Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

phillipeTwo interesting cases in honourable press mendacity.

1. The Daily Beast’s tempestuously appealing nympho-con Meghan McCain (yes, that one) argues that the Sanford sex scandal shouldn’t be enough to ruin a promising politician’s career

2. The revelation that the NYT and the Wikipedia executive purposefully suppressed news of reporter David Rohde’s kidnapping by the Taliban for seven months. Both cast interesting light on all my previous talk of news fragmentation, and the end of message control, especially in relation to Prince Harry’s secret military service in Afghanistan.

[Let me say now that what’s missing from the previous times I’ve written about Harry’s service is the acknowledgment that press silence could have saved the scion’s life, and almost certainly didsave the lives of soldiers around him.]

Meghan McCain first: a man who could have been president has been destroyed. Newsweek’s Ick Watch [and thousands of others] have copies of the emails sent to a mistress in Argentina by Sanford. I cite Ick Watch (and I’m not linking to it) because reading them does make your stomach turn a little: not in the grimy vein of Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacle; because they are extremely intimate, thoughtful and slightly defeated love letters. Search if you must but frankly it’s none of our business precisely what he wrote, even if you believe that what he does in his spare time is our business.

Alternatively, read them and take a minute to consider what kind of a modern president would have written such cliche-defying personal confessions.

cake sniper diesel sweeties

Image from dieselsweeties.

Grasshoppers and bees

Meghan McCain, then. [Beast gave her the headline “Forgive Mark Sanford”, which doesn’t make much sense given her argument.] She argues in a balanced way something which I’ve always put in cruder terms:

“I don’t know if it’s the fact that I am younger, or that just have a more open-minded view of politicians and sex, but it’s of very little concern to me who elected officials sleep with.” via Daily Beast

The counterargument hinged, and always will, upon some connexion between personal morals and the capacity to rule a state. The way I’ve stated a similar opinion to Ms. McCain’s in the past, in case you’re interested, is “I honestly don’t care if they have a [willing] harem out back of the White House, so long as they’re a competent statesman”.

But then in the past I’ve spouted other such gems as “politicians almost always have more in common with other politicians of any party or philosophy than they do with you and me”. Hunter S. Thomspon would tell us that these are people for whom power is already better than sex, and that this is what has driven them to the top. Frankly, what goes on in the secret swimming pool concerns me much less than pretty much any other aspect of any politician’s personal life.

The other argument, of course, is that infidelity compromises a politician, whether through a) the machinations of robo-soviet Deceptasluts [see yesterday’s post on Transformers 2] or b) through simple tabloid vulnerability.

The former may seem obsolete but may actually be more difficult to deal with: never mind the buzzsheets, maybe what Americans should worry about regarding the Sanford affair is not that the Senator had a sordid affair with a foreign national, but that he had an apparently very committed, devoted affair with a foreign national.

As for the latter argument against political droit de seigneur, Ms. McCain along with many others points out that the logic of the argument is is circular as well as hypocritical. If nobody cared then nobody would care, and so on. The press stimulates outrage, then announces a duty to inform outrage, then stimulates outrage, etcetera.

“WHY,” politicians the world over must scream into their pillows, “why can Berlusconi get away with it and we can’t? Even Sarko gets to have a little bitta-bitta on his funky somethin’, and his constituents greet it with frank congratulations at his short-guy chutzpah. Journalists don’t wonder aloud whether Carla Bruni might be a Bulgarian spy, and even if she was they’d still come flocking to her, pantalons akimbo!”

Of course, it’s not particularly tempting to suggest suppressing this kind of news, even in order to give the public a bit of self-respect and probably grant politicians a little more time in their day. After all, the attempt to suppress these stories is what gives these storiesthem prurient fury in the first place. Newspapers certainly aren’t going to let go of their more-or-less even chance to ruin any politician they really want to, in some sort of crusade for more meta morals.

American politicians will have to wait till the American public stops taking things so seriously, which will be a while. Of course, in Britain we take fewer things less seriously than our politicians, which comes with a different set of problems. Sordid revelations of a sex scandal are more likely to have a disarmingly humanising effect on the public’s perception of a politician, especialy if they turn out to make a habit of sex while wearing a Chelsea FC shirt.


Incendiary or bigot

David Rohde next: chatter on Tweetmeme ran the gamut from wholehearted endorsement to tentative endorsement of the NYT and especially Wikipedia’s decision to suppress news of the reporter’s capture in order to downplay his value as part of a negotiation strategy.This involved Wikipedia in a long campaign of sustained deletes against a anonymous contributor in Florida, who was determined t make the news public and who may or may not now wear a tinfoil hat.

First, unrestrained applause must go to Rhodes and his translator Tahir Ludin for their bravery and sacrifice. Reading about this amazing business has made me reconsider my phrasing, if not necessarily my argument, on the numerous times I’ve talked about Prince Harry in Afghanistan. Whatever you think about Harry having a “right to serve” in a combat area, the British Army decided to send him. And having been told that, you, a major press editor, understand that you would put him and others in danger if you publish the story.

It can be argued that publishing all kinds of news puts people in danger, especially these days in Iran. It can be argued that Harry’s presence itself put the men around him in danger. But those decisions are already made and you, the news publisher, only have the option of publishing the Harry story or sliding it down a crack in the sofa cushions.

I certainly won’t dispute the rightness of the NYT’s decision. No doubt it was easier to convince other news outlets because a fellow journalist was in trouble, and because the Gray Lady would be able to make any other outlet which broke the story look boorish.

The Wikipedia argument is a bit more interesting: who are Wikipedia execs to say whether a Wikipedia article may cost a man his life? TechCruch are fully behind the decision, distancing themself from prim-hysterical “information wants to be free” arguments, while Mashable raise the issue of suppression being anti-wiki and then more or less dismiss it, given that lives were at stake.

I suppose what I want to say is that I have oversimplified. In the past I talked about the Harry thing in terms of media, not people’s lives. Of course, plenty of other people were going to talk about bravery and suchlike. But I also took the Harry thing as the straw which was going to break the back of institutional media. Today we’ve seen yet another straw, one which will contribute to the slow fragmentation of the camel’s back, if you’ll forgive the unfortunately straitened metaphor.

What I should have said is that sooner or later it would be impossible to keep stories like these under wraps, for however good a reason. In the meantime I want to see the inevitable movie adaptation include the character of the Florida-based anonymous Wikipedia editor, posting and posting against a Wikioppressor, convinced that he is right and that being right is all you need.

Man is in love and loves what vanishes,

What more is there to say? The country round

None dared admit, if such thought were his,

Incendiary or bigot could be found

To burn that stump on the Acropolis


Read Full Post »

Ad Hock

Had an interview with a London Social Media firm, think it went okay. I decided to come clean about not using RSS much, in part because of habit/usability, in part because my current machine is an increasingly fragile, benzine-smelling, juice-stained paving slab-in-waiting. I probably should have talked a little less, and probably should have been a little less concerned with IP rights. Ah well.

Reading around for it took me to some interesting places; returning to Rageboy for the first time in months led me to Twitter critiquer the certifiable Marcus Brown:

(Blacked out in deference to Stephen Fry: the normal format is Brown talking to camera while sitting on the toilet in his tiny Munich bathroom.)

One of the most interesting things about the process of making a Twitter feed for the publication I work for is that I have to document and codify the grammar, conventions, courtesies and allusions of Twitter. Brown may sound mad as a stoat but his manic-laconic approach is enlightening and wonderfully well read. “I beg you. I plead. Follow him.”


I’ve had the recent Kanye West singles on YouTube loop, thinking about how his singles and Flight of the Conchords got me through my final exams. It got me to thinking about the sort of role model Kanye so well represents: Sensitive and unabashedly talented; relishing his position in an economy where women benefit briefly and peripherally from his attention; yet like Jay-Z overridingly obsessed with his fulfilment of the Provider role. Tribal; caught schizotically between bandit chief and aging chieftan.

I don’t see why I need a stylist

When I shop so much I can speak Italian

What kind of person does he sell to?

Me, apparently. Sometimes his schtick is too much, sometimes his indulgences are truly charming, like the glossy but hardly focus-grouped video for Champion.


Also, started writing notes for a project, currently called Hock, for a simple lock-screensaver which allows limited access for self-naming users to cue up elements like songs, videos or photo albums selected with a limited browser; an integrated MC program essentially, designed for passive-display participatory entertainment at parties/events of all size. Skin your party, and allow users to show off their stuff and post publicly. Needs to be written as a pitch.


Also, this:

Now there’s a sex symbol for you. Compare Blogosphere and Radio 4 sex symbol Gail Trimble, the one-woman “intellectual blitzkrieg” who brought in more than two thirds of the total points for Corpus Christi, Oxford’s victorious University Challenge team in the final last night:


Trimble, who has already turned down an offer to appear in a “tasteful shoot for NUTS magazine“, rightly observes that people wouldn’t make so much fuss about her appearance if she was male. All the same, my Starter for Ten.

Concomitant to my post about Professionals having to step carefully when engaging with non-pros using Social Networking (Or in fact any brand for whom ‘we’re creepy so you don’t have to be’ isn’t a core motive).

“Would you believe it, my brother received a Facebook message from Nuts yesterday morning saying ‘can we have your sister’s email address, we want her to do a tasteful shoot’,” the 26-year-old told BBC Breakfast.

“So of course he sent them an answer saying: ‘Seriously mate, would you give your sister’s contact details to Nuts?'”          -Guardian

how could you be so Doctor Evil

Read Full Post »

chroniclogo21From Paul Isakson. Found this at the top of Google returns for “future marketing”. It’s almost exactly a year old. Maybe I’m lazy for clicking on the first return; maybe I’m going undercover as a consumer. Who can tell? It advises against social networking marketing by “trying to be everyone’s friend”. It advocates an approach where the consumer doesn’t distinguish the marketing experience from the product experience. It quotes .. on the belief that brand and product have converged, and it advises all those who don’t have an interesting product in the first place to abandon hope.

Now, fairly shallow searching hasn’t yet yielded any particularly strong refutations of this argument, nor much that goes further on a theoretical basis. Paul Isakson had a post just the other day which asserted much the same thing:

“How should we leverage social media?”

paul isakson future marketing

Makes me think people haven’t been listening to him for nearly a year, or more.

The mutual backrub approach to marketing: if you give people something cool, they’ll talk about it. Reading about it made me think back to the quite parochial problem-solving I do with marketing in my blog. We wanted to get attention and an honest-endorsement from the administrator of a local-concern Facebook group. I went round and round in circles with myself trying to work out how to use our resources -free tickets to the event- to get the guy to mention it without seeming crass or setting off his antiflags.

Eventually we filled in with content expansion, something to make it worth a personal email, and I settled on cutting the tangible resources out of the equation, which allowed for a much simpler and more honest solution. An email bringing it to his attention and -crucially- asking for his advice on something (anything), and he mentioned the event with a simple endorsement on the group wall. Because he likes to feel like a broker in the community he started, and likes having something to talk about to endorse. This is the second magic spell that’s peculiar to community marketing: if you make people feel cool, they’ll talk about it.

That’s the magic behind “secret sellers” of the Pattern Recognition nightclub ilk, who drop brands into their otherwise rather extreme conversation. That’s the logic behind unique experience ARGs: cakes and honey. If ad eyeballs are the bread, then Unique Experiences are the circus.

They go beyond pattern recognition by persuading the experiencee to ignore the extent to which his experience is part of a pattern: instead, he is part of something special. The user may understand that he is a tesselating part of the pattern. “Groupmind” problem solving is a big part of current ARG design: the thinking is that people like to feel part of a group working towards a whole. But a large part of the power comes from the belief the user is if not indispensable, then at least special.


Of course, specialisation costs money, crafting specialised experiences moreso. That was easy enough in the event promotion example: we had access to a guy with some level of clout within a small community, and it was all conducted more or less at the “amateur” level. We find it useful to walk a line between having name-recognition and being ourselves a “local concern”, which is the balancing act of brand fandom.

Professional engagement with amateur-level talkers or mavens or group participants either has to be dishonest or very, very carefully handled.

penny arcade marketing shelly yu missfit forums boards secret preteen

It’s an extreme example, but my mind always goes back to those journalists (from all levels of the citizen-professional spectrum) who invited themselves onto the boards of Facebook groups formed in the aftermath of the VT Shootings. I did a bit of study on that while working as a freelance researcher, but at their height the comments were going up faster than I could read them. Still, journalists going on and asking for input were largely met with vitriolic backlash, no matter how carefully they phrased. They were Not Welcome on those public spaces.

Kids my age described feeling “violated” when our University authorities knew that they’d been at a banned party: they didn’t say so, but the Uni had clearly been “snooping” into publicly-posted photos.

Fooling some of the people

This has all been talked about before. “Make people’s lives better” says Isakson, and quotes a CEO on how “brand and product have converged”. You can’t sell it unless it’s cool, and if it’s cool enough it largely sells itself. And there is a balancing act for cool: you have to put yourself out there, but not so much that it irritates people. Marketing is the obsessive-compulsive running for class President.

Another quote from the shareslides above is about a consumer who “doesn’t seperate the marketing experience from the product experience”. That would be the dream of a product which literally sells itself, but it’s frankly meaningless when you’re dealing with the basic synaesthetia of advertising. That is to say, describing one sensation with analogy to another: scent with erotic image, for example, or excitement with beverage.

[I can’t find a link anywhere for the Sprite “great snowboarders” ad, which is stupid because it’s the only one of theirs I can remember. It went something like this: [Exciting downhill, exciting downhill] “What do all great snowboarders drink?” [Dude spills straight into sprite machine] “The same as all the not so great ones”.

Instead try this out:

nicely done, but to be honest why even bother with the titlecard at the end? Make it a series of four :30 spots instead, with the guy getting angrier and angrier, the bottle more prominent, forever uncertain whether the clip is corporate-made or not.

That uncertainty is what’s fun about the Trader Joe’s Song (Via Brand Autopsy). Maybe this time, you think watching it, someone earnestly, honestly loves something for its own sake. Life really can break out in perfect song and dance, this once. So you want to believe.

Image ads like these are one long excercise in making image and product inseperable. But image can only do so by obscuring the product completely, hoping no-one ever actually tastes the product but instead internalises the advert (like, say, Relentless). Or by building a consensus about the relationship between the brand and the product. And it’s marketers’ ability to influence that consensus that’s dissolving, as a tradeoff for their new tools.



Tim-Tam Slammers

Once again, these things have been talked about before. In an attempt to contribute to the worldwide brute-force attempt to solve these puzzles, I want to consider one small segment, from which we take today’s title: “The funny thing about my back is…”. It’s indulgence marketing, which I talked about a few days ago in connection with the Bourneville ad.  What would Utility Marketing look like when applied to the age-old technique of indulgence marketing?

Utility marketing is about providing a service that “gives people time back”, which is then associated in some way with the brand: it’s not about brand information as “pollution” or, in Anthony Lilley’s parlance, taxation. It’s part of the wider logic of making things easier to sell before you start selling them. Again from Brand Autopsy:

“Ask a Mighty Fine employee behind the counter how they’re doing and you’ll likely hear, “Mighty Fine.” They smile. They laugh. They look like they are having fun. Which all benefits the customer experience. Mighty Fine prides itself on hiring only “A Players” who are positive, supportive, and cooperative. To attract “A Players,” they pay above-average wages and offer much better than expected benefits. Mighty Fine knows by astonishing employees, they in turn, will astonish customers.

This is about a burger joint. But what would an A-player for the indulgence technique look like? Who is an expert in making you feel like you deserve that product, this once? Because whoever they are, they have an opportunity to provide a valuable national service by encouraging spending. More on Japan’s money-mattress crisis further down.

jell-o vintage ad racist hilarious jello mammy

Via Found in Mom’s Basement.

“Mammy sent dis ovah”

Jell-O is known to all sections as “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” In the South, for instance, it is inexpensive enough to be found in the cabins of old plantations. It is delicious enough to meet the standards of good living at the “Big House.” It is dainty enough for milady’s afternoon tea. It is appealing enough to turn the sinful, of any color, away from his neighbor’s melon patch.

It’s surprisingly racy, open-minded copy, after the manner of Spike Milligan: it challenges you with your stereotypes, offers up a bare-faced taste of the forbidden. And for getting past your effrontery, you’re invited to congratulate yourself, to indulge yourself. It’s a chauffeur-driven soup-kitchen dinner.

So how to think about this, in a modern connection? Advertisers no doubt already think about which poster will be placed next to which, or how ads are sequenced: they should start thinking about putting Organic Indulgence ads after car ads: Sustainable Furniture after overpriced cologne. They should identify through mutual rejection of excess, like the Obama-SUV ad.

It’s pointless to claim you’re thinking ahead of Google: I expect to soon see Gmail intelligent advertising responding negatively to keywords: charity donations or carbon offsets ads generated alongside emails with text references to “Vacation”, “Yacht”, “Promotion” or “Dubai”.

We know what an A-Player for a charity looks like: the magnificent Don’t Vote ads, or John Cleese on Comic Relief a few years ago staring in silence at the screen for upwards of four minutes while he’s “waiting for you to donate some money”, before shrieking “Oh get on with it, you cheap B*******!”

More than zero-footprint chocolate, I’m talking cocoa-bean picking vacations. I’m talking survival for indulgence: making your indulgence stores your personal Vegas.



Note that it’s official, according to the Economist: Japan’s economy is nosing.

japan economy spending nosedive crash slump

Combine that with the announcementa few hours ago of the resignation of Finance Minister Soichii Nakagawa, who the other day appeared to be drunk at a G7 crisis talks press conference. How Hilarity Ensued.

Maybe it’s the right time for this, via AsiaJin: Virtual Meat for Hard Times.

air yakiniku virtual meat

Air Yakiniku is a video sensory-supplement for cheap dining: beyond simple fake-sensation ads, it’s free indulgence. You set the table with rice and sauce and laptop, click to run the video of a hand sizzling and then picking up the meat, and then you chow down on a mouthful of rice, eyes fixed on the screen, senses hopefully totally fooled. Personally, I just bring a book to our canteen, and try not to look at what I’m eating. I’m currently reading the superb Eileen Chang. I figure I’ll try and get ahead of the Nobel Literature curve this once.

Lastly, today’s thumbnail comes from the Chronic Catnip Company, which has one of the most entertaining, well characterised pitches I’ve ever seen on an utterly useless expenditure.

I’m going to bed, then school, then work, then make-up, then to research how Nudges could influence the Wealth Effect.


Read Full Post »

Rough up

napsterbadgesmall1I had a great idea for a sitcom tonight, while walking around the gigantic new mall that’s opened just across the paddyfields from our dorm. I had been thinking about how Megavideo‘s closing down on its non-subscriber free use, and I was talking to a friend about the vast discrepancies between different films in release delay in Asia. After all, if Dark Knight came out here in Japan three months after the American release, everyone who would have watched it would have already pirated it. Hence, in Japan it’s been out for months is available for rent, while Wall.E is only just out now, presumably because there aren’t many families who queue up rips they’ve downloaded to show at their kids’ birthday parties.

Or do they?

Thus was borne The Pirate Family. A hypermodern take on classic sitcom formulae, like the traditional scene of the patefamilias sweating and cursing over the snarl of busted, 10-year old Christmas lights, his kids whining about why they don’t just buy a new string every year.

Except here Dad, belly protruding and ponytail a-quiver, is cursing over his antiquated KaZzaa and DivX player trying to get the family’s evening viewing to play, while his consumerist ragamuffin kids whine why they don’t just get it from iTunes. “Will you shut up! It’s the principle of the thing! You kids just want to pay for everything!”

“The family that rips together, stays together” says mother from the sofa, swiftly minimising quotationgarden.com as she does so.

“But I don’t want to watch An Inconvenient Truth again!” cries little Arwen. “Shh!” hisses her brother Data. “Better that than The Times of  a Sign*, or late M*A*S*H or Torchwood.”

“I wanna watch Mythbusters!”

“You take that back!”


Maybe I got a little carried away.

The new mall is set to change our lives, frankly. It’s certainly going to change how we look back on this year in seven months’ time, and the sorts of things we say in the advice package we write to our successor scholars. “You lucky devils” will likely be the gist, but still. I honestly can’t say whether life will be better with one of the biggest malls in Kyushu five minutes’ walk away, but I suspect it will be a lot more expensive. It will be easier for us and the kids who come after us to, say, eat Italian or conveyor-belt sushi. But really, who cares? I have a fairly unpromising diet of ramen when left to my own devices, but there’s nothing stopping you from buying vegetables and eating well here.

But what last week was the sticks of a small city in Japan has become the sinkland surrounding a commuter shopper’s paradise. I’d love to be able to say that the area will benefit from the presence of thousands of families out for Sunday worship at the mall, but it’s unlikely to do anything but clog up the rail stations, choke the waste disposal with garbage, and sprawl across the paddy fields without its food-court denizens ever venturing out for inferior local coffee.


I was directly responsibly for confirming the grimiest prejudices of gaijin in a whole group of Japanese guys just trying to finish work. Sat in the food court we had been speculating about what would be done with all the unsold donuts from the Mister Donut, when we turned around and noticed that dozens on dozens of donuts, pastries, flans and the like were being wedged, pile on crumpling, uniform brown pile, into a bin. Stomach churning and outraged, I went over and asked in broken Japanese whether, if they didn’t need the donuts, they could give them to me. No, store rules, I was told by the supervisor, and the two young men went on folding pastries into the bin.

I’d like to point out that I don’t feel stupid for what I did, despite my horrible Japanese and the looks of disgust I was given. They are stupid for throwing away what could probably heat the whole mall for an hour on burnt sugar alone.

I’m going for my Christmas shopping there tomorrow, while the opening sale is still on. It will be a fascinating, delirious experience.


professionally short attention span


PS Christiane Amanour on why the internet is a liability to journalism. I have to believe she is not correct, and have expended thousands of words arguing so without ever being able to fool myself all of the time. I still don’t think she’s got the longview down, but then who am I to criticise, when I mock and despise the excesses of our new mall while not recognising its liberating potential? Right?

Believe me, if you saw some of the outfits being marketed in this place, you might think differently. The cry of my generation will be “no, see, there is a difference between Barbie and Bratz“, those obscene warped husks of femininity. Just as my parents’ generation had to see a difference between making fun of Reefer Madness and making light of Ecstasy. Or whatever.

PPS the forecast said snow for tomorrow, but cold though it is I doubt it. Manky though snow would be around here anyway. “It’d be like snowball Urban Warfare,” I said earlier this evening. “Like Stalingrad. Charging through the slush, over the barriers. Two rounds to a man. Use them wisely.”

Read Full Post »

n1708278_30464745_3993I’ve been thinking a lot lately about divergence, about how modern communications technology gradually makes cultural artifacts more fragmentary.

Like, say, my Dad, you can know all there is to know about a subject which almost no-one cares about. That’s always been possible. But now, speaking proportionally, something can be legitimately considered “famous” which almost no-one has heard of.


I have said, with a confidence that I don’t feel is unwarranted, that no news story on the scale of Prince Harry’s service in Afghanistan can ever be kept a secret again, because newswriters and newsmakers alike will know that whatever you offer, someone will figure they can make more money by breaking the story on their own. It’s the same principle by which the stock market works (or used to): there is always someone who will buy a crashing share.


Drudge broke the Harry story, and now the American election has retired Drudge in favour of a plethora of more openly-ideological sites in the same style. There may well never be another news site in the “insider” mould with the reach and influence of Drudge, because as his haegemony dissolves his users will go their seperate ways to new sites, based on past experience or word-of-mouth. Or, more likely, they’ll fill the gap left by Drudge’s nadir with several sites which together provide a similar sense of coverage.

When tv-links went down, it was international news, albeit page 4 stuff. Similarly with Pirate Bay. The users scattered, and many sites stepped into the freed niche. There will never be, for instance, another Napster. Limewire, Soulseek, whatever it is the kids use today: they haven’t followed one another in natural technological generations, but the staccato progression of indie popularity: people migrate out of one program because another one has become “the” place to download”

And in filesharing programs, or anything which encouraged community, such shifts are incredibly, mathematically obvious. They’re probably still updating Limewire: I could probably re-install and load it up and there might be 500,000 people online, yet it’s still fair to call it irrelevant. I would consider Achewood and ninjavideo.com and Nathan Fillion popular, even famous, but the perfectly normal and pleasant people with whom I live probably wouldn’t have heard of any of them. This is all nothing new, but I’m arguing that the effect is only to get moreso. As is often said, in the 17th Century is was at least possible to know more or less everything about everything known. Now it is mathematically impossible for anyone even to watch every video on YouTube.


Heroes are heroes to a few. Even “everymen” are specific men. Look at Dilbert.

There may never be another technology battle as vital as the late 90’s Console Wars or, say, VHS vs. Betamax. Probably no technology will ever again be as ubiquitous as Windows or the iPod. It is still possible to determine what will be “the toy” for a given Holiday Season, or “the film” for a holiday weekend, but these increasingly are only marketers’ terms for sale spikes that are diminishing and puddling into the Long Tail. This is what happens to conventional capitalism when endowed with some form of wacked-out supercommunication.

One problem about this continuous multifarious branching is that since there is so much to choose from, “taste-makers”, the cornerstone of modern marketing theory, will become ever more influential on the individual’s decision-making; but also ever more multifarious and scattered, and consequently harder to “recruit”, to influence or predict.

The Dark Knight had by far the best ARG campaign yet devised, but it would be presumptuous to mark out any of the movie’s sales demographics as sale-dependent on the ARG. I.e., the campaign may have been a huge exercise in preaching to the choir. The type of person who would research, get hooked and go and pick up a Joker Cake is the sort who would see the film anyway.


I believe in the ARG as a medium for storytelling, but since up to now it’s been essentially nothing but an experiemental marketing technique of uncertain cost-effectiveness, the medium as a profession might die in its infancy. There will be more and more ARGs, of course, and great things coming out of them, but history has shown that the more you mak it possible for people to make things in their bedrooms, the more great-but-obscure things you get.

Now, if this means that more people make a living creatively, and large publishers and other middlemen corporations have to work harder for lower margins, then so be it. The change to the average creative person’s income will likely be little.

In the past “all boats rising” has been a pretty misleading allegory, never more so than today. But with the radical democratisation of attention,  industries like entertainment that are dependent on Attention might well find that the same amount of “leisure” money is spread around a little more evenly or, dare I say it, deservingly.


My brother once said, with a tipsy seriousness not entirely unwarranted, “Molten Core man, Molten Core… It’s our generation’s Vietnam.”

Well, that may be so. In twenty years’ time my brother will still be able to make the reasonable conversational gambit of mentioning Ironforge or Epic Sets or damn Paladins getting nerfed in 1.7, and if it pays off he will be able to have an effortless conversation for hours with a total stranger about their shared experience. Because of the sort of people I hang out with I see that sort of thing all the time, but never before has it been true of eleven million people. And it never will again.

I pray that there will never be another generation’s Vietnam. It’s not totally unreasonable to hope that the 2004 Asian Tsunami will be the worst thing, numerically speaking, to happen in my lifetime. There may never again be another shared experience of trauma as widespread as incinerating the Weighted Companion Cube. There will probably never be “another Snakes on a Plane”. The argument that people are thematically scattering has always been my defense against the argument that the internet causes them to polarise. It remains to be seen which is worse. The future’s not ours to see.




I mean honestly, what kind of a world is capable of making a dumb-looking film of Watchmen, but a film of Max Payne which looks far cleverer and more entertaining than the game?

Maybe films just wear “parodic” better.

then you shoot him in the back of the face

Read Full Post »