Kenan Doyle Branam
Media Consultant / Coach / Presenter / Producer
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Making Sense in the Information Age

Push vrs Pull - Technology for the Web

It's Saturday morning and I'm looking forward to a day at home to putter around and do something non-work related. (If I can conceive of it.) First, I'll have brunch and watch House Smart on the tube. My phone rings. Who could it be? Should I answer with food in my mouth? After all, its Saturday morning! Should I let my voice-mail deal with it? Oh well, let the caller beware.

It's a cellular phone company wanting to sell me their service. I do my best not to be angry or scream at the lady on the phone. I say, "Sorry, I don't want to deal with that today." She says, 'I'll call at a more convenient time." (This is good!) Okay. Back to my eggs and toast.

The phone rings again! I haven't finished my toast! Well, it might be a friend!

No, it's some charity organization. Now, my conscience really gives me battle but I remember that many of these type of calls are scams, so I say, "I don't do this kind of thing on the phone. Send me a letter with your organization's credentials."

I'm back at the TV, switching between channels to cut out the downtime of commercials. (I can watch up to three shows without missing the plots. I haven't seen an original plot in years anyway.) I'm multi-tracking with thoughts about getting Caller-ID or never answering my phone in real time on weekends. Then I decide to watch a video I recorded off-the-air late last night so I can fast-forward through the commercials.

Later, I sit on the patio flipping through a week's worth of trade magazines and direct mailers. I go through them carefully, looking for deals on software, hardware, or seminars. I fill out a lengthy form for a free subscription to Communications Week, telling them all kinds of business information about my company.

On second thought, I can find all this stuff on the Web. I really need to cut down on the junk mail. My garage won't hold anymore recycle bags.

So, I go to my computer, log on to the Web, and follow up on an offer of a free download. I'd better deal with the email. Oh, no! I have three unsolicited sales messages that have nothing to do with my "personal profile."

Ah, the Information Age! So much information, so little time! I certainly don't have time for unsolicited sales messages in my face! Okay, technology is making it easier and cheaper for me to filter out some of the noise. I hear there's an add-on to filter out unsolicited messages from my email box. There's even a new software agent that I can program to search the Web for information I need and want.

Hence, my Thought for the Day: If there are many people like myself in the world, aren't advertisers wasting a lot of time and money trying to get our attention? How do they justify the big money they spend on TV, telemarketing, or even direct mail?

Even with 20 years of evolution of demographic and audience targeting sciences, we all get messages in our face that have nothing to do with our lives! The return percentages haven't changed enough to reduce marketing budgets to less than the product costs. Figure it out. 50%-90% of the price of food products is in the cost for packaging, marketing, and distribution. It's a kind of inflation rate no one cares to quote on the Nightly News.

Are advertisers going to waste a lot of money on the Web, too? Yes. In spite of the Internet prophets crying in cyber wilderness, corporate kings still pay their advertising courtesans to tell them "business as usual" and that they must pay the usual high CPM (cost per thousand) and flash their wares in the face of millions of people who don't want to buy. They really don't know their customers because they don't have enough respect to listen.

It's not just the Internet that's changing the interaction between advertiser and potential customer. It's all of our electronic communications appliances: TV, radio, telephone, cable, cellular, PCD (personal communications device), whatever. Digital technology is providing intelligent interaction with the end-user. The couch potato appears dumb because broadcast media has been dumb: one-way transmission. Anyone who doesn't listen to their customers, thinks their customers are dumb. This month we have seen the introduction of another technology on the Web: Push. It's software systems that simulate broadcast TV by pushing information at the Web user:

push model

A data distribution model in which the software automatically delivers data to the user based on some criterion, such as news categories, time of day, etc. Contrast with the pull model, in which the user specifically asks for something by performing a search or requesting an existing report, video or other data type.

The words to pay attention to are "based on some criterion." Hopefully, that criterion has something to do with what we as users actually request.

Amy Rogers, a writer for TechWeb, says that "push technology inverts the traditional model of users searching for and pulling data off the Web; the push model lets them choose the types of data they want and how often they want it automatically sent to their desk tops." Push software "maintains information about subscribers' demographics and specified preferences –from their clothing size to which news stories they are following. That data shapes the information that providers push out to those subscribers."

Great theory. If they honor users' choices, it might work. But I think that successful solutions will go far beyond statistical factors to include what might be termed "the technology of relationships" (coined by Francis Smith of Nurture Services, Inc., a consultant in sales and marketing. She told her clients, "What we needed was a shift in attitude from outcome-driven to process-driven, to expand from mind to heart."

The concept of "user friendly" is easy for a human being with any sensitivity to understand. All one has to do is reflect on how one personally feels being abused by offensive advertisers: do to others as you would have them do to you and listen! It is more difficult to retrain an aggressive, egocentric human in good customer relations. Programming software and websites to be friendly is both a complex science and an art. Certainly, it's too complex for a short article.

Professional video communicators should have already developed the talent to create friendly presentations, but we have much more to learn about interactive media such as the Web. Our task now is to go back to school by studying the ethics of the Web, attending seminars on relationships, and doing a little soul searching to evaluate our business and personal relationship skills. Pardon me, all three phone lines are ringing...

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