Cute, but sadly it sucks.
It is a 2008 version of Suck.com. It’s lame most importantly because nobody really enjoys having their choices in such a feature filtered by the opinion of some wretch at boston.com. My own personal favorite Super Bowl commercial wasn't chosen at all by boston.com. The alternative? A Jeff Jarvis maxim: “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” For Super Bowl commercials, it serves the audience better to just link here. The New York Times Corporation (the Boston Globe included) has barely a clue about this concept.
One thing I have discovered in almost 4 years of blogging is that traditional media is averse to the culture of the link. I think this comes from the newspaper, radio, and TV mentality of not sharing one’s captive audience. My opinion is based only on a few exchanges with talk radio personalities, but I believe it is correct. In traditional newspaper, radio, and TV one would rarely even mention alternative media organs (let alone provide a conduit to them for your own audience with something as subversive as a link). Why? Because they represent competition, and there was no point in reminding your customers about their available alternatives to your own content.
Jeff Jarvis is a media critic and blogger at Buzzmachine. Like many journalists, Jeff is ideophoric to the point of yammering. Just the mention of his name is like fingernails on a chalkboard to many media people. Yet I enjoy reading Jeff because I find his thoughts about the media world very honest, and because Jeff can be honestly self-depreciating. He wrote this last September in an essay entitled “Newspapers in 2020”:
I am reminded of a moment at the 2007 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. In a session of the International Media Council, a leading newspaper publisher beseeched the young founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, for advice on how his newspaper could create a community, as Facebook had. The famously laconic Zuckerberg’s response: “You can’t.” Full stop. Later, Zuckerberg explained that communities already exist and are already doing what they want to do, so the question we should ask is how we can help them do that better. Zuckerberg’s prescription: Bring them “elegant organization.” That is what he did with Facebook and Harvard, then college communities, and next the world. And when you think about it, that is the essence of what journalism has tried to do since its birth: It helps organize a community’s knowledge so that a better-informed society can accomplish the goals it sets for itself. So how can we do that now with the new tools available to us?
Well, first, we have to assure that news organizations survive, and to do that we must exploit the new efficiencies made possible by the internet, by the new architecture of news in the era of the link. The link frees us from the need to waste our ever-dwindling resources on commodity information the community already knows. We no longer need to recreate the same news everyone else has. We can link to it. We no longer need to be all things to all people. We can link to niche coverage that is better than what we could have afforded to offer ourselves. We also no longer need to waste resources on ego, on all having our own television critics or golf columnists, on sending one-too-many reporters to the big story that is all over TV just so we can say we have our byline there.
We need to do what we do best and link to the rest.
There is a problem here that Jeff doesn't mention, though -- the Long Tail phenomenon. Inevitably this means fewer eyeballs for the established high-volume media organs, and that threatens their existing business model. Thus their desperate need to restructure and their plummeting stock prices in the face of their inability to do so quickly (above is a 5-year price trend of New York Times - Class A stock).
And here is more Jarvis-speak on the concept of enabling your audience rather than of controlling it. This concept pertains to the lame Boston.com Super Bowl commercial feature:
Time Warner has decided it wants to own content instead. But I’ve argued that owning content also has no real future. For that matter, owning isn’t a verb with value. Enabling is what you want to do. Google doesn’t own. It enables. MySpace enables — and its vulnerability is that it still owns and controls. Craigs List enables. YouTube, Flickr, FaceBook enable. Pure enablement is the model of the future, I think.
So what media should a media conglomerate own, if not cable? Newspapers? Ha! TV stations? You have to be kidding. Magazines? Stop, you’re killing me. Networks? Nope; they all accrued their value by controlling a scarcity that no longer exists.
So I’ll repeat the question: What should they own? AOL? Oh, that was below the belt. No, I wouldn’t want to own AOL or Yahoo or even MySpace. They try to control. And controlling will not work in an economy that is based on handing over control, of distributed control.
What enables instead? Hmmmm. Google. YouTube. DoubleClick. Blogger. What they have in common is as obvious as Google’s strategy: They enable. No more trees.
The media organs that figure out how to do this will have stock trends that look like the reverse of the New York Times Corporation.