While everyone is enjoying the hoopla around a new web based implementation of a very old approach to presentation, Peter Hirshberg over at Technorati has written a long post on the topic of 'conversational marketing.' This is going to take a while to get into. However, one initial perspective - in fact, something that has been bugging me for a while - is this notion that weblogs are conversations. Let's review the facts: weblogs are not conversations.
A weblog is a means to broadcast (distribute identical content to many consumers). Conversations are symmetric interactions (first you, then me, then you, ...). Weblogs are a new form of interaction - a hybrid of dialogue and monologue presented on a platform which by intention and accident has evolved into a hybrid of channels (do you reply on a comment, in an email, on your blog, ...?) Unfortunately, this new form of interaction has not been adequately modeled.
Bloggers must be very sensitive to the effects of lexical imperialism. Terms like 'consumer generated media' establish an us and them perspective of the intentions behind the content that we generate. Similarly, Doc Searls' statements are worrying:
- The purpose of conversation is to create and improve understanding, not for one party to "deliver
messages" to the other. That would be rude.
- There is no "audience" in a conversation. If we must label others in conversation, let's call them
- People in productive conversation don't repeat what they're saying over and over. They learn from each other and move topics forward.
- Conversations are about talking, not announcing. They're about listening, not surveying. They're about paying attention, not getting attention. They're about talking, not announcing [sic]. "Driving" is for cars and cattle, not conversation.
'There is no audience in a conversation.' I agree with this, however there is an audience for a blog. Labeling people in a conversation a 'partner' suggests equality. But as this applies to marketing it is the wrong suggestion. A partner doesn't try to get you to buy stuff you don't need/want. The implication that the blogosphere is a conversation; that we are all partners; therefore people marketing to us in this 'conversation' are our partners is creepy. Another point to note is that there is a backchannel in the blogosphere. Many of us get emails requesting this that or the other get some exposure. Conversations are transparent to all participants.
Those interested in style may be entertained by the 'conversations don't repeat...' followed by the repeated structure of 'Conversations are about A not B', not to mention the actual repeating of 'they are about talking, not announcing.'
Technorati has tried on and off for a while to figure out what their real business is. This post hints at a model based on 'conversational marketing.'