According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, by the end of today the web will fill up with more information than what had existed in entirety prior to 2003. Much of this deluge is being created by ordinary netizens, rather than by corporations. The web has become a raging river filled with tweets, status updates, photos and videos.
There’s both a positive and negative side to this story. In fact it has spawned a divergent debate of ideas.
Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shallows” argues that the digital deluge is rewiring our brains for less depth. NYU professor Clay Shirky, meanwhile, says in his book Cognitive Surplusthat as more of us become content creators rather than consumers, it’s ushering in a new age of enlightenment.
Regardless of which side of the debate you buy into, one that sees superficiality rising versus another that envisions a new Renaissance, one thing remains clear. Space on the Internet is infinite. Time and attention, meanwhile, remain finite. Therefore, “Digital Relativity” will become a major challenge.
Taken in context, when you do the math it’s easy to see that it’s going to be harder than ever to reach people. On the one hand, social networking sites like Facebook consolidate audiences. (The average user spends five hours/month on the site.) On the other hand, social media is forcing us to make hard choices every day – Bieber vs brands, Forbes vs families, business vs. babies.
The new law of digital relativity (e.g. the relationship between time and space) means the end of scarcity. This was the currency that, for years, powered marketing budgets, filled media coffers and drove the information economy. Now that scarcity is gone, however, we will need to adopt a new set of skills.
Enter the Transmedia Storyteller.
Even though millions of us are now content producers in some form or another, the reality is there’s still chasm when it comes to quality. There’s art and there’s junk. Audiences want art.
To stand out today it’s critical that businesses create content. Activating your cadre of internal subject matter experts is the surest path to visibility. According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, the public is increasingly relying on subject matter experts as trusted authorities. And many businesses are beginning to do just that, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The reality is, however, that organizations need to do more than just unleash their subject matter experts en masse. They need to activate them in multiple channels at once and equip them in how to create a compelling narrative – an emerging set of skills called Transmedia Storytelling
Transmedia Storytelling doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be executed with low budget tools. However, it does need to be thought through. It requires that a business’ subject matter experts know how to simultaneously tell good stories and to do so using text, video, audio and images depending on the venue.
Transmedia storytelling is the future of marketing. And those who can span across formats and share their expertise will stand out in an age of Digital Relativity. There’s a first-mover advantage here. However, it remains to be seen who will grab the ring.