Friday, July 01, 2005

c'mon gawker

Gawker, in it's undying love for Jon Fine, rounds up his BusinessWeek column Media Centric. This time he talks about the confluence of marketing and the underground, how Levi's sponsors bands and malt liquor sponsors bands and Xbox sponsors- no! not bands!- record stores. (See? You thought there was a trend there or something.)

Gawker actually applauds this article as being "an interesting piece, with clear utility for his mag's businessman audience. Most notably, it tells us about something that both actually exists and isn't yet common knowledge."

I'm curious as to what Gawker is smoking this morning. News like this ain't, um, news. I'm not saying Fine doesn't have a point- it's true, marketing is increasingly viral and creative, using people who are trendsetters and notable personages in their ultra-hip communities. They get the ball rolling, people follow, and pretty soon all of America is wearing this.

But for Gawker to state that this is News and "isn't yet common knowledge" means they haven't been reading the paper over their Wheaties. The first example I can remember of this sort of coverage (and bear in mind, a) I'm still a wee young thing, so remembering too far back just brings me to the elephant wall paper in my nursery b) I lived in the 3rd world for about 3 years at the beginning of the decade, so media was mighty scarce) was back in 2003.

The New York Times published an article* by Rob Walker in the Times Magazine entitled "The Marketing of No Marketing,"** which was an account of the comeback of PBR. Of course, anyone who considered themselves anything on the downtown scene had been guzzling PBR for quite some time at this point, but that's irrelevant- everyone knows that by the Times hits a trend it might as well be over. The point is, the Times was reporting on hipsters, viral marketing, and word of mouth campaigning two years ago... and if the Times is behind, you know there must be other sources with a far longer memory.

In fact, after poking around a bit, I found evidence of BusinessWeek itself running a cover story on the matter all the way back in 2001. (remember? that's when people thought that computers would destroy the world.) "Buzz Marketing" by Gerry Khermouch was a piece that declared "suddenly this strategy is hot, but it's still fraught with risk." So Fine is rehashing what his editors have already wrought? Or is he cribbing from a more recent piece by that least favorite of our generally reviled Post correspondents, Maureen Callahan: "Under Their Influence: Fashion, Music Biz Use These Young Stealth Tastemakers To Get You."

It appears this topic, to anyone who reads (and I've given you quite a range to choose from in terms of your preferred sources, so no highbrow-lowbrow claims) is actually wide out in the open. Was the piece well written? Uh, sure, I guess. But news? Yeah. My Bolle-wearing, K2-riding, Spyder-outfitted professional freestyle skier best friend? She was shocked, SHOCKED.

*the ny times requires you to pay to play...
**so i found it for free here. steal this blog.


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