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2010 – The Year Everything Was Supposedly Dead; 2011 – The Year of Scale and Synergy

2011 January 2

Happy New Year! I’m so glad 2010 is over!  I can’t remember a year that annoyed me so much.  Every time I turned around some jackass was proclaiming the death of something:  Old Media, The Web, E-mail, whatever…

At first, I would be intrigued, click on Twitter links and read stuff that I couldn’t understand.  Then I would brush up on my acronyms, check some facts and eventually realize that it was all crap. When I would point out the inconsistencies and non-sequiturs, people would write me nasty comments and say that I “didn’t get it” (which was true).

I do have greater hopes for 2011.  The stakes will be vastly higher and that’s likely to engender more serious thinking and business-like approaches.  The coming year holds great promise, lots of challenges and it’s only just begun!

The Death of Old Media

In 2010 it seemed that social media was all anyone ever wanted to talk about.  Facebook hit 500 million users (and, reportedly, $2 billion in revenues).  LinkedIn and Twitter became all the rage.  Nobody talked much about MySpace, Friendster and countless others that tanked, they were too busy proclaiming “old media” dead.

How did that turn out?

As you can see, traditional media stocks came roaring back in 2010 (and even the ones at the bottom, it must be said, did better than Google).  A weighted traditional media portfolio would have comfortably outperformed the S&P 500.  Not too shabby, huh?

And why not, these companies make money.  How many social media companies can say that?  Yahoo’s recent decision to dump Delicious, among other things, reflects the growing realization that professional content is indeed still the heart and soul of the media business.

Of course, the media publishers are only part of the picture.  What about those ad agencies?  Surely, those fat cats’ days are numbered.  Haven’t you heard of disintermediation?  The day of the middle man is over.  Don Draper RIP!

On the other hand…

The Death of The Web

I like Chris Anderson of Wired.  He puts out a great magazine and both of his books, The Long Tail and Free were outstanding.  Nevertheless, I was a bit miffed when he wrote a cover story proclaiming that “The Web is Dead.”

As I explained in a reply, he made a very weak argument.  Many of the “apps” he was touting are actually highly dependent on the Web.  Moreover, it would not only be undesirable, but highly unlikely, that we would return to the “walled garden” era of AOL.  The Web has succeeded so fabulously because it gives us what we want: universality and connectivity.

Most of all, I thought that it was excessively sensationalist for a magazine that I’ve come to expect a lot more from.  He could have written about “The Rise of the App” or “The Extended Web,” but no, he had to assert that what’s exciting and new must constitute a negation of the old.

2010 was that kind of year.

The Death of E-mail

Most recently, I read an article in The New York Times that now proclaims e-mail dead.  It seems that the kids don’t like it because it’s too slow and uses antiquated conventions like “cc” and “bcc.”  They even did some legwork and found a 17 year old girl in California who says that e-mail is “lame.”

Having lived overseas since the middle of the Clinton administration, I’ve always been a big fan of instant messaging for staying in touch with friends spread out over the world  (although with my Fred Flintstone-like thumbs, I’ve never really enjoyed texting).

Nevertheless, I still use e-mail because much of my correspondence requires a longer form.  When I am put in “cc” I am comforted that I don’t have to reply.  No office intrigue would be complete without “bcc.”  The kids, of course, don’t value these things because e-mail is not chatty, but a more formal mode of communication than they have a need for at this stage in their lives.

Oh, and the evidence for the “big decline?”  They cite that traffic on Yahoo mail and Hotmail dropped 6% and Gmail increased by 10%.  Huh?

The Death of Death?

All of the false “deaths” above use the same tortured logic.  They assume an increase in one thing must imply a decrease in something else.  There’s no reason that has to be true and, in fact, it’s usually not.  Over time we tend to get more stuff, so while the overall composition might change, most things continue to grow.

The above is a chart from our good friends at the US Census Bureau.  It shows an significant increase in world population over the next four decades.  If we applied the “increase in one thing implies the decrease in something else” rule, we might conclude that such an increase in live people must entail a consequent decrease in dead people.

Of course, that’s ridiculous, but no more absurd than much of what we’ve heard this past year.  As the economic crisis gives way to modest growth, histrionics will become less tenable.  Work needs to be done and things achieved.  Polemics are a poor substitute for progress.

2011 – The Year of Scale and Synergy

Rishad Tobaccowala, the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of VivaKi and one of the smartest guys in the business, recently spelled out the four key trends for 2011 which are: Mobility, Retail Renaissance, Purpose Driven Marketing and the new framework of paid, owned and earned media (POE).

Two things should be clear.  Firstly, while Apple’s iOS unleashed possibilities, Google’s Android will bring down prices and bring penetration to scale.  Second, none of the four trends work in isolation, but must be integrated.  Therefore, success over the next year probably has very little to do with technology and everything to do with effective management.

Cottage industries, like social media marketing, will need to learn to value cooperation over controversy. Strategic planners will have to build skills beyond PowerPoint and Excel and agencies will need to treat publishers as more than mere “suppliers” (which was a stupid idea to begin with).  Adolescence must give way to adulthood.

To paraphrase Albert Camus, we are like Sisyphus at the bottom of the mountain, ready to renew our labors and struggle toward new heights; with our hearts full, our spirits awakened and our minds (hopefully) at ease.

Have a great year!

– Greg

25 Responses leave one →
  1. January 2, 2011

    Thanks Greg – I needed the laugh! “increase in one thing implies the decrease in something else” rule, we might conclude that such an increase in live people must entail a consequent decrease in dead people.” = priceless 🙂

    I sure hope that these teens do grow up but of course they speak/write a different language than we do anyway. Besides the fact that I can’t read my children’s – actually technically “adults” (18 & 22) text messages due to crappy eyesight, even if I could read them, I wouldn’t understand them. Somewhere they must have taken a course in the “new” English because I certainly don’t recognize many of their words as those that exist in the dictionary!

    Your perspective on the state of the business world today is refreshing. Have you ever noticed that people either run to jump on the bandwagon or refuse to get on at all? What happened to that middle ground where people are supposed to analyze and evaluate available options and make informed decisions against the facts they learn? Hmmmm…. maybe they will change in 2011? Nah – I doubt it! 🙂

    Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year,

  2. January 2, 2011

    Thanks, Julie. Happy New Year to you as well.

    I’m always skeptical about the long term value of looking at what kids are doing. As a proud member of Generation X, we were supposed to be slackers. That lasted until we got jobs, family’s etc. Now, much of what we heard about Gen X is being said about Millennials. I’m not buying it.

    – Greg

  3. January 2, 2011

    Great post! God, I could not agree with you more about 2010, which should be added to the Chinese zodiac calendar as the “year of the jackass”. It seems their is a perfect correlation between the growth of internet communication channels and the increase in the number of jackasses clamoring to get their opinions heard above the noise of the net.

    2010 will also go down as the year of the jackass for private equity investors. Never have so many high quality deals been available at such substantial discounts, and investors would like to sit on cash and daily lose purchasing power rather than invest at market bottom.

    Perhaps we should develop a list of the top 100 all-time stupid technology predictions by self proclaimed gurus. I think is has been the year of nanotechnology for at leat the last 10 years.

  4. January 2, 2011

    “Year of the Jackass” – I like it!

    btw. Hal, what do you think about the talk lately that Silicon Valley valuations for early stage projects are getting frothy again?

    – Greg

  5. January 2, 2011

    I heard that they are coming out with the “idiot” vaccine soon 🙂

  6. January 2, 2011


  7. January 2, 2011

    Greg, the bullshit coming out of SV is only second to that coming out of DC. Here’s a quick translation card to start 2011 (term vs. real meaning).

    VC = investment banker mentality
    risk capital = if you believe in tinker-bell, then clap your hands
    early stage = revenue generating venture
    early state investment = $5+ million
    “frothy” = everyone else is moving this space and we hope to figure out why
    “frothy valuations” = we have no clue how to set a realistic, supportable valuation for this deal



  8. January 2, 2011

    Thanks for that, Hal.

    Best of luck in the New Year.

    – Greg

  9. January 2, 2011

    Thanks for another great post. For some teeny boppers who have difficulty putting full sentences together and can only think in small Twitter messages, it may indeed seem last ‘so last year’. Worse yet the new media gurus actually listen to that crap and try to convince us that we should ‘new media whatever’ too.

    Email is not dead, not even close to it.With about 2 billion email users, it is a close second only to the telephone in volume. Business email users are growing at the rate of 50 million + each year. Huge growth in Europe and Asia outstrips North America. Facebook’s estimated 2 billion in revenue is a fraction of AT&T’s $12 billion. The real media is strong and growing and profitable.

  10. January 2, 2011


    It’s true. E-mail is still dominant. The same argument, btw, holds for TV. Young people watch less, but this has always been the case.

    Thanks for your comment and have a great year!

    – Greg

  11. Mirek Kowalski permalink
    January 3, 2011

    Hi Greg,
    One small remark to the term “Old Media”: for me it’s much more NYT, WAPO, Gannett, McClatchy, which are not performing so well like Viacom, CBS or Disney.
    Broadcaster and movie producers are in much better position also because of good adoption by young generation, but this is not the case with newspaper publishers IMO 😉

    All the best in New Year and keep writing such excellent posts :)))

  12. January 3, 2011

    Dzieki Mirek! Milego Nowego Roku!

    I think that for every rule, there is a worthwhile exception:-) Traditional media companies that depended on classified advertising (i.e. most newspapers) are indeed having trouble. The Internet is simply a vastly superior direct response medium.

    Of course, although digital media is far worse at display advertising and brand building, convergence will certainly change that. Of course, when that happens, the point will be moot:-)

    – Greg

  13. January 3, 2011


    First off, Happy New Year to you!

    Thanks for the info on some of the traditional media. Interesting stuff. I do think that there are a number of these traditional media companies that are going thru massive change, but will come out the other end and be successful. I worked for a company like that, they are still struggling but getting better every day.

    As for the synergy on the marketing front, I’m glad you pointed that out. I have always believed that marketing must be a combination of many tactics, not an “all eggs in one basket” mentality.


  14. January 3, 2011

    Thanks for your input, Greg.

  15. January 5, 2011

    Another great post.
    Love your blog.

    PS: you should add a tweet button!

  16. January 5, 2011

    Thanks, Simone. There is a Tweet button on top. I just added one on bottom as well:-)

  17. January 5, 2011

    Thanks to my proxy I didn’t see it 🙂

    Keep up.

  18. January 6, 2011

    The traditional ad networks did well, but the more “digital” focused MDC Partner’s didn’t do too shabby either: 100% up since January 2010!

  19. January 6, 2011

    And in actuality, it is the digital business that is driving the ad holding companies up:-)

    – Greg

  20. January 8, 2011

    Dear Greg,
    We talked previously through the web. This is my first comment in your amazing website that I subscribe as a reader. I completely subscribe your points in here about the importance of the match between traditional and new media and follow the same train of though. It is funny in terms of numbers I was not aware of some of your insights. I think the future is a mix of the old and new working. In the case of Chris Anderson of Wired I think he was being provocative. I think he just wanted to push the reflection. Something he did amazingly! Though I think he was in part right with some of his findings. I agree with you that it was a bit too much the title but both his article and Michael Wolff did a good analysis and synthesis of what is going on as few people did so far.
    I wrote a text about some of my personal quests, on a more personal self development way and recommended this amazing article and your website. Hope you liked it:
    Keep the great analysis and research. I will wait for the new article!
    Best regards and a great year!
    Dinis Guarda

  21. January 9, 2011

    Thanks, Dinis. Keep up the great work on your blog!

    – Greg

  22. January 16, 2011

    The death knells have been a pet peeve of mine as well. I referenced this post in Part 8a of the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Social Media Primer, which is entitled “It’s a Brave New World … Even if You Want the Old One Back” (, in the section entitled “Rumors of Social Media’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated.” Thanks, Greg!

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, SMinOrgs Community

  23. January 16, 2011

    Thanks, Courtney!

    – Greg

  24. January 27, 2011

    Hi Greg,

    Great article. I certainly support your view that the death of email has been greatly exaggerated. It is true that there are many alternative communication channels but sophisticated marketers who utilise email as part of an integrated strategy will continue to see its benefits.


  25. January 28, 2011

    Thanks Dan. Obviously, I agree.

    Have a great weekend!

    – Greg

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