Beyond Content: Context Management

I read a couple of things yesterday in the real world, that reminded me how critical the need for context management is ...

October 13, 2005

I read a couple of things yesterday in the real world, that reminded me how critical the need for context management is becoming – and how risky a game marketers are playing.

Firstly, Ramesh Tobaccowalla, CEO of Starcom MediaVest was interviewed in Business Week, talking about the challenges for marketers of as a means of countering the TiVo explosion.

Secondly I read Wired’s interview with ‘participation era’ guru, Tim O’Reilly.

Most importantly for me, O’Reilly really believes in the prosumer. He terms this the DIY era, in which individuals find themselves increasingly compelled to self-actualise through creativity (hence his launch of ‘make’ magazine).

When O’Reilly talks to startups he asks:

“What are you doing to harness the intelligence of your users?” Good mutual marketing question! Like it.

The BW article is interesting for the opposite reason. Cutting edge thinking from the Business Week article includes…er…’sending DVDs of the casting of TV ads to 10,000 influential adolescents’. And us of ‘the most cutting-edge technologies: podcasting and social networking’.

Ramesh says:

Think video; not TV
Embrace on-demand
Market in a social way
Move branding on-line

This is all very well, but you’re still pushing water uphill. Refining and re-refining the content will never overcome the basic problem. It’s still YOUR content, delivered through ever more trusted and intimate channels that YOU CHOOSE – and hence it contaminates those channels over time. In the great effluent-filled river of commercial conversation, all the fish will eventually die.

When consumers buy TiVO (or Sky+), they;re trying to tell you something -and it;s not ‘Make better ads!’ . Ignore them at your peril.

Customers have less and less attention, less and less interest and less and less time to devote for the things others pre-manufacture for them. They want to make stuff for themselves – from pottery to investment decisions.

The social software movement does at least awaken a sense of inidvidual liberty and mutual dependence. In its wake (and quite soon) a new model must take hold, and the killer apps will not be content management applications like podcasting, but context management solutions which reduce costs (by generating matching-efficiencies) and increase mutual marketing value (by creating socially-leverage form individual assets).

Marketplace tools like Ebay have proven very successful at reengineering the value-matching process. The intellectual marketplace operating at marketingprofs also does a great job of enabling individuals to trade knowledge.

But they are only dabbling at the fringes of the structural discontinuity.

Context management changes the efficiencies of decision-making to take account of roles, situations, moods and personal asset profiles. Content management is linear. It is designed.
It pushes or pulls information from one party to the next, irrespective of need.

Context management works in the spaces between people. It works to create rules, guidelines and affinities which both sides can influence and adapt.

Markets can indeed be conversations. But conversations need context.

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