Opportunities for authority


As often happens various things have coalesced to inspire me to this latest post. But the 3 key things are:

  1. A long conversation with the Zeroinfluencer on a train to Washington last week around analysis of how wiki’s work – what value they hold and what dangers they hold to authoritative content
  2. A comment of Heidi Dangelmaier made over dinner about blogs being like vomit. (Bear with me)
  3. A video on the site “While you weren’t watching” which talks about the lack of desire in the audience to have to sift information

My conversation (argument) with Zeroinfluencer revolved around whether a wiki would be an appropriate medium for a museum to engage in conversation with online museum visitors.

  • My contention – no definitely not, the museum’s authority is then compromised and the end sufferer is the audience.
  • His contention – yes, definitely. Art is art and interpretation is entirely personal, knowledge about the artist’s personal life or influences is irrelevant to an understanding or appreciation of art.

I’ll spare you the very long and tedious arguments on both sides (!) but suffice to say that we agreed that the knowledge a museum curator brings to bear on an artist or work actually provides pleasure to the audience in a way that a personal response to an artwork without the benefit of knowledge doesn’t. Therefore a wiki that enabled the amateur to respond at the same level as the curator would compromise an audience’s enjoyment.

We were discussing blogging over dinner later and Heidi made a comment about the lack of authority available on the web now and how in the early days of websites and of blogging there was a respect for the medium and a self-respect in the online community that functioned as an editorial regulator, as it were. That respect ensured that quality of writing and opinion was high and the small size of the community led to the best writers surfacing quite easily and by implication to users finding those writers more easily, granting and enjoying their authority. In today’s world of blogging popularity and increase in the ease of publishing online has resulted in a metaphorical vomiting of content – uncensored, unedited, unqualified.Finally, while watching the video on Branded Content in While you weren’t watching Richard Watson points out that people just can’t be bothered to sift through the mountains of information that are now available on the web, and he believes there might be a swing back to quality brands, to ask them not only to talk about their brand but to provide quality content in general.

So, what?

So, my feeling is that brand guardians of an established brand are in a remarkable place. I believe they have an inherent authority in the online world that will only grow with the proliferation of content and delivery methods – whether they are making the most of it or not. And crucially that they have authority to provide content that relates to the DNA of the brand, its persona, as much as the product of the brand – to talk about surprise, fun, travel and emotion for instance rather than simply about cars – like the project Imagination are producing right this minute for Ford, Where Are The Joneses?

A quick caveat – choose the wrong content association and you fail. All you have to do is look at Bud TV. One of the reasons this is such an abject failure is that Budweiser has no authority in the world of independent televisual content. Manufactured comedy and “madcap antics” on YouTube are succesful because they are published by individuals whose authority comes from the amateur nature of their work – they are perceived as cutting edge, the next big thing etc – and because they are not overtly linked to a brand, comedy being a particularly sensitive area for authenticity. Bud has the authority to deliver comic moments in commercials but not in the online space, it’s a different medium.

New brands or individuals have to work far harder to launch their content and themselves into the digital space – because there is so much noise. Established brands can profit from this. But make no mistake brands need to move into these content spaces and own them because if they don’t new brands will – and they will do it by stealth from under your very nose.

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