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What Web 2.0 means to advertising

June 11, 2008

Mass media is filtered, finite media. It’s obviously finite: a newspaper is printed, then either read or not read. Any conversations that occur because of an article will happen at another place. People would talk about it in real life, over a water cooler or a lunch, or they would watch people on TV talk about it. One could write a letter to the editor, but that isn’t a conversation with the article, that’s a conversation with the editor, also known as the filter.

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

Most of the media we used to consume was filtered. A network exec chooses the TV 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 that is then further filtered by the editor.

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, this means news that is relevant to people locally.

As businesses, these local and national content providers filtered and still continue to filter in order to attract consumers to consume their content. Again, there’s nothing sinister implied here. A network exec picks the shows that they think most people will watch.

When we watch the Thursday night line up on NBC, we’re watching a night of shows that are filtered (ie vetted) in the hopes that they will appeal.

This was the world, prior to the web.

And it worked well for advertisers. Because advertising subsidized this filtered content, it encouraged the filter. Advertisers want lots of people watching or reading, so they depend on these filters o pick the most appealing content. Thus, content providers are encouraged to filter out content lacking mass appeal.

As you’re gathering, the internet began changing things a little. But not much. At first, web 1.0 simply took eyeballs away from the other mass media.

but then something profound happened. With the advent of web 2.0, people began creating and interacting with content that lacked the filter.

The first ‘filter’ to go for local was geography. The word local news used to mean the news you got, period. A paper delivered to a doorstep, a local news cast on one of the networks. A radio show that was hosted by someone from the community.

The internet destroyed that filter. Now a local paper can be from Australia. BBC radio can stream on a computer or satellite radio and it’s not crazy to ‘subscribe’ to a German Magazine.

Next, RSS feeders started to erase editorial filters. It used to be that editors picked what was on the front page, and the order of the paper. Now, people can assemble their own content from anywhere in the world and have it delivered to them via an RSS filter.

Instead of someone putting together a paper with sports, business, local, an RSS reader lets people customize their news experience. And notice, we’re still talking about stories here that editors assign to writers. If most of the content that a person assembles comes from blogs, then there is no filter whatsoever.

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.

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.

RSS feeds, podcasting, wikipedia, and blogs are examples of the consumption of non-filtered content. But how does one advertise on this?

At some point, we’ll have to acknowledge the demise of advertising that works based on filtered content. Or will advertising just evolve into a sort of google adsense-like model? Yes, it’s still possible to buy a 30-second spot on a network hit and a print ad in the New York Times. But that’s about it.

Web 2.0 means the destruction of filters. And advertising is based on filters. We’re at an interesting point in advertising’s life. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

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