Monday, September 13, 2010

Dinosaurs Thrashing in the Tar Pits

So here I am in a hair salon the other day, waiting to get a haircut for my show, Jailbait at Northern Light Theatre (opens on the 17th, runs to the 26th, plug, plug, plug...) and I'm killing time so I start flipping through an issue of GQ. I rarely page through a magazine, I usually browse the web on my iPhone or check the status updates of my friends on Facebook with the app. But my battery's dying and so is my tolerance for waiting. So I pick up the magazine and start flipping through. What I found, when looked at with a critical eye, was fascinating...

The first thing I notice is the number of watch ads. Eight. That may not seem like a lot, but seven of them were in the first third of the magazine. They were all high concept, fashion ads. I find watch ads interesting, because a $20,000 rolex doesn't tell time any better than a $20 Zellers special. So people are paying $19,980 for a logo. This is why the ads are so high concept. They are not selling a time-piece. Anyone with a cell-phone already has a time-piece. They are selling the identity of owning that type of watch. I get it, this is how much marketing works. Because we don't want to limit our lives to pure functionality. We also want to own things that say something about us. That tell the world, at a glance, what sort of people we are. There's nothing wrong with this. It's why there's such an industry for beer ads, a product where the marketers are 'selling the label,' since most beer drinkers cannot identify their own favourite brand in blind taste tests. Where it breaks down is if the product promises something and then doesn't deliver. Give Rolex credit, when you spend that $19,980 on an image, someone glances at your wrist and instantly knows something about you.

But the real kicker was this.

A two-page spread of Twitter feeds. Magazine publishing, along with traditional media, is struggling. With the changes in media consumption, magazines are trying to figure out how to fit in tomorrow's world. Some are showing a lot of potential, like Popular Science and Wired. They're still trying to wrap their brains around how to best develop their content for the new media devices and the ways people interact with those devices, but they're trying at least. They are aware that the world of media is changing.

But GQ simply takes a snap-shot of four Twitter feeds, trying to cram the new technology into the old format. It's ironic how anti-intuitive that is. Yes, I said anti-intuitive instead of counter-intuitive. It is thinking in the exact opposite direction from the actual reality. Twitter is dynamic, constantly changing, always updating, trending at the speed of whim. This spread shows a frozen moment of the Twitterverse. When you check your Twitter feeds, you know what people are saying right now. By the time anyone read this magazine, whatever was printed here was more than just yesterday's news, it was ancient history in the world of social media.

Anytime I see a type of media trying to hold on to it's old ways, especially in the light of how people consume and interact with information today, I can't help but picture dinosaurs thrashing in tar pits. They are going extinct, but instead of evolving, they are holding on to their old ways, making as much noise as possible, lashing about, hoping they can keep their dying business model alive through sheer willpower and moxy.

And you can almost see how fast they're sinking...

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