Friday, July 11, 2008

How to Approach the Google-Eyed Audience

Last week, we talked about how tech gadgets and constant connectivity are stifling creativity. What if we take that idea a little further, and assert that all the time we spend online is just plain making us dumber?

That’s the crux of the argument Nicholas Carr is making in a new article in Atlantic Magazine, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

You may know Carr from such books as “Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage.” He’s no stranger to sweeping statements that challenge conventional thinking about technology. But the new Google piece may prove to be less controversial—because few people disagree that we’re approaching information quite differently in the Internet age.

Google’s instant-gratification search fits in so well with our “multitasking” culture. Its fast-acting algorithm makes it easy for us to jump from info nugget to nugget, taking little nibbles along the way. In an everyday context, this process has replaced the traditional, more painstaking approach to research: scouring the card catalog, poring over a textbook, listening to a lecture—activities that require full engagement over long periods.

But does that really mean we’re getting stupider? Or just losing the ability to concentrate on a full novel? In actuality, the latter seems to be what Carr’s getting at in his article. We may no longer be capable of delving into broad issues, but other skills are becoming more important.

The most marketable skills now include quick comprehension, deductive reasoning (sometimes to fill in the gaps that used to be filled in by reading in greater depth) and, most importantly, clear, concise communication skills.

It’s a different kind of intelligence, for sure, and marketers need to be able to roll with it. The longwinded whitepaper has been fading for a while now. To grab today’s audience, it’s more important than ever to hammer away at a single, focused idea.

Maybe we need to approach the challenge like the Professional Bull Riders (that other “PBR”): Keep the audience along for the ride for at least eight seconds, and you’ve got a winner.

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