Paid, Earned, Inspired

From Ben Thompson’s latest on Stratechery:

This has profound implications for products and politics. First and foremost, it is fundamentally misguided to simply view “digital” as another channel that you layer on top of traditional marketing/campaign tactics like TV advertisements. In fact, products and politicians designed for the TV age — that is, meant to be palatable to the greatest number of people — are at a fundamental disadvantage on platforms like Facebook. The products and politicians that win inspire passion, stirring up a level of engagement that breaks through on a scale that far exceeds an ad buy. To put it another way, above I mentioned “paid” media and “earned” media; what matters on Facebook is “inspired” media.

Politicians don’t need the media to reach people anymore, and people don’t make decisions based on rational thinking. It’s the new baking soda volcano.

This means national elections aren’t about policy anymore. They are about the gnashing of teeth and who can inspire more teeth to gnash.

Oddly, while we’re naturally attracted to big inspirational ideas, we tend to gravitate towards the rational when doing our own thinking or work.

And in doing so, we risk being ignored.

Every election since the turn of the century has swung based on inspiration and connection. Whoever has the bigger idea will win.

Which way is up, and can “up” be trusted?

This year’s Thanksgiving will be a special one, as we can be thankful in real time for every moment that we are not strangling or being strangled by those we care about most.

The problem isn’t just the political divide, or moral divide, or healthcare divide. It’s that our post-fact media wonderland has left us without the ability to agree on the fundamental conceit of the argument. There’s no bedrock for either side to push against. We’re up to our knees in arbitrary opinion-goop that sucks us further in when we try to touch bottom.

As real journalism disappears, belief systems have become houses of cards. Nonsense citing nonsense all the way down to wriggling foundations of emotional jello. It’s been well-documented that the political fringes have been serving up and subsisting on what is essentially erotic-fiction for political extremists. We know that Fox News and MSNBC have differentiated themselves and built their brands according to partisan viewpoints. There isn’t a news organization out there that is credible enough to bring to an argument.

There is no debate in the true sense of the word. Just two sides making angry noises at each other. For all of our technology and sophistication, we’re still what we were: a bunch of monkeys throwing excrement at each other.

Now we’re all living in our own bubbles of perspective. Nuance has been relegated to academics. The inconvenience of having to deal with people that think differently has been mercifully limited to election years. Oh, and national holidays.

How does anyone move forward from this?

I suppose it’s the same way we move forward from everything: by having extreme anxiety while time does its work.

The right answer seems to be something about “getting to work.”

But that’s hard to do without knowing which way is up, or if “up” can be trusted at all.

The less noble, but more realistic answer, at least as we head into Thanksgiving, is to try to keep the raw emotion of right now from breaking the relationships of the long-term.