Saturday, July 03, 2004
What Doc Searls Wants
Doc Searls wants a minidisc transcribing machine. Of course, he also wants to do some insightful griping, so it's worth checking out the entire post.
He believes that "[w]hen the revolution is over, the only kind of advertising that survives will be the kind customers want. And when it comes, it will bear zero resemblance to the advertising we've known and hated for the last hundred years," also noting that RSS is one avenue that may be leading in the right direction: "I'm in the market for lots of other stuff too. So are all of us. What can we do to communicate that demand, actively but selectively? I believe RSS is a necessary but insufficient answer to that question. And that there's money to be made in making up the difference."
Seems like there are two issues here, and advertising is the secondary one: the primary purpose of advertising is to enlighten people about all the wonderful products and services that they don't yet know they need. That advertising may be caught by someone who happens to have a specific, personal need that dovetails with a particular ad, but that's generally a happy conincidence. Avertisers place their ads (online or off) where they believe they have good odds of finding people who could need what is being offered, because the could need market is waaaay bigger than the do need market.
What Doc is primarily concerned with is something that doesn't yet exist, and I don't think is "advertising," exactly. The closest equivalent to what he's talking about it actually product comparison Web sites: you already know what you want, so you go to the site and are presented with a list of links to the places that have what you want, with a little information about each vendor.
You could take Doc's idea in some interesting directions; what's most interesting, though, is that the hardest part of such a system isn't the tech but rather the psychology. How do people want to use such a tool, even if they're motivated enough to use it at all? Do they want, like Doc, the ability to "actively but selectively" tell people about very specific product needs, or do they want to say "I'm looking for a digital camera" and let the vendors work off of that? What does "selectively" mean in a context like this, anyway? How do you, the user, decide who should have access to the information that you're publishing, and control that distribution process?
Hmmm...this pretty clearly feeds into some "when search? when sort?" thoughts I've been bouncing around for the last few months...I'll go further into all of this in the next couple of days, but right now I've got to head to Coney Island in time to catch the hot dog eating contest. Pictures available tomorrow, I hope!