Friday, March 25, 2005

slaves of formerly living brands

Addenda to this business of accelerated signification (preceding post):

1. When we seek for news about something using some news search tool, a seach string pulls up a few hundred or thousand stories from a variety of branded media. The speed at which this occurs is blinding, we do not see it. Then, click on one resulting media link - some newspaper in Kansas, e.g.. There the flow ends, as a page requiring registration or subscription pops up. Like a gaily colored arrow sailing through the bullet and bomb drenched air of Iraq, seeking to arrest the quest. But this consuming pause is contrary to the very reason we are using the Web - if we wanted to meet and greet a media entity, we would not need the Internet.

In search, the actual identity, brand, of the specific information bearer, blurs, vanishes. For the specific bearer to attempt to call halt, require the seeker to declare his name, address, likes and dislikes ("Tiki bar or Quonset hut?"), is inappropriate in terms of the form. Any messenger seeking compensation for bearing messages is a contrivance, an anachronism, an unfortunate effort to prolong the life of a being whose time is gone. It is seeking to break apart something that has fused into the felicity of a single moment, a unified act of information seeking.

More than simply derailing a process, it's bad form: Trying to turn what is an instantaneous quest into a marketing moment, a branding opportunity, is like a pallbearer for a head of state suddenly dropping the casket and breaking into "Gotta Dance."

One shrinks, hits the back button and selects another source.

2. It's not just acceleration. The existence of innumerable sources is another factor that exerts pressure for the erasure of the specific name, or brand. Back when we lived in "media markets" where there might have been one or two local newspapers and a couple of TV news outlets, brand could matter. Now the very multiplicity of sources serves to level them. Plurality itself seems to insist on a lumping-in procedure in which end use is the operative feature - ancillary identifying features of the specific newspaper or TV station - which they might like to think of as primary - tend to recede because they play no role in search.

The more that standard media insist on brand features as practiced in local, analog markets, the less compatible they are with current modes of search. Traditional media's very insistence upon visibility is now rendering it invisible.


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