You don’t own the media anymore

Apple's iPhone design triumph

Mrs Greensted's Apple iPhone

In my previous post, I said that I’d look at a couple of reasons why communications technologies are very different now to the 1960s and 1970s.

The first thing to notice about them is that you no longer have to be a geek or a nerd to operate them.

I bought my first computer in 1989. It was an Amstrad 2086. With it I bought an integrated software package of WP, database, finance and some other stuff. The machine and the software came to just over £4000, which I borrowed from Pitney Bowes. The machine was supplied by Morse Computers in High Holborn.

It was not possible to operate it unless you could use MS-DOS. So I had to learn that, too.

I was in the process of setting up my first business, which I aborted when Norman Lamont put interest rates up to something like 17% during the EMR crisis, and had thought a computer might be useful. In the end, it was used by my two daughters for their school course-work.

The key thing about this is that all communications and word-processing technologies until the late 1990s started either with the military, Milnet being a good example, or in the office. Faxes, scanners, telexes, printers, virtual memory, photocopiers, computers and so on all saw business and military customers buy them first.

Then, in the 21st century, things changed.

The price of technologies started to fall. Manufacturers started targeting private customers. New systems, Facebook being the current classic, were never designed for business. But business saw the opportunity and got involved.

And here is the second difference.

In the 1980s, businesses owned the media. The media was TV, posters, radio, print and, to a lesser degree, direct mail. Advertisers shoved out a mixed bag of advertising, some great, like  ‘Allo Tosh, and some dreadful.

You can’t do this anymore. David Abbott, founder and creative director of both French Gold Abbott and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, is one of the world’s great creative directors, and a gentleman too.

The Independent today quotes him as saying before an audience at the London College of Fashion last week, “People don’t like ads which are boring, tasteless and offensive, and we should stop doing them.”

In 2010, the end-user, the final customer, owns the media.

This is the key difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing.

Business is only tolerated on Facebook if it acts respectfully, and remembers that it’s only on Facebook because its customers tolerate it there. Facebook now has over 400m users worldwide, but MySpace, which forgot this truth, is in decline.

The Financial Times reported on 20 March 2010 that, “…web adolescent Facebook now attracts more visits from users in the US than Google.” It didn’t mention MySpace.

The third difference is that all new successful mass ownership technologies are simple, intuitive, affordable and help expand the lives of their owners. No-one now needs to learn DOS. I’ve thrown away my tutorials, but do still run chkdsk from time to time.

My wife is the daughter of Sir Stanley Hooker, one time Technical Director of Rolls-Royce Aero Engines. She has never known which end of a bicycle pump attaches to the tyre. But she has an iPhone, iPod and has the first Asus notebook to be sold in the UK. In no sense can she be described as a geek, but she uses communications technology as naturally as she reads the newspaper.

So, there are three main differences:

  1. Mass communications technologies no longer start in the office or the military. They are more likely to be adopted by end-users, which means you, me and my wife.
  2. If you’re running a business which wants to make sales through social networking, Facebook being a prime example, be respectful.
  3. The final customer now owns the media.

The next post will be about The Who’s digital marketing.