Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For the Love of Newspapers

I love newspapers. I love the smell of the ink on the paper. I love the way the ink rubs off on your fingers. I love the ritual of the read and the turning of the pages. I love the tactility and heft of a newspaper. I love the writing in newspapers, particularly the NY Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe but even the little local newspapers with the corny photos and local reports of summer carnivals and recipes, the sports, the social announcements, and all the bad local advertising
Newspapers are important. They have personalities and definitive tones of voice. Some really are hardwired to the right and some to the left. And you can choose which voice you want to follow and quote the next day in a conversation. They last. What is printed today, stays printed. The only way it can be altered is with a retraction the next day. Newspapers chronicle our history.
Newpapers are a real object. We pack our stuff with newspapers so when we are long gone and someone in the family is rummaging around the attic they can date our last time we handled a plate, a glass, a picture. And the newspaper itself becomes an article worth saving when something we are interested in or a news breaking historical moment is worth treasuring.
Newspapers are our treasure.
Watching them vanish is like watching old friends being laid to rest. We need to keep newpapers alive. And I don't mean the little throw aways that are filled with nothing but vacuous celebrity gossip, news sound bites from wire services and crossword puzzles. Newspapers reflect the opinions and styles of reporters and offer in depth reporting we can never get online. Series articles, political argument, and real investigative reporting happens only in newspapers. And if we didn't have time to read a particular column or article one evening, we can take it up again the next.
Watergate would never have happened if it hadn't been for newspaper reporting. Why from the beginning of political and religious questioning it has always been the broadsheet that has enlightened and informed in a way like no other.
I remember fantastic ads in newspapers. Especially fashion and department store ads.
My very first job before university, was as a layout artist with a department store. They had a person who did nothing but illustrate in pencil and ink the fashions for the week. I would take those high end illustrations and incorporate them into our big full page newspaper ads for the Saturday and Sunday editions. As a student I worked for a small community newspaper, again doing ad paste ups and layouts. The paper had a hot type machine which was ancient then. It used to clank and sputter and the fellow who set the type was as old as the machine itself. The owner /editor used to chew on his cigar stub as he proof read the articles before it went to plate making. All this he did with the type reading backwards. The sound of the rubber mallet hitting the type into place, the high pitch of the press running, shouted orders from pressmen to the inkmen and back, the clanking type setter mixed with the smells of hot lead and ink and paper and cigar smoke has left a rich memory.

I guess I must have gotten the ink in my blood.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Media Pull vs. Old Media Push

People talk about about new media being a delivery system where ads are "pulled" depending on how you do searches online and are associated by your personal interests. So the ads are tailored to your tastes and interests based on data input and are pulled from that source. The key to this, according to tech heads, is the search words you input. There are blogs and articles online and tons of argument and theories about how important or not it is. Somehow, none of this seems very creative to me. It's really all about data. And this data is continually being mined and refined. Think about it; practically every site of inquiry you go on makes a bigger inquiry about you. Data bases are gold mines.

BMW did an out of home campaign in the states a couple of years ago.They setup billboards across key urban areas and when a new BMW owner drove by, the computer chip embedded somewhere in the car key triggered the billboard with the owners name and it instantly became a personalized billboard message. It's the scene from Tom Cruise in Minority Report when he runs through a corridor and backlit ads literally call out to him by name.

I also read an article recently which suggested that even the premise of Minority Report is a possibility now. There is enough information about us, that scientists can predict our behaviour even before we do something. And we so willingly give out our personal information.

A friend of mine in Texas, a real computer head, knows of rogue programs that float in and out and hack unknowingly in cyberspace stealing our personal data. And we are not talking about Banana Republic here. And my friend and I are not conspiracy freaks or necessarily paranoid. Just cautious.

So I guess my point is that while right now we only see the top line of how great it is that the world knows your interests right down to the smallest detail and know where you shop and for what and they know where you like to hang out and where you work and who your friends are and what you did last night, there could be another side to this. A side we haven't seen yet. And like everything, it could be used for good or it could be used for bad.

New media is really all pretty new in the grand scheme of time and place.
But information is power.
And that isn't new.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Twitter or White Noise?????

As an experiment, I joined Twitter. But I didn't post anything nor did I ever go on it. And since then, almost everyday, I get messages saying "So and so is following you on Twitter"...these from people I know in the adgame. I find it highly amusing that so many people are following nothing. And it makes me wonder: where do all these people get all this time to fritter on twitter?

I find it the singularly most overrated site on the Web. And if Ashton Kutcher or Demi Moore aren't getting paid or aren't big investors for this site I will eat my hat...not to mention all the out of work copywriters and public relations people that are now finding employment to Twitter for Liz Taylor and everyone else. self indulgent is it to think your 140 character count...counts...or means anything to anyone except yourself. Warhol's 15 minutes of fame has just been shattered. And now if you aren't on FaceBook and MySpace and Twitter and LinkedIn...why you are NOBODY. This imbecilic false peer pressure that is implied to all who are not on this grid is outrageous. I tried to find out who owns Twitter. And that is another story altogether. I just couldn't get any real answers to that. Whoever it is has deep pockets and wishes to remain off the grid as far as revealing who he, she or they really are.

As far as branding with Twitter here's how I see it: the challenge becomes - how to harness the position, tone of voice and benefit in 140 characters or less...yes, characters, not words. A tall order for even the most gifted writers. But the big difference, unlike the other new media delivery systems, is the time it takes to get out there. Delivery time is now at warp speed.
Your brand is now condensed and compressed to fit that time frame. And Word of Mouth really becomes real time or less here to a lot more audience. It's simultaneous live broadcasting almost. But the audience isn't contained in a studio, they can be and are anyone and everyone anywhere in the world. So the pressure to get it right the first time is huge and intense. And getting it right also means from the Twitter standpoint, not contrived, not adspeak, not planted or deliberate but spontaneous and real...real meaning Twitter real. So now your brand's tone of voice and the Twitter tone of voice have to marry. And that hybrid has to seem spontaneous and real in 140 characters...maybe we need to try chimps with typewriters...