Lipstick on an old media business model doesn’t make it new media

Regular readers of this blog know of my decade-long knee-jerk reactions to any notion that media intended to directly connect sellers and buyers is somehow: 1. Something new 2. Obviously unethical 3. Misleading to the audience. Today, the New York Times has such a boiler-plate story that, in the past, would cause my knee to jerk in such a fashion.


“The Web site Thrillist publishes daily e-mails aimed at a young, male audience, with tips about activities in various cities. But along with that content, it offers separate e-mails selling clothes and deals at local businesses, melding commerce and content in ways that have long made traditional publications bristle. For Thrillist, the so-called Chinese wall that publications have between the editorial and advertising sides of the business is more of a bridge. It can be hard to tell the difference among reviews, ads and sales, in part because it calls its sponsored posts “allied e-mail” instead of ads and has sold deals for restaurants it has also reviewed. “That’s a very old media way of thinking about things,” said Ben Lerer, 29, co-founder and chief executive of Thrillist. “This is not a digital magazine that sells some stuff. This is the beginning of what a new media company looks like.”

I am, with this post and at least for this day, choosing to ignore that the notion of delivering coupons in the context of sponsored editorial is anything new can be dispelled by looking down at the blow-in cards on your lap, the next time you open a magazine.

And I’m not here to police anything Ben calls “new” that I know has been around for at least 150 years old.

Rather, I’m here to surrender and join in the chorus that editorial designed with an explicit and transparent goal of helping connect buyers and sellers is, indeed, what a new media company looks like.

Media that’s transparently focused on connecting buyers and sellers is new. There. I’ve said it.

Now, I want to announce what the “next, new” media company is going to look like. (And no, even though I can point to hundreds of existing examples, I’ll pretend that “next, new” is out there in the future.)

The “next, new” media company will disintermediate all these “current, new” media companies by demonstrating the common-sense and obvious fact that continues to elude otherwise smart people: Today, all companies have the power to be media companies.

Moreover, any new media company that is created on the old notion that they sit between sellers and buyers is only temporarily new. They’ll be gone faster than you can say, “Speedy Alka-Seltzer.”

So, enjoy your day, all you new media companies that send out daily deals to people who are in constant search of a better deal on a day spa. One day, those day spas will figure out how they’re a new media company themselves and will figure out what they really need is to invest in media that helps keep those customers coming back, instead of becoming itinerant day-spa-ists.

[Disclosure: For 20 years, the company that has clandestinely sponsored this blog has been helping companies and associations become “next new” media companies who communicate with their customers in print and on screens — without the intermediation of old or new media theories.]

Half-price Groupon deal for used advertising agency

I don’t like saying, “I told you so…” No, wait. I love saying, “I told you so.”

On this blog, the day after the Superbowl:

“Groupon’s Tibet ad was perhaps the most expensive ad that will ever appear on the Superbowl. Why? Because it could bring into question the validity of a near-religious belief some have that Groupon is more than smoke and mirrors — that they have created some mythical “third-way” of small business marketing. The company’s valuation is, in great degree, a figment of pre-IPO investor’s imaginations. But to continue its growth, the company depends on two audiences to succeed: 1. Small business advertisers; 2. Women who want good deals on day spas. Mocking the struggle an oppressed people have endured for 60 years to sell discount vouchers doesn’t play well with either group. I hope Groupon’s tactics, last night and today, are called out for what they are: crass and insulting and perhaps the worst abuse of investors’ money I’ve ever seen since, well, when did the last ad run?”

Posted on yesterday:

“In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek profile last week, which noted Groupon has stopped working with (the advertising agency who created the ads, the CEO of Groupon) said he placed too much trust in the agency “to be edgy, informative and entertaining, and we turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”

Morale of this story: Don’t turn off the part of your brain that makes you think controversy for controversy’s sake is savvy marketing.