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Filters, and the lack of them

November 28, 2007

The older you are, the more filtered content you’ve consumed (and most likely continue to consume).

Most of the broadcast consumed is filtered. Editors filter print content. A network exec chooses the line-up each night, essentially filtering out shows that they don’t think viewers will like. Radio and TV news filter the topics of the day. The newspapers ‘pick’ the stories to cover, essentially delivering filtered news.

There was a time when this filter was important in our lives. We used to depend on one of three networks, a local paper, and a local radio stations to deliver us locally filtered content. This doesn’t mean left/right bias. As businesses, these content providers filter in order to attract consumers to consume their content.

And even though today, we are able to pick between more and more content providers, we still consume the filtered content they offer.

And this works well for advertisers. Advertising not only subsidizes this filtered content, it encourages the filter. Advertisers want to advertise on ‘good’ shows, and in newspapers that are read. Thus, content providers are encouraged to filter out content lacking mass appeal.

Then the Internet hacked the system. A website isn’t an ad placed within filtered content. It’s a destination. Consumers People type in http://www.brand.com. They choose to go to http://www.product.com. Outside of Super Bowl advertising, a corporate or brand website is the first marketing tool in which people decided to engage.

That’s different (although marketers are just beginning to understand how). And since those days in the early 1990’s, things have continued to get different. A big difference is in the destruction of filters.

The first ‘filter’ to go for local news wasn’t an editor, it was  geography. Now your local paper can be from Australia. BBC radio can stream on your computer or satellite radio and it’s not crazy to ‘subscribe’ to a German Magazine.

Next, RSS feeders started to erase editorial filters. People can pick content from anywhere in the world and have it delivered to them. Instead of someone putting together a paper with sports, business, local, an RSS reader will let you customize your news experience. And since you can get your story from Blogs, you can erase the editorial filter.

And while YouTube, Joost, Livevideo, etc, don’t necessarily erase the need for the producer, as they merely skip the network middle man, cultural phenomenon’s like LonleyGir15, Ask a Ninja and Dane Cook’s inexplicable success show that broadcast content managers are losing control of the filter. Stuff is getting out, unfiltered.

Consider Dove. You’ve seen the Dove “Evolution” ad, right? Did you see the follow-up, “Onslaught”? Chances are you went to YouTube to watch both. (Or maybe you saw them at Dove?)

The widely seen, widely talked about dove ad is not typical. It didn’t run during NBC’s Thursday night line up. Or the Superbowl. It didn’t really even run. In order to get their message out, dove didn’t use the typical filtered model of running ads in filtered content. They just put it out there.

In a world without filters, can advertisers still control the content? Blogging is destroying newspapers because people can experience news that’s less filtered. Wikipedia will most-likely lead to the demise of Hard Cover, physical Encyclopedia’s – which are obviously filled with filtered information.

Aren’t Tivo, podcasting, wikipedia, and blogs examples of us viewing non-filtered content? At what point to we acknowledge the demise of advertising that works based on filtered content? Or will advertising just evolve into a sort of google adsense-like model?

We’re at an interesting point in advertising’s life. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

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