Batman and Robin, Part 2

One day, a few years ago, I realized it was time to do a little table-pounding.

This is an activity that, for the unfamiliar, is described in the CEO Handbook (which you mysteriously receive in the mail, in a sealed, black leather pouch shortly after you become a CEO. No return address) as:

“The act of repeatedly making the same point again and again, punctuated by actual or virtual pounding on a table or other hard surface until people in your company actually believe you are serious.*”

I followed the footnote to the back of the book, where in very fine, faint print, it said: “Do NOT overuse this technique or you will seem like (and quite possibly be) a buffoon.”

So why was I risking buffoonery on this occasion? Because the time had come for Goldstar to go mobile. I won’t tell that story again because I’ve told it a few times now, but I’ll tell you how it ended. Within about three years of my table-pounding episode, Goldstar had gone from a vastly desktop-based company to a primarily mobile-based company, and that trend has continued right through to today. A few weeks ago, on a panel at a ticketing conference, I got a question about mobile commerce, and I said this:

RodBarlowBatman and Robin. Batman’s the boss, Robin’s the one helping out. Batman’s the headliner, Robin’s the warm up. Batman’s the dinner, Robin’s the side dish on a slightly smaller plate. (Yes, that was a Book of Mormon reference.)

It wasn’t the first time I’d said that mobile is Batman, not simply an increasingly powerful Robin. I’d said it before, and I said it in not so many words on the day I did my table-pounding.

And, true to the little-read footnote in the back of the CEO Handbook, I haven’t done much, or maybe any, table-pounding since then, but I’m about to do some more. Yes, it applies to Goldstar, but it applies to all you live entertainment marketers out there. Hell, it applies to all you marketers and communicators out there.

“Social media” is Batman. Traditional media is Robin. In fact, I put “social media” in quotes because its sheer volume and power makes it by default just media. Calling it social media puts it in a box that makes it seem more of a niche thing, rather than the great ocean of information on which modern culture rides. Social media is merely the internet and all the ways people put it to use to generate vast numbers and kinds of information and other stuff. Even television bows down now. You may be watching TV shows, but there’s a pretty good chance you’re watching them over the internet.

It’s not to say that it wouldn’t be great, for example, to get a big story written about your company on the front of the business section of The New York Times. I should know. I’m coming up on a 10-year anniversary of a full color picture of myself and my co-founders in that very place. When that happened, Goldstar experienced an absolute deluge of traffic, new customers and goodness of all kinds. Today, and I know this from comparable hits that have happened more recently, I would still expect a very nice response, but probably 20% as much as we got then.

Just think of that: an 80% reduction in the impact of a major hit in one of the very biggest newspapers. I spoke to a friend of mine who is one of the very best live entertainment marketers in the world today, and he told me that his event was featured for seven full minutes as part of a network television show. Stop and think about that for a second. It would cost millions of dollars to buy airtime like that as a commercial, but this was as part of the show.

The impact? Virtually NO tickets sold. Seriously. He didn’t say it was a big hit, but not as big as you might think. He said it made almost no impact whatsoever.

Does this mean people just don’t care about anything anymore? That they just aren’t reading, watching or paying attention to anything, except possibly Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian’s double gym selfies?

No, it just means that their attention has been dispersed, scattered in a million directions, pointed at countless sources. Some of them, like The New York Times, are still quite large, but many of them are indescribably tiny, like your sister-in-law’s Facebook posts about yoga.

It would be quite comforting if all those little tiny ones revolved around the few big ones, and that if you could get attention from the big media sources, all the small ones would pay attention and spread the message. It kinda works like this, but not really. At least, it’s not anywhere near that simple.

I won’t be pounding the table again anytime soon, so pay attention. I’m either right or making a buffoon of myself, but either way, it’s worth listening to. What we now call “social media” will soon be just media, and what we think of as the major media will be an important, but slightly out-of-fashion part of that media. Batman, please trade costumes with Robin.

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails