Everywhere Bob Garfield looks, he sees upheaval. No wonder he called his survey of the media, and beyond, The Chaos Scenario. As Garfield explains soon enough, The Chaos Scenario; addresses the historic reordering of media, marketing and commerce triggered by the revolution in digital technology. Or, put another way (yikes), it's about crawling from the wreckage of the old order to establish a new one. Seems the mass audiences that TV used to attract aren't so keen on being massed anymore. They like getting their content (while interacting with it) elsewhere, from ever-more-fragmenting digital media that give them at least a measure of control. Nor do they like being preached to by advertisers, as they seize every opportunity to dodge TV commercials. That means TV is getting less and less cost-effective for advertisers, who are now looking elsewhere to tell their story. Which means TV channels are driven to air cheaper shows to make ends meet which, over time, could drive even more viewers away. Fortunately, this particular collapse, like the many other propositions Garfield puts forth, is far more entertaining as depicted in his book. Anyone who knows Garfield from his writing for Advertising Age or as a co-host of public radio's splendid On the Media knows he's irreverent along with informed. So The Chaos Scenario is more than a wonkfest: It's sassy. And it's startling. Garfield doesn't just sound the death knell for traditional media. He's arguing that every human institution must forge a new responsiveness to its constituency or else. Listen or perish. Why, all of a sudden, Garfield poses to the media establishment, is it so important to listen? Here's why: Because hardly anyone anymore is listening to you. Garfield has coined a term, listenomics, which he defines as the art and science of cultivating relationships with individuals in a connected, increasingly open-source environment. One of his shining examples: the Danish-born maker of Lego products, which tapped a global community of Mindstorm fans to help reinvent (not just buy) its line of robot toys. There at Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, writes Garfield, he started his journey as a chronicler of revolution. Not surprisingly, Garfield poses far more questions in his book than he has answers. (He has many suggestions for how YouTube could be profitable and he doubts any of them would work.) But the questions are themselves illuminating for the reader, that is, when they aren't triggering panic attacks. This is a revolution! summed up Garfield on the phone. Nothing is going to be the same! It is fundamentally changing the relationship between every citizen, consumer, congregant and audience member and the institutions that used to constitute The Man. Now, for the citizens, consumers, congregants and audience (plus members of the media's teetering Old Guard), The Chaos Scenario; just might be the killer app to help sort out those changes. --Frazier Moore, Associated Press
Tales of total industrial collapse have never been so fun! Garfield's analysis of the total disruption of the media industry (and how it may be reborn) is right, prescient and wildly entertaining. --Chris Anderson, editor, Wired, and author of The Long Tail and Free
In The Chaos Scenario, Bob Garfield ad critic for Advertising Age and co-host of the NPR show On the Media argues that the long-standing, two-way partnership between advertising and content is due for a violent rejiggering. This notion is a familiar one by now, but Garfield asserts that the big ad agencies and media companies haven't yet managed to fully internalize it. (Particularly television networks, which have so far weathered the storm in a way that newspapers haven't.) Garfield also claims that the painful consequences of this upheaval will extend to you, the content consumer. You've probably already noticed the punishing body blow delivered to your local newspaper after once-lucrative advertising niches such as classifieds and real estate got eaten by the Internet. Garfield's feeling is that your beloved television shows will soon meet a similar fate. It all portends chaos for the television industry. But Garfield foresees equal tumult in store for the big-time ad agencies. He predicts the gradual demise of the classic, 30-second TV spot, which has been the lifeblood of major agencies for half a century. His prescription: Advertising will need to be less about displaying hip imagery and implanting mood associations and more about interacting with consumers online, analyzing their complaints and desires (as revealed in their blog posts and Web site comments), and providing utilitarian information to those who seek it out. This approach, which Garfield dubs "listen-omics," may well turn out to be a more effective method of marketing. But there's also far less money in it. To illustrate this point, Garfield relates an anecdote about the Six Flags theme park deciding to give away 45,000 tickets as a promotion for its 45th anniversary. They told their big ad agency to figure out the logistics. Once upon a time, the agency might have spent lots of time and resources creating radio spots or billboard ads, and then securing placements for them, to make the public aware of the free tickets. Instead, recognizing the new reality, the agency just typed up a little blurb on Craigslist. The tickets were gone in five hours. Worked great, but as one of the agency executives subsequently wondered: How do you bill the client for that? --Seth Stevenson, Slate
About the Author
Bob Garfield is a columnist, critic, essayist, pundit, international lecturer and obscure broadcast personality. He isn t exactly a media whore, but he's extremely promiscuous. Garfield's Ad Review is a prominent feature of Advertising Age, where each week he singles out an ad for praise or ridicule and thus has become among the more pitifully groveled-before figures in trade-magazine history. In another life, Garfield is co-host of National Public Radio's weekly Peabody Award-winning magazine program On the Media. This followed a dozen years as a commentator/correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered. Dubbed by The New York Times the Charles Kuralt of Bizarro World, he specialized in quirky Americana -- an act he took to television, as well, producing pieces for public TV, syndication and CBS News. He also served as a political-advertising analyst for CBS, before being bounced in 1992 following an unfortunate Green Room incident. It was his most traumatic TV experience since Oprah in 1991, when he was humiliated by Mr. Whipple before a live studio audience. For many years, Garfield was the advertising analyst for ABC News. He's been a regular on Financial News Network, CNBC's Power Lunch and Adam Smith's Money Game on PBS. He also has been quoted by every major American newspaper, news magazine and broadcast news program, owing to his fearless willingness to speak authoritatively on subjects he doesn't necessarily understand. That technique is the secret behind his third book, The Chaos Scenario, to be released in August 2009. As a lecturer, panelist and emcee, he has appeared in 30 countries on five continents, including such venues as the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Capitol, the Rainbow Room, Broadway's Hudson Theater, the Smithsonian, Circus Circus casino, Nashville's Ryman Auditorium (Grand Ole Opry), the United Nations and, memorably, the ballroom of the Westward Ho! motel in Grand Forks, N.D. He is a founding contributor to the Watchdog Blog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He's been a contributing editor for the Washington Post Magazine, Civilization and the op-ed page of USA Today. He has also written for The New York Times, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Wired and many other publications. A collection of his work, titled Waking Up Screaming from the American Dream, was published by Scribner in 1997, favorably reviewed and quickly forgotten. His 2003 manifesto on advertising, And Now a Few Words From Me, is published in seven languages (although, admittedly, one is Bulgarian). Garfield co-wrote Tag, You re It, a snappy country song performed by Willie Nelson, and wrote an episode of the short-lived NBC sitcom Sweet Surrender. It sucked. Garfield has won many journalism prizes including some big ones and two National Press Club poker championships. He lives in suburban Washington, DC, where, in separate incidents 11 months apart, he has twice been rear-ended by federal employees.