That Nirvana killed hairbands dead. For awhile anyway.
Nevermind was released on September 24th 1991. Yes. You are that old.
Many in their 20’s believe Nirvana to be quite uncool. For good reason. They are in their 20’s. Anything cool when you were born, isn’t all that cool. Don’t worry it will come back around. Kurt was awesome.
So is this video.
Here we are now. Entertain us.
is bad news for old editors. The kids, however, will love it.
Much has been written about Miley Cyrus and her recent change to distance herself from her Hannah Montana character. It was ta terrible idea as the New York Times points out today.
So last month, when Ms. Cyrus released her post-adolescent anthem, “Can’t Be Tamed,” her once-adoring fan was unimpressed, unmoved by, among other things, the singer’s sexy music video.
“It was weird,” Perry said of Ms. Cyrus’s bird wings and black ribbon corset. “I feel like she acts 25. She looks so old. She is too old for herself.” She, like others her age, has had enough. First-week album sales for the more adult “Can’t Be Tamed” tallied a mere 102,389, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales. That was 72 percent less than her 2008 solo debut, “Breakout,” and 33 percent less than last year’s “Time of Our Lives,” both of which were popular with teenagers.
Readers of my book will recognize this failure to be utterly predictable. Ms. Cyrus and her strategists should never have equated sexuality with maturity. Kids are generally alienated by the quantity of sex in their media. The movement to conservatism continues on the young end. Not only can Taylor Swift sing better– her style is more on pitch as well.
This is just so brilliant I had to steal it from Mashable– mostly so I won’t forget it.
You shouldn’t either.
Ricky Van Veen’s 10 Web Content Urban Legends
Myth #1). People will want to watch your branded content: Why would anyone watch this? If you don’t have a good reason, don’t make it. If your goal is 75% to entertain and 25% to sell a product, you already have a handicap.
- Brands need to be flexible. IE, College Humor is a racy site — so if you want to partner with a media outlet like this, its content will be racy. Embrace that. To remedy this issue, you can present content that is not explicitly branded, and then reveal your involvement later.
Myth #2). People will be patient with your content: 35% tune out soon after starting to watch a web video. Also, one third of web activity is executed while watching TV.
- So, get to the point — quickly.
Myth #3). People will find your content: Your video will not necessarily go viral. Over-saturation is not the key, either.
- Have a strong seeding strategy.
- Team up with an established brand or platform.
Myth #4). The Internet is a level playing field: A link on Drudge Report yields more results than some dude’s blog.
- Tap into power users.
Myth #5). We have no idea why things go viral: There are no rules for making a viral video. But all viral videos give the user a reason to pass it on. This all has to do with identity creation: What does passing this video on say about me?
- College Humor has a hit strategy: Only hit for nines and 10s.
- The shorter the better.
- The hook comes within the first 20 seconds.
- Sweet spots College Humor taps into: Topical issues and “Candycorn” (cultural touchstones that everyone knows, but doesn’t actively think about).
Myth # 6). Experience beats documentation: We have a new generation that puts documentation above experience. It’s all about Flickr feeds and Facebook status updates. It’s basically high-tech bragging.
- if you’re a marketer, create experiences that allow people to show off how cool they are.
Myth #7). You should build your own community and tools: The web values simplicity and openness. Don’t limit the openness of your project. Make all tools open and easy to share. Don’t build your own features — if you want people to share photos and whatnot, use Facebook and Flickr. You get much more exposure and reach in that way.
Myth #8). Keep things professional: Show the people behind the scenes. It gives your site personality and makes it sticky. Personality drives your brand. Post photos of staff as well as videos and other content. Perez Hilton does this really well, according to Van Veen.
Myth #9). Traditional media is irrelevant to the web: TV is not over. Content creators are always working to get to TV and film — that’s where the money is. The average American watches 151 hours of TV a month, so that’s nothing to sneeze at. You get a stamp of approval thusly.
Myth #10). People will create good content for you: This is the biggest myth of all.
Just brilliant. I’m going to frame it and hang it on my wall. Thanks Ricky.
Buried in the December 23 NYT was an article showing an interesting counter-trend to our seemingly endless-spiraling-out-of-control economy–Namely that the popularity of handmade crafts are bucking the weak retailing trend. Can technology benefit from this trend? yep.
If this surprises you than I have a book for you. The “artisan” trend is one of the most important trend in contemporary consumer culture. It will dominate the rest of the decade and into the first half of the next.
Small is the new big. Still even big brands can be artisanal (look at Apple).
Here’s an extended peek from the aforementioned book Extreme to Mainstream:
In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that markets are rational, an idea widely referred to as Smith’s “invisible hand.” Rationality, however, is not always the key driver of human economic behavior, as we’ll see in the Kahneman experiments, discussed in Section 6.9. Software’s future is in open source, freely accessible software code built to be just that, free—free to use and to fix. What would Adam Smith say about open source? Who works for free and gives it away? Is that rational or not? Well, actually, highly skilled innovators do it for the cultural currency of being seen as innovators—and to give their boredom a good thrashing. The well-written piece of code bequeaths rock-star status to its writer amongst his peers.
At a 2004 open-source conference held at the University of Toronto, Red Hat (one of the larger and more recognized companies dedicated to open-source software) founder Bob Young connected theories of Adam Smith with the concept of coders working and improving software for free. “The Adam Smith view of the world is that a whole bunch of self-centered, selfish human beings, working in their own vested self-interest, can make the world a better place faster than the most benevolent king,” Young said. He argued that the Internet validated Adam Smith’s theories, as did the growth of the Linux operating system itself. The Internet is a distribution system to which multiple folks contribute. We see Young’s observation affirmed in social sites like YouTube, Digg, and even MySpace, as well as in enterprise adoption of Apache Server DNS and Sendmail, all open-source software. Open-source software fosters social communication, something humans must do. Most of us must connect, communicate, and document our lives. It is a human need, essential to defining oneself and affirming one’s very existence. We generate content because we have to, not only for money. And our need to create results in something better than any one individual, company, or government could have ever created, despite the desire of corporations and governments to control and profit from it.
Open-source code represents one of the foundational concepts you need to understand if you want to be successful at forecasting: the artisanal impulse to innovate.
For something to be authentic, it must have artisanal—that is, handmade—roots. The roots of a visionary individual or tribe allow an innovation to scale. This is the quality that people striving for authenticity are truly seeking, and when a product’s artisanal sensibility can be retained while scaling to a mass audience, it has the potential become a cultural icon. Witness the iPod—the rare product that has been able to scale on a massive level without losing its cool. That’s artisanal.
The artisanal nature of open-source code, which is generated by those dedicated to the cause and continually tweaked until it best serves the needs of its users, leads to its utility as a tool for those simply looking for the best software. When a musician buys an antique guitar to add to his collection, it is the instrument’s flaws he values as much as its sound—it is the authenticity of the object that lends it value, not simply its utilitarian function. Authentic code, however, has almost no utility. No one wants the first version of a code. Its true value doesn’t become apparent until its utility is paramount—that is, until it works.
Achieving scale is difficult, deceptively so, because as any innovation diffuses, it changes, often forfeiting its artisanal nature in the pursuit of growth. If that change causes costs to go up or values to be diminished or meanings to be diluted, the idea, product, or cultural movement won’t scale and will lose its momentum. The cultural currency evaporates and the idea, product, or movement fades into memory. Products, services, and ideas can become too popular too quickly as well. AOL had this problem at the end of the last century when it gained too many new customers too quickly. It happens more than you think, and if you think it’s a problem you’d like to have, ask someone who’s been through it. It’s a situation only slightly better than seeing no demand at all.
On these two phenomena, diffusion and scale (and the rates associated with them), rests the fate of trends and the prestige and believability of pop culture forecasts. As a matter of dollars and cents, diffusion models and scalability can tell you how and when a brand matters and how it matures. It can also tell if and when an idea will reach its saturation point and begin to lose its value. As you can imagine, that kind of data is essential to developing accurate pricing and communication strategies.
Tribes dictate change in popular culture. When the number of people adopting an idea or innovation reaches critical mass, the new sensation becomes a cultural inevitability. But while the early majority, late majority, and laggards ride in the car, somebody has to start it. Innovations need those who value them to risk their tribal status and cultural currency to drive the innovation’s adoption. They are innovators too—even if they haven’t invented anything.
As scale is achieved, concentric circles of interest or devotion create the “network effect” such that a trend (anything from art and music to politics and culture) gathers the necessary momentum to race around the world. Both Wikipedia and Answers.com credit DJ Grand Wizard Theodore for creating the rhythmic patterns of rap music, but Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flash were all innovators who adopted it, contributed their cultural currency to accelerate its scale, and made rap a musical and cultural benchmark.
The artisanal is important to youth culture too.
Of course, credible alienation isn’t new. It’s about youth culture finding inspiration in alienated subcultures of outcasts and unappreciated visionaries who cling to the lower social rungs of society, and who are hipper and closer to truth; they “keep it real” in an effort to avoid the hypocrisy of compromise that plagues the mature. That indifference to authority makes outcasts credible when they talk about life on the edge and describe zero-sum-game conflicts between themselves and that authority. They appear to have the genuine rage of violated innocents who speak truth to power. That’s why hip-hop culture, and the stars who populate it, work feverishly to retain their street “cred” in the eyes of their fans. They work overtime—and at great risk—to keep the façade that they’ve still got the dangerous edginess that exploded them out of the ghetto in lyrical form when their career was launched and only the alienated dug what they said. They instinctively know what I’ve been telling you: The more artisanal sensibility they can retain, the more powerful their brand becomes.
There’s a genuine history behind the hype: The alienation of the contemporary tribe grows out of a past that validates it. But what, then, gives the complaint manifest power, where everybody literally gets the message? With a nod to Marx, it is access to or control of the means of production—the DJs, record labels, radio stations with prime position on the dial, MTV and VH1 rotation time, and merchandising on iTunes and the wireless carriers. The totems of alienation must be easily recognized, otherwise they have no real power. That’s the great irony and the art of alienation. The authentically alienated go utterly unnoticed and completely misunderstood, while utilitarian authenticity seeks simply to identify with the alienated experience rather than actually being alienated.
The Rolling Stones found credible alienation in both black America and lovers of the blues. Hippies retooled the beatniks, and so on. Youth borrow from disaffected cultures and choose those totems that reflect their own tribal principles and identities so as to create something new from the old—neo soul, neo grunge, neo blues, neo punk—you get the point.”
Of course nothing says “artisanal” technology like iPhone apps–and I think it’s safe to say they are scaling. Many of The best one are built by small scappy shops led by people super-passionate about their app. The takeaway: Set standards to communicate the values of the artisan and “authenticity” takes care of itself.
Fred Figglehorn, the six-year-old character created by 15 year old Lucas Cruikshank is huge– hackin’ huge with tween girls. Bigger on-line than Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. In fact he’s the biggest star on YouTube. I saw this phenomenon first hand while monitoring web video trends back in September for a client. I didn’t believe it at first (I’d missed the puff pieces in the MSM). When I went to watch it I was convinced some kid had figured out how to game the ratings. I was wrong.
It took my daughter to convince me.
“Hey dad can I borrow your iPhone” my daughter asked– as she always does when we are in a restaurant. I figured he wanted to play cro-mag.
Then I heard that voice. It was Fred’s super-charged Chipmunk voice (the singing always makes the kids laugh just the Chipmunks did when I was six) telling his hyperactive napoleon dynamitesque / neutered (despite his apparent crush on Judy) life stories. The more I listened the more I realized Fred is a phenomenon that marks a critical junction in youth culture. The singing (faux-pop R&B histrionics) is pretty funny. The content is great if you can get over the voice and the facial expressions.
He speaks kid–adding the essential extra syllable for mellodrama: pul-leez-ah, sor-reee-uhh if you have a kid you know this affectation–if not, well, count yourself among the blissfully unaware. It’s perfectly alienating. if that screeching doesn’t send you straight up the wall, you are deaf or under 18.
In yesterday’s NYT Thomas Friedman observed that kids should be more radicalized than they are. Sorry Tom, I’m a huge fan, but that’s a baby-boomer conceit. Kids are alienated and radicalized –but it’s subversive and its not about politics. Fred is a great example of that subversion. Do I have a clue why it’s Fred? I think I do. It’s about speaking the language, drawing on the right social influences and leveraging the right channel–youtube. He’s levaging stuff the tween-targeted cable shows are afraid to touch. South Park without the potty mouth. Waaay smarter and more relevant than it sounds. That’s what makes it subversive.
Fred is making money. His first sponsor was zipit wireless. The deal: he places the product in three of his 10 videos-they pay him. He won’t tell what his CPM is–which means it sucks. But Fred’s importance isn’t about money– its the millions of viewers he hits–the millions of viewers who aren’t you.
You will watch Fred and, unless you are under 18, you will not get it. You are not supposed to. It’s not for you. Fred’s success is more than pitch manipulation. That’s what makes Fred great, For the past 20 years we’ve been living in a culture of middle age. There has been no real youth culture- (grunge and hip-hop were overly derivative). As social technology accelerates in adoption, all that is about to change. It will be hidden by this awful economic adjustment we’re in. It’s this generation’s Vietnam. Like Vietnam the kids will be pissed– unlike Vietnam they don’t need to draw attention to themselves or lash out at parents by rebelling at them. The rebellion will be streamed. Here’s the twist: the kids will stream it to each other and it won’t involve us at all. By the time it’s mainstream– its over.
Sure, Lucas Cruikshank wants to be a star. He will be. But by then it will be over– over commercialized, and over saturated.
Fred merch in stores in 09.
From the Book
3.5 Teenage Tasteland
If it’s true, as so many Boomers fear, that people grow up to be their parents, then youth culture today has accelerated the process. Despite the messages of a fear-mongering mainstream media, the “Girls Gone Wild” stereotype has been diminished by youth gone mild, with teen violence, drug use, and premarital sex all on the decline. Politically and socially, kids have become almost conventional. They want to get married, have families—big ones—and, yes, they love their folks. Two thirds of teens told the data collectors for the yearly book Who’s Who Among American High School Students that they’re usually happy at home and want to raise their kids the same way they were brought up.
Not sure about this? A recent Mood of American Youth survey revealed that over 80 percent of teens report no family problems. That’s more than twice the percentage of satisfied teens 25 years earlier. Two thirds of daughters questioned in another poll gave their moms a grade of “A.” In fact, the idea of an eternal youthful rebellion, or a generation gap for that matter, is a Baby Boomer conceit no longer in evidence.
In 2004, David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group, which forecasts fashion trends and whose clients include Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, said, “The latest American fashions—pert skirts and prim coats, Peter Pan collars and proper tweeds, some harking back to Mamie Eisenhower’s day—are refreshing and even subversive. They represent fashion’s way of thumbing its nose at the status quo and simply moving on. Blouses with bows have never looked so avant-garde…. In fashion these days, to be uptight is to be edgy.” Mr. Wolfe predicted that the (edgy) trend would have staying power, that it would sell in stores, and that it is in tune with a shift in the cultural climate.
He continued, “In entertainment and advertising, there is a growing consensus that the consumer’s appetite for blatant sexuality is abating, that to average Americans the antics of certain celebrities—Janet Jackson baring a jeweled nipple during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Paris Hilton starring in her own sex tape last fall—now seem as stale as day-old Champagne.”
Also in 2004, Anna Bahney quoted William Strauss, co-author of “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation,” in The New York Times (Millennials refers to those born since 1982): “In the history of polling, we’ve never seen tweens and teens get along with their parents this well.”
Disney has enjoyed an impressive rejuvenation by filling its cable channel with kiddie-drive shows in the 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM window, when big media programmers fight to attract seven- to thirteen-year-olds with derivative family-friendly programming. Series like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, and Hannah Montana, while stealing shamelessly from The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy, draw parents and their teen and preteen children to the squeaky-clean cable offering.
The logical and definitive extension of this cross-generational media theft is the reinvention of the squeaky-clean musical. It dawned on Disney that leavening its TV shows with original, easily digested songs could build their brand identity. Thus was born High School Musical, an Up with People-esque musical that not only kept Disney’s TV show audience, but also expanded its age range down to four- and five-year-olds. Perhaps the most surprising piece of cultural trivia from 2006, from Nielsen SoundScan’s rankings, was that High School Musical’s stunningly formulaic soundtrack was the number one selling CD of that year.
Taking it a step further, High School Musical’s actors weren’t just wholesome kids on TV; for the most part they were squeaky-clean in real life too. Disney execs didn’t say so publicly, but it became clear that they preferred casting model citizens with acceptable talent to attitude cases with top-tier acting ability. Talent became less important than sheer manageability. However, Disney may have created media monsters they can no longer control. When nude photos of Musical star and tweener role model Vanessa Hudgens became public, quickly followed by a series of public-relations challenges posed by racy photos of Disney’s reigning goddess, Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), there was talk that Disney would proceed on High School Muscical sequels without Hudgens, and that perhaps Cyrus had outgrown the company’s image. In the end Hudgens’ star power with the tweener demographic was such that she managed to hang on to her job, and although Cyrus continues to push the envelope in an apparent attempt to expand her brand to a more adult demographic, she also remains in the Disney stable. With creative risk mitigated, the High School Musical formula has already been replicated, not only at Disney with at least two sequels and its hugely successful Camp Rock TV movie (destined to because a franchise of its own), but at the other big content houses.
That’s all for now, so bye.
“At high tide fish eat ants; at low tide ants eat fish.” Thai Proverb
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” French Proverb
The punditry was stunned. Stunned by the overwhelming indictment of the Bush years and the fatigue of war and economic crisis.
When Bush 43 was elected in 2000 I had abandoned all hope. Not because he was conservative (I’m a Republican who felt his party had abandoned him) but because he was so clearly a cog in a machine that was too full of itself and its ideology, I feel quite the opposite this morning. Affirmed for my country and it’s ability to bounce back from the edge of potential catastrophe.
This shift is one of demography in the electorate. I’ll admit I was honestly indifferent about who won this election. I liked both candidates. McCain proved me right with his elegant concession speech–perhaps the most gracious I have ever heard. For me it was proof he was a worthy candidate and would have been every bit as good a president as Obama.
It’s 1932, 1960, and 1980 again in so many ways– and once again proof that the electorate is always way ahead of its leaders. We are on the precipice of an emergent new youth culture that is both multi-racial and in utter opposition to the Baby boomers that preceded it. In this emerging youth revolution, Information technology will alienate the older generation much in the same way recreational drugs alienated the parents of baby boomers.
Liberalism has changed too. It’s rather easy to see where this is going. The left must get practical fast– and while I suspect that Obama will lead from the center–much like Kennedy, he will face extreme pressure from a left that has waited a very long time to correct what it has seen as great injustice.
It is a New Day but with the same old problems. We are refreshed though, and the world will rally behind us for a short time. I believe it will be time enough. Markets, after all, are about trust. Americans have given the world a reason to trust us again. Things will still be tough–but like our president elect I am more optimistic than I’ve been in some time. A new generation has officially stepped forward– From Chapter 3 of my book:
Hackers and hippies shared the same historic and subversive pursuits as they railed against the prevailing technological or political apparatus. They defined themselves and formed their identity either in opposition to, or through the sheer dominance of, that structure. For flappers it was cultural mores that frowned on exuberant dance and drinking. For the Beats it was the banality of literary and societal conformity to a value system that seemed to celebrate consumerism and us-versus-them geopolitics. This repeats over generations: What changes is the sand in the oyster creating this black pearl of a personal identity. Raging against the flappers, the Beats, the hackers and up-against-the-wall hippies became the battle cries and formed the attitudes of those not in these tribes.
How does this relate to youth culture? In the struggle to learn who they are, adolescents identify their tribes and what currency those tribes value (i.e., what they have to offer). By 1979, divorce had become so commonplace over the prior 15 years that one out of two marriages ultimately failed. That left a lot of kids with fractured lives and sometimes missing one parental rudder to steer them through their growing pains. Figuring out what happened to split mom and dad up became a huge factor in their identity crises. Who were they in this broken family? Where should their loyalties lie? In the ′79 film Kramer vs. Kramer, Billy Kramer’s confusion about his parents’ breakup reflects this issue. He was played by a seven year old in the movie, yet adolescents and even adults often feel the ripple effects of their parents’ divorce many years later.
Kramer vs. Kramer was a harbinger that showed what was going to unfold as a central crisis point for the coming generation of youngsters in the ’80s, when the divorce rate continued to rise. In youth culture, one generation’s pioneering experience with a social (e.g., divorce) or artistic phenomenon is something that gets reinterpreted by its successor. Though the Beatniks were post-adolescents, teens really dug their nonconformist alienation, and that defined the young counterculture of the ′60s and early ′70s. The early Internet’s underground hacker culture presaged the new millennium’s multitasking, multi-channel youth pop culture.
Using nostalgia is a powerful way to connect with an audience.
From Chapter 3
So many factors converge to make youth culture dominant in determining cultural momentum. Nostalgia and irony have their sharpest spikes in adolescents, especially those on the cusp of adulthood. Or said another way, the multi-stage struggle for identity reaches its crescendo in the late teen years. The ruling Boomer generation in its heyday seemed to invent extended adolescence, and to the extent that science and technology can keep up, Boomers will continue on this path. But, though the Boomers have been dominant for decades, their time is rapidly fading. Generation Y—the Echo Boom—is evolving into that role.
Tribal formation and articulation, the yeast of cultural change, are most volatile and fertile in youth and youth-conscious populations, and the struggles for identity and regeneration are the most powerful forces driving this. For in those years lies the time of the greatest, most passionate conflicts, which yield the most entertaining experiences for the rest of the culture to share in vicariously.
Youth culture is an essential driver of all of pop culture. The intensity that youth brings and the time youth has for development make youth’s culture the most dynamic and vital piece of the puzzle for the whole of pop cultural forecasting. Compounding the difficulty of forecasting for this segment of the population are the unique symbols, language, and channels youth employ to communicate with one another as they seek to distinguish themselves from those who came before and those who have held sway over their development. With their new voice and empowered by their beauty and regenerative powers, youth still strain for credibility and authenticity even while borrowing from the scraps of the cultural dustbin that preceded them. These totems hide conspicuously. They are there to be translated. You can dig what they say. Just don’t betray yourself by trying to say it. It’s essential to speak through translators and stay true to the language of your tribes.
Rebellion is not an obvious given, but only one of the many means of distinction that youth have at their disposal. In new, more subtly subversive ways, youth have embraced many of the conventions of their parents and move to separate themselves not through opposition, but through achievement. Youth leverage their entitlement and achieve a greater sense of themselves through even more conscious, conspicuous, and discerning consumption.
Decoding these trends is easier for the forecaster who is willing to seek new channels of communication and new methods of using them. Youth employ these new channels not for sheer novelty alone, but out of a real need to explore the meaning of having a unique voice rather than silent complicity.