In the wake of the usage-based billing (UBB) crisis that faces millions of Canadians, nearly half a million of us responded immediately and signed the Stop the Meter petition.
However, in the aftermath, many of us were left asking "now what?"
A lot of people I speak with want to know what they can do to put more pressure on the government and the CRTC, forcing them to think about Canadian consumers, businesses and other organizations that rely on the web every single hour of the day. I defer to the folks with Stop the Meter to help you fulfill this particular wish.
The focus of this and other upcoming articles will be to look at the "perfect media storm" in Canada (and elsewhere) that has been brewing for some time. I'll also remind everyone that there are literally thousands of answers to the "now what" question, but I personally feel that they all come down to one word: boycott.
Here's a short-list of some of the elements of the perfect media storm that are brewing in Canada:
• We're all mad at the corporations that are trying to ruin the innovative and productive nature of the Internet.
• There's a very real possibility that the CBC will cease to exist if the Conservatives have a majority.
• Many organizations are faced with budget cuts, less revenue, fewer donors and shrinking grants. We are all coming to grips with the notion that we have to do more with less.
• People have a desire to turn away from mass-produced goods and services.
• Our independent media in Canada needs us more than ever.
• A lot of tools are emerging that will help you manage your marketing efforts and help you get found online without having to hire an agency or expensive consultants.
What's marketing worth?
In order to understand where we need to go, we need to understand where we're at.
Traditionally, if you had a marketing budget or wanted to build your own audience, you would have hired someone else at a marketing agency to promote you. These agencies would develop creative concepts, promote those concepts to a mass audience and take a lot of credit for people that come in through your doors and "buy stuff."
Think MadMen and how they act so full of themselves, like Olympian gods of the commercial world, passing their knowledge to their clients and helping them foist more things on us unsuspecting consumers.
By the end of 2014, ad spend in Canada is projected to be worth at least $13.5 billion.
Historically, most of this spend was on TV, radio and print. However, a big chunk of this has already moved to the Internet and the digital share continues to grow. As we can see from the chart below, agencies and their clients spend more than 55 per cent of their budget on TV, but Internet activity now accounts for 21 per cent of the total budget (source: emarketer.com, Advertising Media in Which Clients are Most Focused, January 18, 2011).
Many of our country's media conglomerates like Bell and Rogers have made substantial acquisitions and investments over the last few decades in order to ensure that they continue to profit from advertising. According to Stats Can, 90-95 per cent of revenues for TV and radio come from advertising.
They have been betting that they could literally corral the audience so that they could continue to sell advertising packages to companies that sell cars, cosmetics, cereals, jumping gyms, swimming pools, toys, prepared foods, laundry detergents and so on.
The only problem with this plan is that when the car companies (some of the world's biggest ad spenders) were about to go broke in 2008 and 2009, revenues for media companies plummeted. From my perspective, it's one of the main reasons why GM and Chrysler had to be bailed out. Without these companies, mainstream media would have suffocated and the mouthpiece for manipulation by certain political parties would have been silenced.
That said, the model continues to push along and everyone is getting a piece of the action.
This is the environment that pushes us to explore a concept that I call self-serve marketing, or DIY Digital.
What is DIY Digital?
Never before have we had an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are.
Say you belong to an organization that needs to build an audience, get found online or sell something to the general public. Because of the shifting patterns of media usage, things are little different than the world of MadMen, aren't they?
The most important change: you're in control now.
A lot of you already avoid TV shows or you record what you want to see on Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) or maybe you get your favourite content via a download or maybe even from a company like NetFlix.
The same thing has happened with radio. Maybe you haven't listened to a commercial radio show in years. Instead, you strut down the street listening to The Suburbs on your iPod.
Look at print publications, too. When was the last time you felt good about buying a newspaper? All those trees hacked down just to sell you an agenda? I don't think so. You can even get your crossword online now.
The internet has facilitated a lot of this "latent" rebellion against commercial media where the audience are no longer sitting captive to a broadcast. Research shows that this pattern has been shifting to a point where advertising on the internet now exceeds print activity.
More importantly, people have created the tools for you to bypass the massive advertising infrastructure that I described above.
DIY Digital is not only about setting up your own Facebook page or sending out a few Tweets from your business account, but also about finding unique opportunities to reach out to the right audience without pissing everyone else off. DIY Digital lets you do all of this by yourself. You no longer need an expensive agency to handle things for you.
In future articles, I'll identify what these tools are and how to use them to generate conversations with new and existing audiences.
Post-Script: What Does UBB Have To Do With All of This?
The usage-based billing issue simply provides all of us with the motivation we need to explore this opportunity, doesn't it?
Companies like Bell and Rogers were making long-run bets that media would evolve in a certain direction and it didn't. The internet (which, unfortunately, they own and control in Canada) has pulled people away from their broadcasts and we're being penalized for their bad choices with the prospect of substantially higher internet bills.
The UBB issue is simply one way that Bell, Rogers and other companies want you to pay for their bad business decisions. The internet competes with all of their other forms of communication and when we download a TV show or get our news online, we put another nail in the coffin of an industry that should have been buried long ago.
DIY Digital is a response to this environment that our mainstream media companies have thrust upon us.
DIY Digital is a media rebellion and boycott.
In the next article, I'll take a look at the mainstream companies in Canada and what they own. I'll identify ways that you can "curb" your mainstream media habits so that we can all hit our media companies financially.
Bill Wittur is the Owner and Operator of Bottree Digital Services. He provides digital strategy consulting for all organizations, including not-for-profits and co-ops. You can contact Bill by clicking here.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.