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Re: <nettime> Capitalism is FINISHED -- As a Result of the Internet!
Newmedia on Wed, 16 May 2012 17:14:25 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Capitalism is FINISHED -- As a Result of the Internet!


Jon:
 
> Still don't know why digital tech is driving this  process....

Excellent question!
 
How much do you know about advertising and how "analog" mass-media works as 
 a business?  
 
My comments on this are the result of spending lots of time  with people in 
that industry over the past 20 years, which was made  easier by a) living 
in Manhattan (i.e. Madison Avenue is close-by) and b)  "coining" the term 
"New Media," so some in the ad-world thought they  might learn a bit from me (I 
got this email address on the AOL from Steve Case  on the 1992 AOL 
road-show, where I was the investment banker) and c) writing  about this subject 
since the late 90s (particularly when I "predicted" the  timing of the 2000 
Internet Bubble collapse, based on the failure of the online  "banner-ads" of 
the time) and d) working with dozens of startups who were trying  to figure 
out ad-based business models.
 
Advertising on a mass-scale was a *new* phenomenon in the early 20th  
century.  It was based on various psychological theories -- some  behaviorist, 
some Freudian etc.  All of it, however, was premised on  finding out how to 
make people do things that they previously considered to be  "wrong" or 
"stupid" or "unnecessary" in order to drive consumption and therefore  economic 
growth.
 
The 2002 BBC Four documentary by Adam Curtis, "The Century of  Self" might 
be a good place to start, even though it focuses on the rise of  Public 
Relations, an adjacent field and Edward Bernal --
 
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self) 
 
Another place you might find useful would be to study the career of John B. 
 Watson -- 
 
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Watson_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Watson) 
 
In it's most "extreme" form, all this lead to the fascination with  
"subliminal" advertising, which actually resulted in some legislation in the  1950s 
--
 
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_stimuli_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_stimuli) 
 
Or, if your prefer, you could look to the literature on "commodification of 
 desire," such as --
 
_http://books.google.com/books/about/The_commodification_of_desire_in_Wester
n.html?id=wHERHQAACAAJ_ 
(http://books.google.com/books/about/The_commodification_of_desire_in_Western.html?id=wHERHQAACAAJ) 
 
The question that is *universal* among the advertisers I've discussed all  
this with is the ability to a) "artificially" stimulate "wants" which then 
b)  are converted into apparent "needs."  Accomplishing this is what they  
consider to be their special "talent."
 
The techniques used to accomplish this are both varied and quite  
sophisticated, as befits a TRILLION dollar industry.  In short, they  WORK.
 
However, these techniques do depend more-or-less on a) the attention  of 
the "target" and b) their suspension of "rationality" and c) continued  
"environmental" reinforcement.
 
Thus the effectiveness of television.  Eyeballs.  Dramatic  fanatasies.  
One-way passive repetition of messages.
 
The WEB directly undermines *ALL* of these requirements.  
 
It cannot force the "viewer" to watch the ad, since the screen also has  
other "more important" material.  It generally requires some level of  
"rational" engagement.  It is inherently *active* and involves TWO-WAY  
communications, which often involve "talking back" to the seller.
 
So, to varying degrees with different people, the WEB (i.e. "digital  
media") *breaks* the SPELL that is needed for mass-media (i.e. mostly  
television) to work its consumption-driving MAGIC.
 
This destabilizing *effect* of "interactivity" on the impact of  
advertising is now pretty well understood by advertisers!
 
Furthermore, the notion that arose in the 90s that you could TARGET people  
by using the "click" information that you collect about them has now  
largely been DISCOUNTED as a plausible substitute for mass-media psychological  
games.  It has largely become a stop-loss strategy (i.e. it only works on a  
subset of the audience) and not an expansion/growth one.
 
This is why General Motors has just announced that they are *dropping* ads  
on Facebook -- right in the FACE of the company's IPO.
 
_http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/business/media/gm-to-quit-facebook-ad-cam
paign-worth-10-million-a-year.html_ 
(http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/business/media/gm-to-quit-facebook-ad-campaign-worth-10-million-a-year.html) 
 
This is also why the NYTimes has been reporting about the *renewed*  
interest in the TELEVISION "Up Fronts" -- which just a few years ago were  largely 
suspended in favor of "digital media" bundling.
 
The ultimate reason why this is all happening is that MOST people aren't  
really as *stupid* (or "behaviorist" or "Freudian") as had been presumed.
 
At some point, when offered the opportunity to NOT PAY ATTENTION to the ads 
 and to be RATIONAL about their own lives and to INTERACT with others about 
what  to buy and what to *not* buy . . . behaviors change.
 
That time is now and the *cause* of this shift in behaviors is the  
"environmental" shift to DIGITAL media.
 
Hope that helped!
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
 

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