timone NetMarketing
disponibile anche in italiano

Marketing in the internet – as seen from Italy

No. 69 – October 10, 2003

Other articles on similar subjects
are published in English
in the monthly Offline column


loghino.gif (1071 byte) 1. Why less frequent

This newsletter never had a fixed frequency. But it doesn’t appear as often as it did in past years. Some readers are surprised that six months went by since issue 68. And, in a way, so am I.

Yes, I was busy with other stuff – and a very hot summer discouraged me from spending too much time close to a computer that was adding to the heat. But that isn’t the reason.

There are, of course, other things that I am writing (some of them are published also in English) and there is no need to repeat the same things here. But the real problem is that there isn’t much to be said. Every day there are “news” in mainstream media and on the net. Most of the time they aren’t particularly new. We seem to be drifting in a repetitive tide of “more of the same.” And I don’t think readers would be pleased if I added to the boredom by repeating what I said months or years ago.

I am also somewhat depressed about the state of the internet – and all forms of communication. I am still convinced that there is great potential, that we have only scratched the surface of what could be done. But we seem to be moving in the wrong direction. Adding technology, often crammed with unnecessary complication, doesn’t add to our ability to communicate, think and understand.

The internet is growing quite healthily. In the next issue (as soon as year-end statistics are available for 2003) I shall update the picture. In any case it’s pretty obvious that, in those parts of the world in which access and use aren’t inhibited, expansion continues.

But there are several problems, including the continuing proliferation of poorly conceived technologies, as well as spam, scam and other diseases.

There is a need to look the overall picture, at the general state of information and communication, to understand the role of the internet – that is, as usual, misinterpreted by mainstream media and by major publishing and entertainment interests, with an unhealthy mixture of ignorance (they don’t understand how the net works) and deliberate manipulation.

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loghino.gif (1071 byte) 2. If new is old, can old be new?

The world, as told by the dominant information system, is desperately repetitive and boring. Of course there are serious problems and dramatic events that we can’t ignore or underestimate. But most of the time they aren’t “new.”  They fall into known patterns – or they have roots that can (and should) be traced back in time.

“New“ is becoming “old.”  To be able to look forward, to develop new ideas that aren’t irrelevant gimmicks, there is a strong need to get “back to basics.”  But that isn’t enough.

We must deliberately step back. Look into the past, recent or remote, to re-learn lessons that we appear to have forgotten. Retrace the route that led us where we are (or appear to be) to discover which crossing we overlooked, that could have led us to more interesting pursuits.

We are burdened with an overload of “information” in which it’s hard do understand what is relevant and useful. The most interesting and stimulating thoughts or facts are often in hazy areas, away from the limelight.

The vicious circle of stupidity treats us as fools and, at the same time, makes the so-called information system more and more stupid. Only by breaking that circle in every possible way we can get a glimpse of reality – and develop thought or ideas that can really lead us to a step forward (or back into forgotten notions that need to be seen in a new light.)

“Old” and “new” must work together, as far away as possible from the overwhelming noise of appearances, to be able to focus on what really matters, in the small (but not irrelevant) details of our daily life as well as on the broad perspectives of worldwide developments that don’t appear to be heading in any coherent direction.

There are too many “new” things, or ideas, that we don’t need. Instead of helping us, they make things confused and complicated. Scientific research and philosophical thinking need to be free and to probe in all directions, regardless of whether they appear “useful.” But, on the other hand, practical applications must cater for real needs and practical functionality. We are plagued with pseudo-innovation, gimmicks and devices, hastily applied technologies that don’t work, or aren’t properly managed, or both. (One of many examples is the powerpoint disease.)

We are also confused by the monotonous concentration of news and information resources. We are apparently rich in an abundance of media, but content is desperately “homogenized” in a standard pattern that follows habits, trends and fashions. Some of this is deliberate manipulation, but a lot is simply passive repetition of whatever the mainstream thinks is “news.”  In the information era we are not well informed, unless we learn to look behind the smokescreen of appearances and find what matters for us – or what is relevant for whatever subject we are trying to understand.

Unless we step back and understand the roots – which can trace back for only two years or deep into remote history – we are unable to understand what is new and what isn’t, what can change the world (or our life, or a specific environment) and what is a flimsy fad that will die out in a short while.

Sometimes it’s difficult and it needs a lot of research and depth. Sometimes it takes only a few minutes if we know how to notice the relevant signals. But, in any, case, it’s more important that it has ever been to “stop and think.”  In a world of haste and needless running around without any clear direction, stepping back and retracing our route can save us a lot of time – as well as mistakes, mishaps and unnecessary burdens.


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loghino.gif (1071 byte) 3. The disappearance of “AOL”

This is a tiny bit of news that passed unnoticed. On September 18, 2003, the three letters AOL disappeared from the name of Time Warner, Inc. Of course that was only the “formal” conclusion of a process that had been going from bad to worse for three years. The relevance of AOL in the big media conglomerate has been decreasing, step by step, since the early says in which it appeared to be prevailing.

America Online started in 1985 – when there was no publicly available access to the internet. In 1979 it took over Compuserve (that existed since 1979) and became the largest commercial online service in the United States (its attempts to expand internationally were less successful.)

While dominant in its specific market, AOL was a small company compared to a giant like Time Warner. But it appeared to be the leading partner in their year 2000 merger – that was applauded as a major high-tech victory when the financial bubble was close to its highest inflation.

There are often bombastic announcements of new mergers and acquisitions, followed by silence, or much less visible reports, about their problems and failures. The AOL-Time-Warner débacle is only one example of the many pitfalls of merger mania – especially in high tech, but also in many other fields.



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