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Our filters — an update on an old post

September 1, 2010

This is an update to an older post. But I’m making it new. Partly because of this, but also because there are other examples of people hearing something on Twitter and thinking it’s true.

I’ve long argued on this blog that one of the big changes of the last couple of years is the end of filters. This is what I said almost a year ago:

“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.”

This isn’t a plot, and I don’t mean right-wing or left wing filters. I literally mean the person who decided to place a story on the front page. This person gives that story more prominence. In essence, telling readers what’s important and what isn’t.

This isn’t about any other agenda but the one to make money. Editors and producers filter in content that will get watched and read. Because readership pays for the ads which pays the salary of the people who create.

Clearly, things are  different. The rules have completely changed. A tweet that says “Steve Jobs” has been rushed to the hospital zips around the Twitterspere to the point that Apple‘s stock goes down. We don’t have the ability to filter out the garbage as well.

But on the other end, Brands don’t have the ability to filter out messages from their customers.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me the following:

“What if someone says something nasty?”

The crux of that question is this: We’ve done a really good job of controlling our message in the last 100 years, and we’re not prepared to open up the floor to people to talk shit about our brand.

This image sums it up:

It says: “You must be logged in to leave a comment”.

(Note: there are a lot of reason why people who comment should be asked for a login, but this a post about controlling the message, so bear with me)

The simple fact is, I don’t have to be logged in to comment. I can add it to Digg or Reddit and comment all I want. I can add the story to this blog, and say whatever I want. I can comment outside of the walls of their engine in so many different ways that it’s ridiculous to say that I can’t.

But we’ll see a lot more of this because we’re so used to filters. We’re use to filters, especially in advertising, because they give the semblance of control.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010 3:34 pm


    Agreed. I think that organizations that refuse to understand that technology has changed the landscape of the business world are often the ones we eventually see in the graveyards or post mortem studies.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I would also say that poor filtering of the newspaper industry is one of the reasons why readership has left. The product produced isn’t even worth the paper used to line the bird cage anymore. (or maybe people just don’t have many birds anymore!)

    Thanks for another thought provoking post. Good Hunting.

    • September 2, 2010 3:05 pm

      “I would also say that poor filtering of the newspaper industry is one of the reasons why readership has left. ”

      I think the industry jumped on the internet without thinking. They just gave away content online, but charged for it in real life. Why would someone pay for something they could get for free?

      I rail about websites that don’t have a strategy. To some extent, the newspaper case study is exhibit A of the cost of jumping in without thinking.


      • September 3, 2010 9:43 am

        Matt, We agree on a poor internet implementation strategy, but what I’m talking about is that the arrogant position that someone must manage my news intake and that ‘filtering’ adds value and is needed is the problem. The newspaper industry is using the same business model and ‘filtering’ practices that they used when the only competition was the 6 and 11 o’clock news and weekly/monthly periodicals. I don’t care if the newspaper has an e-version. I can get almost all the same news feeds (AP, Reuters, Editorial Author Blogs, etc.) they get, and have usually already read them before they have their ‘filtered’ edition out. They quite literally release an irrelevant or out-of-date product because of their need to ‘filter’.

        I say all this to say that this is nothing new. Technology has always impacted the way in which we consume information. Orwell’s radio broadcast, pamphleteering in the revolutionary days, Infomercials, Politicians saying (and thus reported in the news) one thing and then never doing anything or something completely different (and not being reported int he news). This has happened since man has learned to communicate with each other and one man has tried to influence another with those communications.

        The change I see is in the speed in which communications can now occur and thus society has a learning curve again it must deal with on how to deal with information at high speeds and new levels of trust to be built.

        Good Hunting.

  2. September 2, 2010 10:06 am

    Nice post Matt. One of my pet hates is having to register in order to leave a comment. It’s disruptive and frankly, it can be disrespectful to the visitor. More often than not I simply won’t bother.
    Businesses need to understand that it’s vitally important to reduce the bariers to conversation on their sites, and opening up comments boards is one of the easiest ways to engage new customers and create conversation.
    Forcing people to register means you’ll end up with an audience entirely composed of either cranks or super-fans, mleaving you little (if any) room to effectively promote your brand. Social media (and digital in general) just isn’t about the message, it’s about the conversation it engenders.

    • September 2, 2010 3:03 pm

      “Businesses need to understand that it’s vitally important to reduce the bariers to conversation on their sites, and opening up comments boards is one of the easiest ways to engage new customers and create conversation.”

      Good point Matt. Too many are worried about being open. They’ve lived closed for a long time. It’s new to open up and share.

      Thanks for the comment.


  3. September 3, 2010 10:21 am

    @Tim, again, we agree. The filtering was meant to “appeal to the masses” because advertisers wanted to be seen by masses. Sometimes thought of ‘dumbing down’, this was an attempt to have content that appealed to the lowest common denominator, etc.

    This business model got turned on it’s head when it was re-framed as bias by right-leaning AM radio. They presented an ‘alternative’ as a business model, which meant they had to go to great lengths to prove they were an alternative. Which created the notion that huge multinational corporations had a business policy of leaning to a segment of the population.

    Where what they were really doing was trying to appeal to the most amount of people to get the biggest bang for their marketing dollar.

    That ended up with us getting fed what they were interested in feeding us. That ship sailed long ago, but people still think it’s in port.

    Thanks for the lively conversation.

    You make me think about things Tim.

    • September 3, 2010 11:54 am


      On-it’s-head-business-model vs. right-leaning AM radio – Sorry don’t see it. I guess I could build an argument that the news paper product known as editorials/cometary was attacked by right-wing AM radio, but to say that the entire product known as the newspaper (local, classifieds, special editions, etc.) was attacked doesn’t fit. Either they make a product that people want or they don’t. Since they didn’t react, by that I mean I don’t see any changes in the business model and creating a new web distribution channel isn’t change, I have a hard time saying that right-leaning AM Radio created a poison pill for newspapers in general. To me it remains the argument that they did not react to the changing environment.

      Here’s what I see impacted the newspaper industry, and by impact I also I mean that they failed to react in the purist sense of Darwinian natural selection:

      AM Talk Radio – 24 hour news, AM Talk Radio – Editorial/Commentary, Cable – 24 hour news, Cable – Headline News, Cable – Editorial News/Commentary, Cable Weather – local, regional, national, including real time doppler/satellite radars, Segmented Products – news papers specializing in specific domains, (ok now some internet stuff), Email Newsletters – also using segmentation, Blogs – often the same authors in newspaper syndication, RSS Subscriptions – many sources but what I want, Readers – to aggregate all the content coming in unfiltered, Podcasts – audio and video news sources for consumption away from computers, Social Media – like-minded folks sharing what they know or find, On-Line Classifieds – and the likes, On-Line Classifieds – and the likes, and I’m spent …

      Now to tie this back to your post, I do see in the future a product that replaces what we know as the newspaper/radio/TV today. I will have the ability to have all the content on my time and in my schedule and at the rate I can handle. It will be a tool that finds all the things I want to know about (or care about) and packages it for me in a ‘real time’ edition, let’s say on my Apple iPad or some type of multimedia device/portal. It provides alerts when items I’ve deemed ‘critical’ are encountered. It will have written, spoken, video content all combined and packaged for me to use based on the priorities I’ve identified and it will learn from my consumption in the same way a web site learns to supply content base on past visits. (and yes, ads will be there)

      This product will decentralize the power placed in the select few that currently have the role of ‘filtering’ because technology will allow me to decide.

      Good Hunting.

  4. September 3, 2010 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the update… sounds dead on… couldn’t agree more.


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