The Media™ likes mass: critical mass, mass culture, mass casualties. Bigger is better when it comes to people impacted or interested because it means a bigger market to attract. (Same reasoning can apply to hyper-partisanship, “us vs. them” triggers our evolutionary tribal response.)
I say this because it feels like a lot of headlines lately strike me as trying to will a return to “normal” into reality. The problem is, mass culture is dead. At least in the near term as the gathering points for mass culture unbundle.
The Streaming Wars killed the chance of another mass cultural moment around a TV show or movie. I have not (yet, in some cases) seen: Game of Thrones, most of the Marvel movies, Ted Lasso, most of the Fast & Furious movies, or Stranger Things.
I was on a digital conference / webinar thing recently where they had a session on Ted Lasso and something about omnichannel marketing. One of the speakers made the comment, “there are what, 3 people that haven’t seen Ted Lasso?” While obvious hyperbole, the sentiment would be more accurate if stated as, “there are what, 3 people who will pay for whatever Apple puts out that haven’t seen Ted Lasso?”
Twitter is probably about to die, at least as a cultural gathering point for a large enough group of people to mean something on a near-mass scale. Meta may implode. BeReal may run into a wall before it can walk a marathon. TikTok is defined by its sub-cultures as much as its mass reach.
Radio fell out of the center of culture a while ago, and anything printed well before that (I say as an avid reader and lover of books).
Culture has been unbundled. We have moved from a phase of critical mass to one of critical yeast.
The real problem lies in assuming your personal culture is universal when planning for your brand’s (fit in) culture.
The End of the Techno-Giants? + The Age of Unbundling + The Cookie-pocalypse Deconstructed
The industry’s zombie shuffle to the cookie-pocalypse has shifted the power from the demand side to the supply side, and the numbers show it.
Revenues are growing at slower rates, or dropping, across the board for the digital giants. (all the links)
Meanwhile, every retailer that’s large enough is launching a media network to sell ads against. And publishers are starting to kick AdTech vendors to the curb (bye, Taboola) in the interest of doing it themselves.
Outside Magazine did this a while back and reported an almost immediate improvement in the quality of advertisers that wanted to work with them directly. It’s been years since I heard the Outside info and can’t find the source, but they attributed it to the lack of garbage content once they got rid of the trashy sponsored content ads after articles.
Just as the internet looks to be niching back down, advertising options could be doing the same. Instead of setting up a campaign on the Google Display Network and delivering all over the place, the future may be curating a small selection of placements and placing buys directly. Strategic and contextual partnerships over spray-and-pray at scale.
Or working with whatever the next-gen programmatic platforms are. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an adtech version of Hulu, a bunch of incumbent publishers get together and create a platform themselves to rival the startups.
The Splintering of Search
In the Age of Unbundling section last weeek, I wrote:
Search is unbundling from Google as specialized and niche alternatives pop up to fill the gaps Google leaves behind in its quest to realize The Future of Search™.
There are a lot of pieces being written about TikTok replacing Google as the search engine of choice among Gen Z’ers. More recently, Klarna has announced a “rich and unbiased search tool“ for shopping.
Here are some other niche search engines I’ve collected over time: