New media is two words, not one

If you go on TED.com you’ll see Evan Williams, the guy who created Twitter, speaking about how he still isn’t sure what it’s going to end up being used for.


Sometimes the invention happens before there’s a need for it. Our minds work on a supply and demand basis. But technological innovation isn’t always like that.


There wasn’t any demand for Twitter. But he thought it was a great idea, and people like great ideas.


So he just thought he’d put it out there and see what people did with it.


The same was true of Akio Morita, founder of Sony.


In the 1970s, one of his engineers came up with a little tape-cassette player that gave fantastic sound.


But you couldn’t record on it, and it only played back over headphones.


Sony’s marketing department rejected it. They said there was no demand for such a thing.


Akio Morita overruled them, he said it provided such great sound, people would find a way to use it.


That became the Sony Walkman.


When Steve Jobs started Apple his vision was always to create a computer hardware company to rival IBM. He didn’t invent the personal computer.


Rank Xerox engineers did, at PARC. They invented the mouse, the scroll down menu, and WISYWIG (a screen where ‘What You See Is What You Get’). Everything you know today as the personal computer. But the board at Rank Xerox rejected it. The public weren’t asking for domestic computers, so why supply a demand that didn’t exist?


So Steve Jobs took everything Rank Xerox didn’t want and launched the 1984 MacIntosh.


He let the public tell him what they wanted to use a computer for.


When you make the invention you can’t always see what the world’s going to do with it. Marconi thought the purpose of wireless would be to bring Church services to people in remote areas.


He didn’t know it would be used for radio stations, because they didn’t exist then.


In the 1930s, the people who invented radar didn’t know they were inventing a means of detecting the unseen. They were trying to invent a Death Ray that could destroy enemy aircraft.


As a Death Ray the invention was a failure, because the ‘rays’ just kept bouncing back. And that became radar.


When something is first invented it’s just technology. Then it gets absorbed into people’s lives and changes what exists. It doesn’t replace it, it doesn’t mean the death of it, it changes it.


We add it to what we’ve got. Like everyone else, I go online at Amazon to buy books. But I don’t use Amazon to browse books. I use it to send books to friends, or order books I already know I want.


I don’t spend the lunch hour online at Amazon, browsing through their shelves like I do in Waterstones. I go to Amazon with an answer not a question.


The same with Ocado. My wife uses the website to deliver heavy, regular purchases. Bottled water, cleaning products, paper towels, bathroom tissue, cases of wine. But she doesn’t use it for food shopping.


She enjoys walking around Waitrose or the local deli. Seeing new things, smelling the aromas, maybe tasting something, getting ideas.


We can both get involved on a visceral level at the shops in a way we can’t onlne. So online is an addition to our lives, not an alternative.


You see ‘new media’ is two words. And although everyone falls in love with the first word, it’s just an adjective. The second word, the noun, is more important.It might be new, but it’s still media.


My son’s reading ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ by Jules Verne on his iPhone every morning on the tube. He downloaded 20 classic books, including Kipling, Kafka, and Dickens, from iTunes for 60p.


So you see, you don’t have to junk everything existing just because something new happens. Great stuff still works.


That’s the difference between a good idea and a technique. If you’ve got a good idea it can go anywhere. But if it’s dependent on a particular media, and won’t work anywhere else. Then it’s not an idea it’s a technique. That hasn’t changed since cave painting.

  • Gordon Macmillan

    Great post, I think you nailed it quite simply here: “a good idea it can go anywhere”.

  • Kate Wooding

    Totally agree Dave, the other day I was asked if ‘Twitter was a good thing’. It’s just a (new) thing! It’s not good, or bad. You can use it for good, or you can do damage with it. It’s like saying – is TV a good thing? Are emails good? They’re just the medium, not the message!

  • Grilla Login

    Thought transference is a gift to some, but via future technology, will become common to all. Slapped faces for many if some of my thoughts are anything to go by.

    Dave, no need to respond to this comment… I know what you’re thinking.

  • Jayne Marar

    i was watching a film on youth at about 7pm on Sunday and thinking about age.
    it’s great to be young with new ideas and it’s great to be older with more new ideas, but it’s always about the ideas, not the medium. it’s just about saying the right thing in the most interesting way.

  • http://nielsenstephens.com Jack Stephens

    Hi Dave,
    I agree.
    Media is a means of delivery.
    It might be delivering still images and words (posters/press).
    It might be delivering moving images and sound (TV).
    It might be delivering just sounds (Radio).
    While digital (new) media has the ability to deliver words, sounds and moving images, it is still a delivery system.
    What separates it from other delivery systems is that it works both ways.
    So the general public can deliver information back and to each other.
    This is what makes it special.
    Like any delivery system though, it’s only as good or useful as the stuff that it’s delivering.
    New media is not a replacement for ideas, it’s a new way of delivering them.

  • http://nielsenstephens.com Jack Stephens

    Hi Dave,
    I agree.
    Media is a means of delivery.
    It might be delivering still images and words (posters/press).
    It might be delivering moving images and sound (TV).
    It might be delivering just sounds (Radio).
    While digital (new) media has the ability to deliver words, sounds and moving images, it is still a delivery system.
    What separates it from other delivery systems is that it works both ways.
    So the general public can deliver information back and to each other.
    This is what makes it special.
    Like any delivery system though, it’s only as good or useful as the stuff that it’s delivering.
    New media is not a replacement for ideas, it’s a new way of delivering them.

  • Jack Stephens

    And just like any delivery system it is open to human error. Sorry for the double post.

  • Rob Mortimer

    Spot on.

  • Kevin Gordon

    Funny you should write this Dave,
    I was just thinking the other day:-

    Ideas work in 30 year Cycles:

    1890 Create
    1900 Build
    1910 Destroy

    1920 Create
    1930 Build
    1940 Destroy

    1950 Create
    1960 Build
    1970 Destroy

    1980 Create
    1990 Build
    2000 Destroy

    2010 Create

    1950 FREE! Wow what a great idea.
    1960 NEW! Wow what a great idea then.
    1970 HALF PRICE! Wow what a great idea then.

    1980 BUY ONE GET ONE FREE! Wow what a great idea then.
    1990 COOL! Wow what a great idea then.
    2000 BUY TWO GET ONE FREE! Wow what a great idea then.

    2010 LOL! Wow what a great idea.

  • Peter Riley

    You’re all talking as though new media – twitter, emails, etc – are there just for our ‘big ideas’ and the industry we are in. The public doesn’t give a shit about us and our debates. The big difference is that new media channels are primarily communication channels – ways for people to talk to each other – that we have hijacked for ‘marketing’ purposes.

  • Kevin Gordon

    Sales Promotion agencies used to say the same in the 70′s.
    The ones that won through were the companies that had original ideas.
    The rest became also-rans.

    It’s the same with ad agencies.
    You have the creative ones (and they are still creative today).
    Then you have the also-rans that nobody remembers.

    No doubt there are similar splits in the digital agencies.
    The creative ones will be remembered, and the others will become also-rans.

    At the end of the day it’s all about creativity,
    and by that I mean creativity in the broadest sense of the word.
    Creativity is not the sole domain of the Creative department.
    Creativity can be a unique way of planning media.
    Creativity can be a brilliant way of presenting.
    Creativity can be the way you look at a qualitative piece of research.
    There are no limits.
    There are no rules.

  • John W.

    “Everybody is talking at me. I don’t hear a word they say…”
    Whenever an idea tends to work it tends to limit itself to only a few media channels. Could it be that the fragmentation of communication channels has contributed to a dilution of strong impactful ideas?

  • Kevin Gordon

    The basic problem is this obsession with online is watering down the main media channels impact and the outcome is splunge. I’ve had conversations online for a year now and nobody has sold me anything. It’s all hot air.

    Have a look at Dave’s website and see the results they got for NS&I. We’re talking a change in £ billions overnight!!!!.

    Online is great for a trickle effect that eventually becomes a river, but it’s not a spectacle like the Mohammed Ali V Foreman fight that I saw again this morning. It’s not spectacular, it has no dazzle sizzle or sparkle. It’s not meant to. It’s a conversation, not an atomic bomb, but herein lies the problem. It’s sucking valuable revenues away from the advertising nukes.

    According to Ad Age, Agencies in Brussels have now gone into offline meltdown and on strike for a week because they say clients are demanding too much. The field is wide open (but it always was anyway). However, one comment read about how an agency when asked how it faired was to find out, they were told to access the research the client had made on their own work for a fee of £1,500.

    This is just taking the proverbial.

  • John W.

    Does anyone know what the optimum staff is per client plus the sensible production to creative ratio?

  • Kevin Gordon

    I calculated once for all staff in one agency generated an average of £130,000 revenue per head. It worked-out at every creative generating ideas worth £2.6m billing per annum.Then again, for every member working on one account turning over £60m, the avearge gross turnover per employee working on the business was £600,000. It sounds a lot but it isn’t really, especially when agencies make nothing out of media. It’s very much swings and roundabouts. On other pieces of business you could spend a fortune on production and get very little in tangible returns, but it’s what the business does as far as intangible assets for the agency that truly counts. It’s the hidden gold that never appears on the bean-counter’s radar. An ideal mix is to have two or ten monster accounts. Most agencies are pinned around a major piece of business, and if that goes, so does the agency.
    A dozen creative accounts also helps by keeping morale up. Then of course you have to be careful you don’t fall into the seasonality trap. You want business that lasts all year. The business mix is extremely important to maintain a balanced agency income throughout the year. I can’t stress how important that is.

  • Dave Trott

    Very detailed answer Kevin.
    John, personally I think, as always, it depends.
    Staff to client, depends on client.
    Retail is very work intensive, brand advertising isn’t.
    So on retail you need a lot of production staff checking everything, “retail is detail” they say.
    Lots of press ads listing prices, every offer in every ad in every paper has to be checked carefully.
    One mistake can cost a supermarket millions.
    But TV brand campaigns probably just need a producer.
    It tends to be that in TV the outside supplier does all the production work.
    In print the agency does the production in-house.
    Very crude ballpark estimate: 1 print and 1 TV producer can probably run up to 5 creative teams, with occasional freelance help.
    I don’t think staff-to-clients is a helpful guide,
    Maybe staff-to-income is more useful.
    Or certainly staff-to-workload, depending on how you charge the client.
    It takes less effort to write a single TV commercial than 6 press ads.
    But if the TV commercial is national and the ads are local, then it earns more money.
    Staff are a cost, so they’re balanced against income.

  • John W.

    Thanks Dave and Kevin for your worldly wisdom and experience.
    In my limited experience it still never seems to me that agencies get the ratio just right. I know it’s difficult but somebody somewhere should have enough experience to start getting it right. I’m with Cloughie, if you get the defence right, then and only then can you think about going on the attack and have a good chance of successful.

  • John W.

    …oops. That should read ‘good chance of being successful.’

  • Jayne Marar

    Peter R, nobody will talk if there’s nothing interesting to talk about.

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