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Respect the Internet

With Douglas Rushkoff I’m keynoting a Ketchum event called “Respect the Internet” [more here] tomorrow. The subtitle of the day is “Is marketing ruining the Net?” Sounds like it should be fun. (It’s being webcast, starting at 10am.)

I have a 20-30 min slot in which I’m planning on saying something like the following:

Yes, markets are conversations, as Doc once said. That shifts power from vendors to customers. It also turns markets as demographic abstractions into real social entities. But markets are conversations now because they are networked, and thus are taking on the properties of networks: evanescent, light-weight group formation, and, most of all connected via shared interests. For example, the people on the Web right now talking about which bike to buy constitute a networked market of bike purchasers. The bad news for traditional businesses is that hierarchical businesses (i.e., businesses) do not fit well architecturally on the Net. E.g., who gets to talk for the business, for businesses do not actually have mouths?

I then plan on talking about two properties of networks being expressed by markets now.

1. The fact that the Net is composed of interests has exposed what we always knew: there is usually a lack of alignment between markets and businesses. Markets talk about bikes because they have the usual range of interests in bikes: to be green, to save money, to get exercise, to recapture one’s youth, etc. But bike companies as businesses are interested in having us pay them money. Same objects of discussion (bikes) but very different interests. Businesses have tried to rationalize their lack of alignment by talking about “authenticity,” a term that I think does not apply very meaningfully to companies. Nor do I think that Michael Porter’s “shared value” idea addresses the real misalignment of interests.

2. Networks tend toward transparency. I will quickly mention four types of relevant transparency: of self (you are who you say you are), of sources, of humanity (you and your products are fallible), and of interests. (I may drop this section. I think the line of thought would be clearer if I do.)

Finally, I want to ask why the Net is such a weird and different medium. Answer: The Internet is not a medium. We are the medium. Because the Net is interest based, messages (memes, links, poems, whatever) move through us: I send you that link because I think you’ll like it, and I have something invested in your liking it when I pass it along. We are literally the medium.

So, that’s why marketers should respect the Internet. The Internet is ours. No, we don’t own Verizon’s wires. But that’s not the Internet. The Net is its open protocol and the social products and life it has engendered. So, mess with the Net with intrusive marketing and you are messing with us. We won’t like it.

That’s roughly it.

(By the way, I rarely mention where I’m talking because I’m a little shy, in weird ways. I’m thinking I ought to bite the bullet and just blurt out my scheduled talks. Why? Marketing! E.g., would you like to know that this morning I keynoted the Canadian Research Knowledge Network meeting outside of Ottawa, and that on Monday I gave the John Seely Brown lecture at the University of Michigan School of Information? Or is it just boastful noise, which is how it sounds to me?)

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