Is The Future F#cked? How Social Media & the Real-Time Web Are Changing the Game

jmakkarAbout this Guest Blogger: Johnny Makkar is a digital marketer who blogs at Attention Digital. You can also find Johnny on Twitter @jsmakr.

On Thursday night, Deep Focus hosted “Is The Future F#cked?” as part of Social Media Week which was held at the trendy Hudson Terrace. The big debate revolved around the future of media, a topic many people in the advertising and publishing industry have certainly been putting a lot of thought into lately.



Below are the frightening questions the panel focused on while providing their own insights. Make sure to also check out the video of the event (which should be up soon) along with the other commentary from attendees on Twitter using the hashtag #smwfcked.

Is traditional media f#cked?

Rob Norman doesn’t think so, stating “traditional media channels still give brands the push they need.” Nick Denton was brutally honest with his thoughts on newspapers, letting everyone know that he thinks “most are incredibly boring.”

“The news has to be entertaining.” I agree 100% with Joe and it’s pretty obvious why a show like John Stewart (which was referenced) has built such a large following. Ian is concerned about all content moving towards an a la carte model, which would make it extremely hard for content that appeals to a smaller niche to survive.

Rob asked, “where does creativity evolve from in a social world?” Nick replied that encourages his writers to be creative by rewarding the ones who bring in the most page views and unique visitors.


Joe Marchese and Nick Denton (from left to right) | Photo credit: Kelly Samardak’s Flickr

Is online advertising f#cked?

Ian wasted no time pointing out the downward trend in ad click-through rates vs. impressions. He does, however, give credit to Google which has proven that good impressions are worth more using valuable data. Ian’s newly coined term for the race-to-bottom in ad performance: “direct responsified.” (via @superfem)

Rob brings up word-of-mouth, which he points out is “now perceived to be measurable and more effective.” There’s no arguing that it’s becoming more effective, but what the industry is obviously still struggling with is the measurement part. Ian adds, “brands generally don’t know the value of an engagement with social media.” Social media measurement is a hot topic and a service many companies are trying to get right, but we still have a lot of work to do.

At another SMW event, Reinvention From The Ground Event, Pepsi’s Global Director of Social Media seemed to have similar thoughts, asking “How do you get your company and brand to evolve from a focus on impressions as a measure of media efficacy, to connections and engagement with consumers?”

Is the real-time web the future?

While there are many wonderful advantages to getting information faster, it takes a little more work on our part to become better filters of the social web. Ian summed it up nicely by saying, “we are all broadcasting information, anyone with followers and friends online. Now it’s our responsibility to call foul on news, brands, and celebrities when the truth is stretched.”

Nick Denton is not a fan, “Twitter is the worst facet of online media right now”, bringing up the Jason Calacanis’s recent iPad stunt which got picked up by a reputable blog as being a real product leak. But Nick also mentioned that Gawker get’s 5% of their stories wrong, so no matter what, no content provider is perfect (and the reason why lawyers are kept busy).

“As media becomes more social, that leads to inherent problems,” says Ian. Rob adds “brands want to protect their identity, so they don’t want to advertise in online environments.” It’s pretty clear why advertisers don’t want to attach themselves to sites like YouTube and Digg that rely heavily on user-generated content because of the large amounts of offensive material. “Commenters on most social media sites are idiots,” says Nick.

Final Thoughts

Everyone agrees that our attention is increasingly in limited supply. Yes, the future may be f#cked for many traditional content creators and media companies that aren’t paying close attention and adapting but that will only open doors for other players. It certainly helps to pay close attention to how certain businesses and brands are experimenting and adapting to stay relevant.

Other Quotes

“Everything single thing we do is a work in progress.” — Nick Denton

“When brands see results, it’s no longer an experiment” — Ian Schafer

“This makes our life is a fuck-load more complicated” — Joe Marchese

“Impressions are dead in digital because they are meaningless/fictional” — Joe Marchese

“Creativity is like magic, you can’t bottle it. You can never predict a popular story” — Nick Denton

“Social media allows audiences to opt-in and discover things” and “express an interest in a brand that might not view them as target audience” — Rob Norman

Crowdsourcery Potions 101: Recap

jmakkarAbout this Guest Blogger: Johnny Makkar is a digital marketer who blogs at Attention Digital. You can also find Johnny on Twitter @jsmakr.

Crowdsourcing was definitely a hot topic in 2009. It will only continue to become more relevant this year as we witness more brands and their agencies wanting to further experiment or push innovation on future projects.

The Crowdsourcery Potions 101 event started and ended by focusing on the different view points related to crowdsourcing and what the term meant to each panelist (more on that below). As the discussion went on, it became clear who was more excited about the future possibilities of crowdsourcing and who was cautious about it’s role in the future of advertising.

Michael Lebowitz (Founder and CEO of Big Spaceship) voiced many concerns on crowdsourcing creativity. He mentions “once you turn something into a commodity, it’s no longer creative”, stating that people should always be compensated for their experience and work. Something as simple as a logo contest taps into a lot of talent but the result is typically only one participant getting compensated for their time. Michael also emphasized how powerful culture can be and how it can easily be lost in a more distributed world…”you can’t curate culture in.

Ty Montague (Co-President and Chief Creative Officer, JWT North America) believes we are only getting started when it comes to the possibilities of crowdsourcing and is paying close attention to the different experiments that are happening in the industry. He thinks some brands will harness the power or crowdsourcing better than others to build stronger reputations and solve their business problems.

He also brought up the Andy Awards a couple times which for the first time chose to crowdsource the jury election process using This voting “experiment” was considered to be a success after it attracted more than 37,000 votes according to Adweek, but he did note that it wasn’t perfect and there are still many ways to improve the process for the coming years.

Is crowdsourcing the best name to use going forward? Faris Yakob (Chief Technology Strategist, McCann Erickson New York) points out it doesn’t matter what we call it, because “having access to more people who can do things is a good thing.”

John Winsor (CEO at Victors & Spoils) doesn’t like the term crowdsourcing because some people may associate it with broader outsourcing and cheaper labor. “Crowdsourcing (putting out to the masses) is one thing, the idea of creation is a super important part of it.” He emphasizes the goal at Victors & Spoils is to create a global talent pool that can work on client projects who recognize having an agency of record is no longer the only solution.

Late in the discussion, several examples were brought up that rely on many variations of crowdsourcing including YouTube, Wikipedia, and a new car company called Local Motors.

Browse Twitter search using #smwcrowd and #smwnyc + crowdsourcing for more and enjoy the event video in its entirety below if you couldn’t attend or watch live.

I was only disappointed when the panel was asked to define crowdsourcing toward the end that nobody responded with “let’s ask Twitter!”

Other Key Quotes

(most under 140 characters, apologize for any differences in advance):

“All crowdsourcing is still self selected, everyone has the right to not participate.” — John Winsor

“The world is going to get a lot more diverse.” — John Winsor
“Clients problems and great creative minds are going to aggregate around solving problems no matter what type of environment they work in.” — John Winsor

“People and money are going to aggregate around the best ideas.” — John Winsor

“Engagement is the product” — Faris Yakob

“The trick is to get people together and give them something to do” (on branded online communities) — Faris Yakob

“Once you turn something into a commodity, it’s no longer creative.” — Michael Lebowitz

“Crowdsourcing is not very collaborative, but a great suggestion box on steroids.” — Saneel Radia

“Build “scaffolding” for people to contribute to a collaboration effort.” Saneel Radia which he admits he stole from @shaunabe

“I love the wisdom of crowds but I don’t like the output of crowds very much.” — Michael Lebowitz

Research done with 1 million Facebook fans is marketing.” — Faris Yakob

“Co-creation is a phase that very unexplored by most companies.” — Saneel Radia

“If you build systems to encourage people to come and collaborate, rather than compete, you’ll get more wisdom from your crowd.” — Saneel Radia via @denuology

“We’re on the verge of a remaking of business and what a company is” — Ty Montague

For further reading and discussion on crowdsourcing and general thought leadership on the future of the marketing/advertising industry, here is where you can find the panelists:

Connect with the panelists:
John Winsor: @JTWinsor | Blog | Victors & Spoils | Amazon
Ty Montague: @tmontague | JWT North America
Michael Lebowitz: @BigSpaceship | Posterous | Big Spaceship
Saneel Radia: @saneel | Denuo
Faris Yakob: @faris | Blog | McCann Erickson New York

Further reading:
A crowdsourcing ad agency: can it work? (Creativity Unbound)
Crowdsourcing a Discussion on Crowdsourcing (EyeCube)
Can Creativity Be Crowdsourced? (Ad Age)
Will work for all it’s worth – the launch of Agency Nil (BBH Labs)
The Actual Crowdsourcery Bit (Talent Imitates, Genius Steals)