As the bromide goes, “Context is everything.” This idea has become so trite that mentioning it could easily banish any author who mentions it to the dustbin of banality, perhaps the worst place to be sent. Disagree with me, hate my work, but call it banal – well, them’s fightin’ words!
Well, not so with business writing, that most platitudinous of all forms of expression, replete with after-the-fact wisdom and counter-counter-intuitive pearls. In this form, banality wins awards and quality is determined by the degree to which 95% of readers essentially agree with everything the author says.
So, I hope my readers will consider this a business piece and allow me to say (without the rotten vegetables thrown at me) that in 2012, context mattered more than any other time I can remember. What I mean, specifically, is that anyone even remotely involved with social media propounded the notion, ad nauseam and ad infinitum, that a new set of channels for expression had supplanted everything that had gone before and was even capable of fomenting revolution. Context mattered because if anyone thought she could make a single dime out of that thought, he was forced to salute the flag, trading in the power of suspicion for 30 tweets, as it were.
Context also meant everything in 2012 if one had a different view. Because your view is determined by which perch you stand on to gaze. To me, the real story of 2012 was not the “Rise of Social,” but was, instead, the remarkable persistence of what Gen Z’ers call “traditional” media.
To a hammer, everything is a nail. To a nail, the mallet might be subtler but can hurt more.
Allow me, therefore, to ask you to break a habit and answer a few questions with your best effort (while avoiding an internet search). In the US (the biggest advertising market), approximately what percentage of advertising spending in 2012 went to television? To radio?
Stop. Think. Guess.
Well the answers might be shocking. 40% went to TV (still the biggest recipient of spend) and about 10% to radio. Yes, TV is bigger than internet advertising, and radio is not dead. To me, those are interesting stories, perhaps more interesting than the rise of internet advertising and social media.
Shoot, physical advertising has become incredibly common. Buses have ads on their sides, placards in subways offer you education or health services for a fee. Even the bins used at security at airports have advertising (imagine…you put your shoes on a Zappos ad. Zappos sells shoes. Pretty contextual eh?)
None of this diminishes Twitter. Nor is this an anti-Facebook screed. But it is a plea – to remember the cliché about context. From a social media CEO’s point of view, social is everything. From a print editor’s point of view, that is simply not true. Ask the editor of The Atlantic (print subscriber base growing) or of a newspaper editor in India (where newsprint continues to grow).
In so much of life, there are examples of the power of persistence. Parents still love their kids and want to be in their physical presence. Babies ought to be hugged and not Skyped. Family meals and playing ball with Junior still matter. Going to concerts is still fun. Love-making and physical intimacy still ranks high on all adults’ list of pleasurable activities.
Ills persist too. The “Rights of Man” were declared long ago to be continuously honored in the breach. A hundred and fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African-Americans are still subject to the manacles of racism. Poverty hasn’t been eradicated nor has disease.
From Marketing to Malaria – a broad swath to cover.
Which brings me to the real point: facts are more liberating than platitudes. And analysis matters. Feel free to link to this piece, or tweet it.
Or just tell a friend about it.