It's not always clear where the idea for one of these posts will come from. Today's came to me while I was listening to ESPN Sports Radio - "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd - in which the hot topic was "contraction" - major sports leagues potentially shedding weaker teams and thereby making the rest even stronger. (In this scenario, the Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks would vanish.) Too much choice, too much growth breeds weaker options and ultimately serves to do nothing but water down the product.
And that was enough to get me thinking: What if contraction was the next logical next step in digital media and marketing as well?
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Everywhere we turn, "abundance" has become unworkable. There is too much content for the consumer to navigate, too many sites, networks; too much advertising real estate. There are too many agencies, too much technology.....there are probably even too many companies building solutions to make sense of all this complexity. It's easy to see how we got here: over the last decade the market rewarded companies on the basis of how they helped manage abundance. Google indexed millions of sites and billions of keywords....ad networks aggregated the glut of web inventory and helped make it manageable. Now content mills are cranking out more and more "acceptable" content and agency holding companies are putting their shoulder into the job of automating abundance through trading desks and DSPs. But are they in fact building weapons to fight a war that's drawing to a close?
Seems to me that most of the big ideas now are about curation; creating smaller, more manageable sets of choices. Facebook is a version of the web where I know everybody I'm connected to; iTunes doesn't have every piece of music ever recorded, but it's safe, secure and easy to find stuff; same goes for Netflix and Amazon. Even as Twitter seems an overwhelming torrent of output, it's organizing itself into an ontology of recommenders -- microbloggers we follow because they're willing to say "look at this; it's important." The web itself seems to be in retreat as we're witnessing the return of the Walled Garden.
I'm hosting a discussion at Ad:tech San Francisco (Tuesday April 12, Noon) with Molly Wood of CBS Interactive, Scott Symonds of AKQA and Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures. We'll be sorting out who the power brokers will be in this radically shifting landscape. One thing seems quite certain to me already: the immediate future will be all about getting small and creating more manageable decision sets, content experiences and commercial choices.
Contraction is here. Curation is hot. Small is the new big.
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