Stock your memories and go with the flow

The stream, as Alex Madrigal points on “The Year the Stream Crested” , has been picking momentum since 2007. Newsfeeds, lifestream, timelines, or other social design patterns which highlights activity and creates the momentary illusion of not missing out.

Information is increasingly being distributed and presented in real-time streams instead of dedicated Web pages. The shift is palpable, even if it is only in its early stages”
— Erick Schonfeld

There’s been plenty of discussion on how this impacts brands, from Mel Exxon to Patricia McDonald, calling for more meaningful content, finding islands in the stream, away from viral mills and hopefully creating more longstanding memories in consumer’s minds.

Getting messier

While I simpatize with the noble intentions, I’m afraid things are only to get messier, with not much room left for stock content to leave their mark. Here’s a couple of reasons why:

  1. The amount of content produced is only going to increase, so is the signal-to-noise ratio. Some brands just rather be heard than concerned with deep experiences (this is more obvious on social media streams, where immersive storytelling is reserved to fandom mostly.)
  2. The web is going mass media. Like it or not, some people just like cheap, dumb and fast content. Just like TV. Which means brands better have deep pockets if they expect only earned media will get them some attention on the streams.
  3. The critique of technology seems somehow stronger nowadays with the likes of Evgeny Morozov and their cyber pessimism, but we’ve been this road for decades or even centuries, if you consider the impact of the printing press or industrial revolution on society. Unfortunatelly the technium has no sympathy for our romantic wish of simpler times and slower content.
  4. The stream is the endless source of gossip, a powerful social lubricant most of us can’t live without. It can also work as social grooming, nurturing light interactions between people.

The stream is here to stay and brands must find their way to embrace it, requiring a new set of skills which make it harder to justify the glorified islands in the stream, when the CMO is mostly worried about the next quarter.

II find the cybernetic metaphor quite appropriate, with the role of stock content more about constructing long term memories (ROM) while flow content about fast access (ROM).

If a brand wants to operate, it needs to find a way to balance both.

For now, we’ll have to do it the Queens Of Stone Age way: