ready.
There's also a lot of teeth-gnashing these days over the basic role of advertising. One school of thought maintains that consumers-especially young consumers-are so cynical about advertising you can't seem to be trying to sell them anything. That's represented by the "Miller Time" school of advertising, and also, in a less expensive way, by the "It's different out there" ads for Norwegian Cruises Line.
But now, in what I view as a watershed event, a new marketing director at Norwegian is putting the account up for review, no doubt stunning the entire creative community and hopefully bringing them to their collective senses. The marketing VP, Nina Cohen, actually had the temerity to disagree with the agency's creative approach.
Like I said, when the debate is raging, nothing is clear. But when it's over, the solution is often simple. In this case, selling and entertaining need not be mutually exclusive, and we can thank Ms. Cohen for bringing us back to common ground.