The Miraculous Conversion
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The recent bloodbath among online content peddlers and digital media
proselytisers can be traced to two deadly sins. The first was to assume that
traffic equals sales. In other words, that a miraculous conversion will
spontaneously occur among the hordes of visitors to a web site. It was taken as
an article of faith that a certain percentage of this mass will inevitably and
nigh hypnotically reach for their bulging pocketbooks and purchase content,
however packaged. Moreover, ad revenues (more reasonably) were assumed to be
closely correlated with "eyeballs". This myth led to an obsession with counters,
page hits, impressions, unique visitors, statistics and demographics.
It failed, however, to take into account the dwindling efficacy of what Seth
Godin, in his brilliant essay ("Unleashing the IdeaVirus"), calls "Interruption
Marketing" - ads, banners, spam and fliers. It also ignored, at its peril, the
ethos of free content and open source prevalent among the Internet opinion
leaders, movers and shapers. These two neglected aspects of Internet hype and
culture led to the trouncing of erstwhile promising web media companies while
their business models were exposed as wishful thinking.
The second mistake was to exclusively cater to the needs of a highly
idiosyncratic group of people (Silicone Valley geeks and nerds). The assumption
that the USA (let alone the rest of the world) is Silicone Valley writ large
proved to be calamitous to the industry.
In the 1970s and 1980s, evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins and
Rupert Sheldrake developed models of cultural evolution. Dawkins' "meme" is a
cultural element (like a behaviour or an idea) passed from one individual to
another and from one generation to another not through biological -genetic means
- but by imitation. Sheldrake added the notion of contagion - "morphic
resonance" - which causes behaviour patterns to suddenly emerged in whole
populations. Physicists talked about sudden "phase transitions", the emergent
results of a critical mass reached. A latter day thinker, Michael Gladwell,
called it the "tipping point".
Seth Godin invented the concept of an "ideavirus" and an attendant marketing
terminology. In a nutshell, he says, to use his own summation:
"Marketing by interrupting people isn't cost-effective anymore. You can't
afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing, in large groups and
hope that some will send you money. Instead the future belongs to marketers who
establish a foundation and process where interested people can market to each
other. Ignite consumer networks and then get out of the way and let them talk."
This is sound advice with a shaky conclusion. The conversion from exposure to
a marketing message (even from peers within a consumer network) - to an actual
sale is a convoluted, multi-layered, highly complex process. It is not a "black
box", better left unattended to. It is the same deadly sin all over again - the
belief in a miraculous conversion. And it is highly US-centric. People in other
parts of the world interact entirely differently.
You can get them to visit and you get them to talk and you can
get them to excite others. But to get them to buy - is a whole different
ballgame. Dot.coms had better begin to study its rules.
About the Author
Sam Vaknin is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" and
"After the Rain - How the West Lost the East". He is a columnist in "Central
Europe Review", United Press International (UPI) and ebookweb.org and the editor
of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory,
Suite101 and searcheurope.com. Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor
to the Government of Macedonia.
His web site:
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-11-03 20:36:05 in Computer Articles