Monday, August 04, 2008

On The Internet, It's Still The Depression

[Editor's Note: Truer now than two years ago when it was first offered. Bloggers laugh at the New York Times for losing marketshare, while they cash Blogads checks for $45 for the month, and Pinch Sulzberger orders another yacht. The Internet ain't there, yet.]

{Author's Note: I didn't make $45 on advertising last month. Where can I get that gig? Alas, there is no editor to tell me -- I can't afford one. Heh.}

[Additional Update: As if to underscore my point, Blogger absolutely refuses to display the picture I appended to this essay. I found the original, reuploaded it, entered the old version's location because it does display on Blogger, but nothing works. Tried a different browser too. Last Saturday, the crummy Sitemeter widget many blogs use made participating blogs crash on Internet Explorer, which of course made everybody blame Microsoft, even though Sitemeter was 100% to blame. The Internet, which I of course adore and rely on for my daily bread, is a stone cold joke. You can look at the picture here. I think.]

[Uppidy Update: The picture magically appears after I load it the 82nd time. Nothing is forgiven.]

[Updiddly Update: The picture disappeared again when I posted the Uppidy Update. This is fun now, like when you're being caned and your bum goes numb and you can't feel it any more and smile wryly to yourself at all the effort being expended to annoy you going for naught.]

Advertising ebbs and flows. It's a rough science, little understood by even its practitioners. And how about us? The folks it's aimed at?

I know you, dear reader. You think that you're immune to advertising. All intelligent people think advertising is aimed at other, less discerning people. I used to think that. But advertising is a fire hose. That information is coming out of it under a lot of pressure. Now some people drink from that hose, some people bathe in that hose, and some people wash their clothes in that hose, and some stand clear, bemused, but they get caught in the overspray whether they like it or not. I'll use myself as exhibit A.

I wasn't joshing a couple of days ago when I told you I don't watch television. I know you were suspicious of my claim, as you think I'm sorta normal and normal people watch television. Normal people say they don't watch television - just those PBS shows. And the History Channel. Oh yes, the Oscars. And figure skating if it's on. Of course you have to watch the news to stay informed, but that's not watching television, of course, really; oh, and Desperate Housewives because I know it's all nonsense but how will I know what people are wearing if ...

You get the picture. But I'm that rarest of things, it's true: I don't watch and I don't care I don't watch, so I don't lecture. People should enjoy themselves. But I get a perspective you don't, that generally only kidnap victims... scratch that - they're tied up, but I imagine they watch all day; I dunno- let's say I get the perspective that millenarian cultists or Seventh Day Adventists or something get.

Anyhow, I know that "Will and Grace" exists. How can that be? Somebody told me somewhere. Now he/she might be the best or the worst advertiser in the history of the world, it depends on your perspective. Either they're the best in the world because they've managed to alert people as far removed from the scene as me that "Will and Grace" exists, or they're the worst, because busying yourself notifying persons like me that "Will and Grace" is on the TV I'm not watching is kind of a waste of time. I think. I imagine no matter what we think, the advertiser is drawing a fat six figures due to the fire hose method of getting your message out.

Look at the picture I offered. Back when people fought like tigers if two of them simultaneously found a smokable cigar butt in the street, advertising was a riot. Every available surface was covered with it. Barn roofs, sandwich boards and everything in between. And there was so much of it because it was cheap to get it out there- anybody would do anything to make a buck; and the need was there because everybody had to fight tooth and nail for economic survival. After a while, when economic conditions got less ferocious, advertising got more sophisticated and started going for certain segments of the population to maximize return, and people could be just as easily peeved by being assaulted by advertising as enticed to respond kindly.

That wall up there is the internet right now. It won't last. You go to the average blog, and there's a riot going on. There are 35 little ads for every durn thing, and little virtual tschotchke stands, and after you've surfed past the vast panorama of cajoling, and the tiny portion of stolen opinions, there's generally a real depression touch: out and out begging. They call it a tip jar, but a tin cup is more like it. It's 1931 on the Internet, and we're all Bill Murray waking up to the sounds of "I've Got You Babe" one more time.

I've seen the vestigal remains of hundreds of depression-era "bright ideas" designed to make a couple of bucks. I drive past Christmas tree farms gone to seed. Chicken coops rotting on their punky sills, producing only spider's eggs now. I can still see the ghostly remnants of whiskey ads clinging tenaciously to battered brick walls. Kudzu, anyone? When the leaves fall, I can spy a "Red Coach Grille" billboard falling to pieces out in the woods near a highway, disintegrating like a cadaver, its painted raiments falling in tatters and its offer of hospitality in a place that hasn't existed in thirty-five years ringing hollow. It calls to me, but not in the way they first envisioned. No matter; that ad-man cashed his last check long ago. The billboard was pointed at a different highway anyway; the one I'm on is newer than the sign.

There are mighty places on the internet where many congregate. Their wake alone would swamp such as my little rowboat.

If they charged $15.00 a year to read them, they'd all be mowing my lawn.


Andy said...

Was there any kind of feeling of being ambushed when you realized you were going to have to spell - instead of just say - tschotchke for the first time? Or had you done it before? And where did you find that spelling? My heretofore omniscient MS Word spell checker offers no suggestions, though the little red underline screams that an etymological injustice has been done.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Andy- Thanks for reading and commenting.

I am an autodidact at almost everything. It makes you seem strange, sometimes wonderful to formally educated people. One by-product is you know exactly how to spell uncommon words, but often can't pronounce them because you learned everything by reading obscure things.

My mother likes to tease me about me when I was a little tyke, and said horizon: hor-is-on instead of hor-eyes-zun, because I learned the word horizontal first and had only read the word horizon.