Confluxion: the state of our lives

A friend of mine, Ted Leonsis, invented instant messaging — and along the way destroyed civilization as we know it. One day Leonsis, who is vice-chairman of AOL Time Warner, was e-mailing his wife and saw that a friend of his was online at the same time. Voila the buddy list.

IM begot BlackBerry. Try holding a conversation with a BlackBerry user — it’s impossible. They’re either sending or receiving all the time. From BlackBerry Nation we have evolved into the Blog Empire, where all are telling you how they “felt” about your last sentence.

In short, no one has your full attention anymore. We have Wi-Fi everywhere; cell phones reproduce overnight; Wikis can amend your thoughts and edit content. Podcasting is the next interactive radio/TV/news. No wonder no one is reading newspapers or magazines — everyone is too busy composing and sending.

Remember that old saw that if you had an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters, eventually you would get Hamlet? Essentially, that’s what we have today, but we also have them taking pictures, sending video and confusing entertainment with content.

The world used to be hierarchical: some people spoke, others listened. Feedback was the occasional letter to the editor. Now the world is peer to peer. Everyone speaks, all the time. What are the implications of this?

Well, the broadcasting advertising model is broken, perhaps forever, replaced by subtle forms of integration. TiVo is a fact of life, and advertisers are forced to get sneaky (product placement) or bribe us. The old advertising model was to go broadly and hope that the cost per thousand was low enough that people might buy. Let me give you an example: If you own a car, you probably drive 12,000 miles a year. Modern radial tires are good for 40,000 miles. That means every three years you are in the market for tires, for about two weeks. If you are reading a newspaper ad for Firestone, only two weeks out of 156, or 1.2 per cent of the time, do you even think about tires. But that tire retailer is spending ad money on you 154 weeks for nothing. A Google/Yahoo model where the advertiser pays only for people who are interested in buying or selling or repairing cars gets that number to 40 per cent to 50 per cent. The Google/Yahoo model scares the bejesus out of NBC and CBS and Time Warner…and Bill Gates.

Computing used to be computing, and communications used to be communications. Now they are one and the same; if you aren’t communicating in real time, you probably aren’t computing either. The explosion of high-powered wireless personal entertainment helps. Your iPod is only a step away from on-demand video; your cell phone easily becomes an MP3 player, and IPTV is essentially here. Why not watch television from your laptop over the Internet? Or watch anything you want when you want it?

This is more than convergence; it’s confluxion. Confluxion is a mix of overlapping and colliding of technologies and media, entertainment…and confusion.

I saw a business plan the other day for a company that would allow anyone to create his own ring tone. Instead of paying $2 per month for 50 Cent, you could create your own, with professional-quality back-up music. If you can be your own publisher, your own photographer, why not your own musician? Why not, indeed!

QuickLink: 053590

–Anderson is the founder of The Yankee Group and YankeeTek, and a co-founder of Battery Ventures. He can be reached at[email protected].

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