Tag Archives: Arthur C. Clarke

The Better Advertising Mousetrap

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have coined the phrase: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” When it comes to advertising, social media has built the better mousetrap, and you and I are helping them to improve it every day.

The Social Dilemma

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” about how social media is impacting our lives, and is truly eye-opening. I encourage you to watch this documentary if you subscribe to Netflix, but especially if you’re in advertising and marketing. In fact, it would pay you to subscribe to Netflix just to view this documentary; it’s that important!

This blog won’t be about many of the important social issues raised in the documentary, but instead I plan to focus on how traditional media, like AM/FM radio broadcasting, is fighting a battle for advertising with the internet companies that isn’t a fair fight. Broadcasters are in essence coming to a gun fight, wielding a knife.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, because back on February 25, 2018, I wrote an article titled “Radio Has an Addiction Problem,” that quoted MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s 1995 book “Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet” saying “computers don’t just do things for us, they do things to us, including ways we think about ourselves and other people.” Turkle said that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds and changing our relationship with the world around us.

Monetizing Social Media

Social media quickly realized that in order to sustain itself it needed to monetize its service. Google’s search engine business was a Silicon Valley marvel for not only harnessing the power of the internet but simultaneously building a revenue engine that grew right along with it. Tim Kendall, now CEO of Moment, was one of the early people at Facebook, charged with coming up with a way to make money. He said that he decided that the “advertising model was the most elegant way.”

Advertising

The advertising business has always been about selling exposure to the people who use the product. Newspapers sold access to its readers, radio sold access to its listeners and television sold access to its viewers.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;

the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

-John Wanamaker

Businesses have always wanted to get the biggest bang for their advertising buck, but realized that in the world of advertising, there were no guarantees, that is until social media came along. Mel Karmazin, former broadcasting and satellite radio CEO put it this way when he met with the founders of Google: “You’re messing with the magic of sales.”

Jaron Lanier, who wrote the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” explains that what social media is doing more effectively than traditional media is “changing what you do, how you think and who you are…it’s a gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behavior and perception.” It’s similar to a magician performing slight-of-hand tricks, and making you believe things that aren’t real.

“This is what every business has always dreamt of, to have a guarantee that if it places an ad it will be successful. That’s (social media’s) business, they sell certainty. In order to be successful in that business you have to have great predictions. Great predictions begin with one imperative, you need a lot of data.

The internet has given us a new kind of marketplace that never existed before, a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures. Just like there are markets for pork belly futures, or oil futures, we now have markets that trade in human futures, at scale, and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity.”

-Shoshana Zuboff, PhD, Harvard Business School

Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology

is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Arthur C. Clarke

Getting Your Attention

Every company whose business model is to sustain itself through the selling of advertising is competing with other companies for your attention. Traditional media is competing with every social media company to get as much of your time and attention to their platform as they possibly can. Remember, when you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

The advantage social media has over traditional media is their development of persuasive technology. It’s designed to intentionally apply to the extreme behavior modification in the user, and cause them to take a desired action. It does this through the use of positive intermittent reinforcement, just like a casino slot machine lures you into thinking the next pull of the handle will release its fortune. Social media works to create an unconscious habit, programming you for a deeper level of control than you even realize is happening.

Social media has learned how to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, which even when you know how it works doesn’t inoculate you from its power to change you.

No longer is social media a tool we use, but is a tool that uses us, creating this technology based environment designed for mental addiction through psychological manipulation.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’:

illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

Most concerning about this change is that it’s being driven by a technology that’s advancing exponentially. In contrast, our human brain has not really advanced at all over the same period of time. The rate of change is beyond our human comprehension, even for the very people who are designing and building these computer networks.

“The race to keep people’s attention by social media isn’t going away. Our technology is going to become more integrated into our lives, not less. The AI’s (artificial intelligence) are going to get better at predicting what keeps us on the screen.

How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you’re in the matrix?”

-Tristan Harris, Center for Humane Technology Co-Founder

“Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion

will be a touch-and-go relay race

right up to the final moment…”

-Buckminster Fuller

Today, the internet is a more efficient way to sell our attention to advertisers.

Now you know why.

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CES 2019

Dave - 2001 .jpgI wasn’t at CES 2019. In fact, I’ve never been to CES.

But after reading the reports on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I feel like I was there 50-years ago via Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 motion picture phenomena “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Technology Integration

The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) did a special video they called “Bonus Report of C-Suite Radio Exec’s attending CES” and some of the comments those radio executives made is what made me feel like I’d seen this “movie” before.

Steve Goldstein

Steve said that what he’s marveled at over the years is how media is continually being integrated. He said only a couple of years ago, there was virtually no mention of smart speakers, and this year it’s not only a device exploding in the home, but now is coming into the car too. Goldstein thinks this voice activated technology is important because these devices are not radios, but audio devices and radio stations, as audio content producers need to re-imagine how they will sound and feel like on these devices. And he added, “it’s happening fast!”

Dennis Gwiazdon

Before recently moving to Las Vegas to manage the Beasley Media Group radio stations in that city, Dennis ran the top radio stations in Nashville, TN. When I was teaching at the university in Kentucky, Dennis was an annual guest in my Broadcast Capstone Class.

Dennis said of his visit to CES 2019 it helps radio broadcasters to think about where things are heading and to plan for the future.

Technology today is making our lives simpler by our ability to talk to our devices and connect ourselves to things we used to have to physically operate. Gwiazdon told the RAB that he lives in a smart home in Las Vegas and it’s fascinating to him how he can walk around his house, talk to it and make it do whatever he wants it to do. “I don’t have to touch a light switch, I don’t have to adjust the thermostat, when I come home I can have a routine set-up that will have everything ready for me when I walk through the door.”  “I’m living in that experience now, “said Dennis.

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do Thathal 9000

And it was Dennis’ comments that brought to mind the astronaut named Dave in “2001: A Space Odyssey” that when his space pod was trying to re-enter the mother ship and Dave asked the HAL 9000 computer system to open the pod bay doors. Here’s a link to that memorable moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARJ8cAGm6JE

HAL’s response to Dave was “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The reason was that the HAL 9000 computer could not only respond to voice commands but, it turned out, could also read lips and knew what Dave and his fellow astronaut were planning on doing. They were planning on taking the HAL 9000 off-line because they suspected the computer was making mistakes.

The HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) 9000 was basically artificial intelligence that was designed to learn, grow and protect itself from attacks. HAL sensed he was coming under attack and was trying to protect itself from the humans.

iPhone 4S

iphone 4s

Oh, it all seemed so innocent back in 2012 when I switched from my Blackberry to my first iPhone. It was the iPhone 4S. The “S” stood for Siri. Siri was my first voice activated assistant.

I found that I used Siri mainly for dictating text messages and emails rather than trying to type things into the phone’s touch screen. Siri did a pretty good job too.

Occasionally I asked Siri to tell me a joke or look something up for me, but not often.

Alexa

So now it’s 2019 and I have Siri on my tablets, my MAC, and iPhone 7. I have three Amazon Echo’s with Alexa, and in my car, my Garmin Smart Drive responds to my voice commands.  It sends me instant traffic information and detours when necessary, along with important weather alerts and breaking news.

I really feel like Dave in 2001, controlling so much of my world with just my voice.

It’s quite addictive and it happens very fast.

I hope they don’t ever turn against me.

Artificial Intelligence

Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have both warned that AI (artificial intelligence) could potentially be very dangerous. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke certainly showed my generation why, back in 1968. AI is about building machines that think for themselves and grow in their intelligence. It’s what will make a world of self-driving cars, and so much more, possible.

Elon Musk has written:

“The pace of progress in artificial intelligence is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast – it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most.”

On Demand

The world we live in today is one of “On Demand.” The future belongs to those who can create what people want and deliver it when they want it.

The consumer won’t have it any other way.

It’s not an attack on radio broadcasters. It’s the future. Here. Now.

 

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Radio is Going to HAL

22You remember HAL? The HAL 9000 is a fictional character from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series. HAL’s name stood for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer. HAL was the future of artificial intelligence. HAL always spoke in a soft, calm voice and in a conversational manner. HAL was born in the 90s according to Clarke.

I remember computerizing my radio station’s traffic and billing system around that same time. Computers would quickly invade every part of my radio station operations. It was scary. I remember looking at that computer box and thinking, if that darn thing “dies” there goes the whole enchilada. It wasn’t like losing a phonograph needle or a cart machine or a CD player. Computers changed the game to an all or nothing model. Computers also introduced another concept foreign to radio broadcasters, planned replacement schedules while they were still fully operational. Radio always used to run every piece of equipment until it could run no more. But you couldn’t play that game with computers.

More Dead Air

Programming great, George Johns, recently posted this thought on his blog: “Is it just me or are there a lot more pauses on the radio now than there was when we were using carts.”   And I wrote back to Geo that I noticed the same thing. I figured it was because today, the people charged with running radio stations are not listening to them. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. They are busy – very busy – multi-tasking.

When computers were introduced into radio, I thought it would be great because it would allow air talent to spend more time working on show prep, interacting with the listeners and being focused on their show and not about cuing up records, pulling carts etc. For small market radio stations, it meant that air talent would have an engineer just like the big city radio stations had always had for their air talent. But that’s not what happened.

The radio industry had a different idea in mind. Computers would allow air talent to do more.

After the Telcom Act of 1996, the radio industry began to rapidly consolidate. General Managers became Market Managers. (GMs usually were charged with overseeing an AM/FM broadcast property. MMs would oversee multiple AMs, FMs and in many cases, multiple markets of AMs & FMs.) Computers were quickly seen as a way to do more with less. More work with less people that is.

Multi-tasking Kills Your Brain

Air personalities now could be on multiple radio stations at the same time. They could multi-task. The unfortunate part of this is research now shows that multi-tasking will kill your brain. Turns out our brains were not built to multi-task.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller quoted in Inc. magazine says that our brains are “not wired to multi-task well and when people think they are multi-tasking, they are actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant switching actually produces bad brain habits. Worse, multi-tasking actually lowers your work quality and your efficiency. It actually lowers a person’s IQ like if you were to skip sleeping or use drugs. So if you wonder why today’s air talent isn’t connecting with listeners like they used to, it really isn’t their fault. The deck has been stacked against them by an industry that is using computers and voice tracking to enable their air talent to multi-task. Multi-tasking is not a skill to add to resume. It’s a bad habit to quit doing.

Computers Change College Radio

Erik O’Brien wrote in an article in Radio Survivor about how automation was introduced into his college radio station and how it changed the way college radio was now done and not for the better in his opinion.

KUTE adopted the ENCO DAD radio automation software. What had been a college radio station comprised of student radio enthusiasts, experimenting, having fun – sometimes producing radio greatness and sometimes not – would turn into a more “professional” operation through the use of computerized software. A radio station that had live radio personalities around the clock could now operate without any DJs.

Everything that goes on the air goes through DAD (Digital Audio Delivery). If it’s not in the computer, it won’t go on-the-air. This standardization now allowed for KUTE to begin monetizing their programming. KUTE had an AM signal, licensed by the FCC, but when the transmitter broke down and there was no money to repair it, it became an online only station. Now it was not subject to FCC rules that embraced a community-driven model of radio. It also could now support advertising that could be scheduled and aired that its non-commercial FCC license did not allow.

The new computerized system meant the station was now stable and standardized and predictable. Except when the computer loaded programs didn’t air and other operator errors would plague the station’s on-air sound. What used to be a fun college experience now was a stressful chore.

The Bottom Line

What it all comes down to, whether we’re talking about college radio or commercial radio, is what value are we offering to our listeners by the technology we employ? What do we want the listener experience to be? If we use technology to allow our air talent to be more focused on the station’s mission, radio will be great but if we use it in other ways, probably not.

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