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Sunday, March 5, 2017

New Media and The Hype Cycle

Many of you have probably heard the term "hype" a great deal in your marketing, advertising or media careers. Did you know that there is a phenomenon observed by a renowned research firm known as The Hype Cycle?

The Hype Cycle was, as best as I can tell, was first identified by the Gartner research organization which essentially said the following about a technology or invention:

1) When it arrives or proves viable, the hype is huge
2) It is then found to not live up to its initial hype
3) The hype gets relatively silent and then you do not hear about it for a while
4) Incrementally, things get better and the new technology does the things it was supposed to do when first hyped.

In simple terms, a rule of thumb about the hype cycle is that things often become truly useful after we stop hearing about them.

Is this some esoteric theory from a bunch of futuristic dreamers? I do not think so.

Remember in the late 1990s when the internet was the rage and forecasters said that it would swamp advertising as we know it? Everyone wanted the internet in media plans even they did not understand what they were buying and could not verify the audiences of the online platforms. The great dot.com crash of early 2000 washed out a lot of marginal players and many avoided this emerging medium for a few years. Meanwhile,Google got stronger and has been proven to be an effective marketing vehicle along with many other online platforms.

The late Roy Amara who was president of The Institute for The Future developed a theory about the hype cycle that has since become known as Amara’s Law. Articulated in brief by fellow futurist Robert Cringely, it goes like this--”We tend to overstate the effect of technology in the short run and understate the effect in the long run.”

So, today we hear about driverless cars and trucks and tests seem to be going well. Elon Musk says that he is planning a flying car which reminds me of my childhood cartoon show, The Jetsons. Some politicians talk of an industrial renaissance in America creating millions of jobs but robotics is finding its way in to coffee shops and soon fast food establishments as well as auto plants. Robots will grow profits but kill unskilled and low skilled jobs.

Will all these things happen? Probably. When you stop hearing much about them, check your premise. It could be that they are merely in the quiet phase of the hype cycle and will come roaring back into our real world fairly quickly.

Advertiser supported media, particularly video, is losing share daily to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Youtube and others. The hype may not be there as it was a few years ago but their growth is steady and relentless.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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