Advertising, General, Journalism

The man from Google insists we need to cling to a compass; that we still need to search for our futures in local. Really? My certainty comes from a map, not an algorithm…

As is the wont on these occasions, I always feel slightly beholden to ‘take away’ something from the various conference spaces you end up in.

Way back when it was even one of your own… #1000flowers (Nov, 2010).

Since then there’s been, in no particular order, StreetFightMag (Oct, 2011), SxSWi (March, 2012) and Collab2012 in Berkeley, Ca (April, 2012).

All the time – hopefully – looking and learning. Seeking out the wisdom of the crowds and, maybe, finding smarter people thinking local than – thus far – ol London town has managed to produce.

This week and it was to Salford that a few eyes turned as the BBC College of Journalism hosted its ‘Connecting Communities’ Conference.

In my mind at least, I had already ‘penned’ a few thoughts; that whilst transparency is going to be one of the cornerstones of all we do, so too must be visibility.

It was a theme that Dave Harte took up in the sense of his recent work sifting through the data that the UK’s hyper-local ’scene’ is starting to deliver – above all, just where are they? A simple enough question to which he turned to his own map; in the best traditions of OpenlyLocal.

The issue of ‘visibility’ has two, significant strands to it – one being the benefit editorially if your work and your content is visible to both your intended audience and potential content partners and publishers; the other being the commercial benefits that can accrue – hopefully – from being seen by potential advertising partners. Ahhh, that’s interesting… you’re in that postcode…

That we can now do.

The College of Journalism itself swiftly produced its own ‘take away’; as one of its own gathered his thoughts on the day’s discussions – in particular, focussing on the thoughts of the man from Google.

I have to admit I was elsewhere when Ade did his turn; I can’t remember who I was talking to, but I do tend to turn my attention elsewhere when anyone from the ‘Big G’ starts to talk local.

Me and our Eric agree whole-heartedly on the fact that local will be one of the three cornerstones of web living in the future; thereafter, our paths tend to diverge dramatically.

So I didn’t listen to Ade’s presentation; but this being the BBC, I’ll just take it as read that Charles Miller’s ‘take away’ caught the full thrust of Ade’s thinking – or rather that of his paymasters.

That, in short, ‘Future media challenges are about finding compasses not maps…’

That in the ever-shifting sands that make up this new, web landscape of ours, we are still in full search mode… We have still found no certainties; no firm piece of bedrock upon which to build.

‘What is the difference between a map and a compass? he asked. His answer: people have too much faith in maps, which are, in the end, just someone else’s view of the world. Whereas a compass only gives you a rough direction and we don’t expect more of it than that.

‘The point? It’s the same with finding a successful model for local media in the future: getting the direction right is better than trying to find the perfect strategy with the false certainty of a map…’

For someone who has spent the last six years of his life wandering through this evolving digital landscape only to end up with a map, I would beg to differ.

I don’t see ‘false certainty’ in clicking on a specific pin in a specific post or zipcode to be then be presented with a specific advertising proposition for that space in front of that local community.

Click a pin for our old friends in Jesmond and I know what their asking of me as a potential advertiser… It’s here.

And I reach that destination via a map, not an algorithm. Or a compass; something that – likewise – points me in only roughly the right direction.

To my mind, there’s no ‘false certainty’ within the confines and constructs behind that map. It is simple. And certain.

The people who are still ’searching’ for the route into local are those that need the ‘compass’ of a keyword to guide them… and that would be you ‘top down’ AdLand; left to rely on the locals for the appropriate ‘keywords’ that unlock the message relevant to that particular postcode, zipcode, council ward or electoral district.

A search engine giant wants to keep us all searching. In the meantime, the ‘false certainty’ that comes with an algorithm will continue to work its magic and deliver up big bra ads as I read my footie stories…

“The hard part is coming up with the right metrics to see if you’re getting there…” Ade concluded.

In that, we wouldn’t disagree. Boy is it hard to turn a world upside down; to find the certainties that come with a map, having searched and – possibly – now found one or two answers.

As for the right metrics to see if you’re getting there, that’s not easy either. But late Friday night, Applegate Wood Floors found a map of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and became the first person to take out a $100 ad via Addiply on BucksHappening, thus far our lone US publisher trialling the new v3.

One tiny, tiny metric that – in the grander scheme of things may still come to mean absolutely diddly squat – but it came through the certainty that comes with a map; Applegate Wood Floors didn’t need a compass to guide them to that local advertising opportunity.

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