Today as I worked in the kitchen at Ängsbacka I got inspired to write about what I and others do in the field of blog classification. One of the best interpersonal communicators I´ve met, Maria Volden, sat down to sort a bunch of cards with names of different ingredients for the kitchen storage. The cards read for instance sugar, wild rice, plums, amaranth etc. She asked me how I thought she shoul classify them, she had gotten stuck. Should different types of rice be together and different types of spices in another catgegory? And what the heck is amaranth?
Oh, what strange things do not catch our hearts and minds?
Since I´m a sucker for classification I got really excited about the question. My first thought was to call Jon Kågström and discuss the matter. My second was to ask her about what instructions she had gotten – who should use the cards, could a current classification system be used (there was one in the box) and where was the cards supposed to be used. I asked for a moment to smoke a pipe and ponder about it. And then this post was born. Becasue I realized that this was a PRfekt example of why there is so much confusion in the world of new and traditional media analysis.
The noble art of putting things in boxes
In order to bring some order into the vast amount of media channels out there you have to classify them. There are probably about 1000 traditional media channels in sweden and several hundred thousands new media channels such as blogs, consumer sites and forums. The ones that are the most eager to classify the media channels are the ad brokers who makes a lot of money on placing ads in channels reaching the right audience for the advertiser.
It used to be simple. When all media channels where analogue there where not that many. It was doable to let some poor fellow either manually look at the media channel or ask people what media they used. And people where pretty loyal to their favourite media channels so the changes in media usage where manageable from when one look or survey was performed to the next. A good period of time for the purpose could be, for instance, every third month or so.
Happiness and prosperity in the old marketing landscape
The reserach companies that did the looking and asking where happy and made money, the media that sold the advertisment were happy and made money and the ad brokers were happy and made A LOT of money. It was only the advertisers that were not that happy. They complained that they didn´t know which half of their marketing budget was wasted and what half that gave some return on investment.
And then came Internet. Some people in the business still haven´t woken up to what profound effect on the whole ecosystem it has had and will continue to have. Here´s a quick test to determine who´s who. If someone calls Internet a channel and put´s it beside print, radio and television and other analogue media they are sleep-walking. If they don´t mention Internet anywhere near analogue media (except for in background texts like this one, of course… ;-) they are probably awake. What is worse is if they TREAT Internet as yet another media channel by applying the same logics to it. Examples of “the same logic” is graphical ads exposing commercial messages and prioritizing among the channels based on eye balls (or reach, as it is sometimes called). If you want to make fast money in todays marketing environment that is necessary though. But that is still sleep-walking. If you want to be around tomorrow aswell you better realise that Internet changes everything when it comes to marketing logics. Everything. But instead of ranting about it here – read what other people have to say about Cluetrain Manifesto and why not my brilliant friend Johan Ronnestams blog about innovative communication in the new era.
Three ways of classifying media for the good of the marketing business
I myself continue trying to understand the fundamenta of media analysis. Here´s what Maria made me realize:
There are three basic ways that media are classified today:
1. Demographic audience segmentation – or Old School. By researching the age, income level, place of residence and sex of the readers, listeners and viewers of the media you can broker ads via that media to reach the right audience. This worked fine in the good old days when the owners of broking agencies drove the largest motor yachts in the archipelago. Sleep-walking people are today trying to apply the same logic to new media, but even Microsoft failed. There are still a lot of big and small companies working hard to achieve a demographic standard that includes new media. I believe it is all a waste of energy. People have better things to do today than beeing loyal to certain media and trying to fit in to mostly stupid categories that presumes that where your house is located and what age you are are enough to tell advertisers what your interests are.
2. Content categorization – or The Transitive Solution. Where demographic data is not available (read; new media) you can always categorize according to content. It´s crude, but it´s better than nothing. The only cool way of categorize according to content that I´ve seen is Google that places ads based on the words in mails and on web pages. But the really cool thing about Google is that they do not only do that, but also does:
3. Psychographic audience segmentation – or New School. When someone taps in a search word they are actually expressing what´s on their mind right now. Mind = psyche. Thus Google creates knowledge about the intentions or interests of the person sitting in the other end of the screen. That´s not only cool – that´s super-mega-cool because it allows them to place ads more effectively than any other prior ad brokers has been able to dream about at that costs, which is about zero per ad displayed. The thing is that when you know ANYTHING about the interests of the person in the other end of a relationship it´s much easier to adapt your offer to what they are looking for. Everyone wins. Less money is spent on ineffective ad space. People don´t have to be bombarded with so much junk information. And in the end, maybe even our physical surroundings don´t have to be plastered with not-asked-for information on billboards and the like. Psychographic audience segmentation actually opens up for the vision where nobody wether at home or at the street or using any media would be exposed to ANY not-asked-for information. Google knows this and seemingly acts upon it aswell. Their business plan spans 500 years by the way.
Disruptive media analysis – using blogs as focus groups instead of media channels
I´m fascinated by how blogs today provides an extremely rich data about interests and media usage in relation to different psychographic segments. I´ve been longing to be able to perform that reserach for many years now and it seems like the time has finally come. I´m sure they will be many really cool applications for a large-scale psychographic segmentation tool that feeds on human voices (thoughts and feelings in blogs) and spits out archetypes, Myers-Briggs types, Enneagram types and Temperaments related to search words or linking behaviour. Only the imagination sets the limits, actually.