Media…Evolve or Die?


We have discovered that in an on-demand world, no one demands ads and that everyone is equipped and inclined to avoid them.
—Jeff Einstein, Digital Media Pioneer (and friend)

Chart from

I was having a back and forth discussion about the stress in our advertising and media ecosystem with Stefan Tornquist, the VP of Research at eConsultancy. He is charming, intelligent and articulate. In short, clearly our friendship is an attraction of opposites. I owe the title of this article to his concluding remark to me. As is often the case when we interact, his words reverberated with me long after our encounter.

It took a while before discovering that I disagreed with Stefan. Not because change is unnecessary, but because I have come to the conclusion that our ecosystem needs to be radically restructured. The time for gradual evolution is past.  We cannot evolve out of the mess we are in, we must halt what we are doing ASAP and leap into the solution.  Ah, the old, evolution vs. revolution dichotomy.

Thomas Friedman recently penned an article, Something Is Happening Here. I thank Jason Heller for pointing me to it. Friedman basically outlined two competing views of our economic system. One embraces “The Great Disruption” (GD) and the other places its faith in “The Big Shift” (BS). GD explains cataclysmic change whereas BS describes an evolutionary, gradually shifting world.

Friedman’s article did not speak about a third camp. I will dub this “The Ostrich Camp”. Their heads stuck in the metaphorical sand, they don’t want to acknowledge or actually see a problem. If you are in this camp, move on, for I have neither the time nor inclination to speak to you any longer.

It is true that Friedman was outlining two worldwide political and economic perspectives, and while I have penned many articles on global politics, this article is about our media ecosystem and its own opposing camps.

The BS camp ardently believes that we can fix plummeting relationships between audiences and brands by doing one of the following:

  1. Change the size of online ad units.
  2. Develop new online metrics, including GRP and TRP (Gross Rating Points/Targeted Rating Points)
  3. Continue doing what we are doing, but with improved creative.

I am sure there are more incremental tweaks within the BS camp than those offered here, but they are illustrative of cause and effect reactions at a glacial pace.

Now the GD camp, of which I passionately belong, believes that the first rule in getting out of a hole is to stop digging…immediately if not sooner. We are disrupters who view the ecosystem as existentially flawed.

Let me be as clear as I possibly can. Any “solution” to the stress in the media ecosystem that does not “solve” the fundamental problem of audiences turning away from advertising either consciously or unconsciously is ridiculous. Making “better” ads is a tweak that has limited utility, and reducing ads to limit clutter is nothing more than a confession to failure.


One is not beating a dead horse to agree with Jeff Einstein’s assertion that no one wants ads and that everyone is equipped and inclined to avoid them.  Similarly, we know with the certainty of e=mc2 (the other Einstein’s sage observation), that everyone wants more information and entertainment.  Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer has hinted at a way out by coining the term “magnetic content”. Geoff has noted what common sense has told us for years. Audiences are drawn to content and savvy brands are using content to attract audiences.

Now, if you believe that attracting audiences (like a magnet) is better than repelling them with ads, let me welcome you to The Great Disruption. There is a revolution afoot and the BS just won’t cut it anymore.

About Jaffer Ali

Jaffer Ali is the CEO of e-commerce company, He is a serial entrepreneur who has touched every part of the online ecosystem since 1998. Jaffer is known as a contrarian thought leader who has contributed over 250 essays to industry trades covering every aspect of online media and marketing topics. A collection of his essays can be downloaded for free: Chasing String In The Digital Era.



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