Is the Internet a medium? AKA What Talcott said …


There’s been a lot of uproar about Joe Talcott’s recent comments re “The Internet”

Personally, I think many of us are jumping to defend the medium rather than taking his comments for what they are.

What was reported Joe said in the Oz was …

“The internet is not a medium,” Mr Talcott said on Friday at a forum held by the Australian Association of National Advertisers — of which he is also the chairman. “It’s a place where people do stuff.

“There’s media on the internet, no question,” he said. “No one sits down to `watch the internet’.”

He said research tracking time spent online should exclude online banking, online shopping, online research for shopping, emailing and even time spent on social networking sites such as Facebook.

“Social networks should not be compared with TV and radio; they should be compared with socialising,” he said. “To some degree, banner ads are like pub coasters — they’re ads that appear when you’re socialising and I reckon they get about the same amount of attention.”

Reading them, I don’t think what he is saying is incorrect.

One thing I believe is clear is Talcott was speaking as a marketer and not as a salesman. This is one thing I believe to be true and it means the comments should be taken as more than a newspaper guy trying to validate his medium.

To be honest, social networks generally probably aren’t ‘media’ channels … and they are taking something that has always been done ‘socialising’ and moving it online. The analogy with pub coasters isn’t that bad (it’s actually pretty good) … that said, there are strong campaigns on ‘social networks’ that are great and engaging.

Do people ‘sit down to watch the Internet’ … well yes and no. Some people may go to a particular destination regularly, but data shows Internet users generally do not show the same habitual behaviour as those who regularly watch a TV show or read a paper. Given so much traffic to almost all sites comes from Google you have to think that many sites are serving a role as a brandless information fulfillment channel rather than a trusted media brand that is turned to by a loyal audience. This is a big thing and advertisers should be aware of this.

Should we remove things like Internet banking, white/yellow pages, shopping, checking the BOM, putting in health care claims online etc from the term ‘Online media consumption’ – most definitely. It’s one of the conundrums we face when trying to define ‘Internet use’ in a commercial sense.

Should we remove email and messenger? Maybe.Are these compelling, engaging media channels? Sometimes no, sometimes yes.

We talk up that 23% of peoples time spent using media is online but only a handful of sites in this country have a truly loyal, engaged audience.

Personally, and I am seeking clarification on this, I believe what Talcott said was taken way out of context. He did say ‘There is media on the Internet’ and his comments were isolated to certain things – namely utilities and social networking/communications.

The comment re “beer coasters” was around social networks … not the whole Internet and not high engagement destination sites. I think we all need to take a step back and stop getting flumoxed that what he’s said might stop the double digital growth at any cost obsession that the entire industry seems so taken with.

I’ve shot some questions off to Joe Talcott to get clarification so hopefully he can find the time to get some answers back to me.

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10 responses to “Is the Internet a medium? AKA What Talcott said …

  1. It is an odd conversation.

    What is media and what is somehow not media.

    People sitting down to watch is perhaps media but people actively doing something is not media?

    I am genuinely lost with this thread.

    If someone is purporting that right now Facebook with 29% of all internet time is not worth advertising with then I am keen to understand more than pithy comments about beer coasters.

    I am unaware of any uproar about his comments. It doesnt matter.

    Facebook is second only to Google.

    Facebook is second only to Google.

    Facebook is second only to Google.

    Facebook is second only to Google.

    Facebook is second only to Google.

  2. talkingdigital

    millions of AU people spend large amounts of time (10 hours +) on public transport a week … should we be advertising in large volumes on that too? 😉

  3. Yup:) We should.

    I am not a social media chap but it seems to me it is a place people connect with family and friends. That sounds like a pretty good place to advertise to me.

    If I could get reach and frequency on beer coasters I would be all for them. I spend significant time looking at them:)

  4. “brandless information fulfillment channel” is my phrase of the day

  5. I can see some validity in his comments, however I think they miss the mark a little with regards to Facebook. Increasingly people are posting content to walls on Facebook (Video, music, etc) which means that users are sitting and consuming that content within Facebook. The argument that it is not media because you are socialising at the same time as you consume this content is a bit short-sighted, after-all I would say 90% of the time I am watching TV I also have someone sitting next to me who I talk to.

    Joe Pollard had her say yesterday afternoon also (all be it a highly skewed and invested one.) Note in particular the highly unlikely figure placed on video content.
    http://mediacentre.ninemsn.com.au/blog.aspx?blogentryid=593666&showcomments=true

  6. talkingdigital

    i agree with liam that beer coasters could be a good ad channel … liam, maybe we should start a business around that? Liam & Shep’s beer coaster network!

  7. Can I throw another frivolous one into the mix? Electricity seems to be a pretty good medium. I find myself consuming it when I watch the telly, listen to the radio, when I am on the train, and when I am surfing online.

    The issue is that broad definitions produce big numbers, which is what I think Joe’s point was. The message from that should be to analyse the data closely so as to understand what the numbers really mean.

    By the way Shep – the 29% FB figure that Liam cites in his first post. Isn’t that the “29% of time that people who use Facebook, is spent on Facebook” figure? Didn’t it drop to something like 16% when you added back in the non-Facebook users (who obviously do zero). Please refresh my ailing memory. (Isn’t that your bug-bear about the wrong data being repeated again and again because it’s “the big number” that Joe alludes to.

    I can also give you a timely example of “big numbers”. Last night’s Top Gear Eric Bana episode averaged 1.684m viewers (OzTAM overnight basis for All People). If you look at the reach of the programme it was 3.215m viewers. Do you think a network would get away with the 3.215m as their lead figure? No way! While it is a fact that more than one-in-five people in the five metros watched at least part of Top Gear, what we are really after is what the average viewing audience was – the 1.684, viewers (just over one-in-ten). Fortunately, the TV networks are very responsible in not pumping up the numbers, to their credit.

  8. talkingdigital

    thanks john – every blog should have a Grono on staff who chimes in with comments much more intelligent and useful than the original post heh 🙂

  9. Liam’s right, this is an odd conversation.

    I don’t think excluding environments deemed to be ‘socialising ones’ always makes sense. Particularly when the consumption of entertainment (through trends like social networking) is becoming more social.

    BUT, he’s got a point about the pub coasters thing.

  10. Seriously though, I wouldn’t exclude ‘social media’ activity as part of the online medium.

    But Joe’s point about when I am online doing banking, reading email, etc makes a LOT of sense to me. That is work and not what we would consider a medium with its connotations of relaxation, diversion and pleasure. (IM would be another case – we wouldn’t consider a telephone conversation a medium.)

    Out-of-home is an interesting parallel especially with MOVE launching next week. The only “time” that is counted in MOVE is (i) when a person is within a close proximity of a sign – “close” depends on the size of the sign (ii) when the direction they are heading intercepts with the face of the sign, and (iii) when they ‘fixate’ on the sign for a reasonable duration. What all this means is that OOH have ‘filtered’ time DOWN to a logical set of rules – and I think that is what Joe is angling at. With the Internet we count anything and everything in search of the ‘big number’. As a matter of fact, we even count ‘non-time’ as well – e.g. when people leave their browser or FB open all night and only come back to check on it every now and then.

    I agree with Joe’s sentiment. I don’t necessarily agree with everything on the list he put up. But maybe we should be progressing this idea further and coming with a list of ‘acceptable’ activities to count as the online ‘medium’ as opposesd to just being ‘online’.

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