What a Difference a Day Makes

It all happened in a day.

First, I woke up to find about six messages in my in-box pointing me to YouTube’s posting of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s presentation at this year’s TED Conference. (Taylor is a neuroanatomist at Harvard.)

Next, I typed out notes from a meeting I had with the director of a branded-entertainment division of a major agency network. In the notes I relayed how 80 percent of their content initiatives were oriented around brand CSR projects (in order for the content to have any relevance and engagement to the audience). In many cases, a CSR project actually had to be first developed by the brand just so relevant content could be filmed around it.

Later, I stopped in my local Venice, Calif., coffeehouse and noticed that three laptops were simultaneously playing the same piece from Google Video: “Professor Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.” (Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has advanced cancer, and his lecture was modeled after a series of “final” talks given by academics about subjects that matter to them.)

At the end of the day I accessed Oprah and self-help author Eckhardt Tolle’s first Webinar. In the process, I came across some audience metrics and discovered that it had been the largest Web gathering in history. About 500,000 virtually attended the live event and, since then, it’s had close to 2 million views.

As the light faded that evening I found myself asking, “What’s happening here?”

It appears that while our industry is scrambling to reorganize its structures around technological trends, platforms and formats, the audience is organizing itself around content. And, it would appear, a particular kind of content.

The book, Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism (the latest in a series that predicted trends such as the information economy and the global village), forecasts that this type of content, call it “conscious content,” will be a major trend over the next decade. If “conscious content” feels a little too New Agey, we might call it “content that touches the hearts of the audience.” If that still sounds touchy-feely, let’s call it “content that makes people want to be more like Randy Pausch than Paris Hilton.”

This begs a question: How long will it be before a major agency network’s infatuation with techno-centric categories begins to wane, and it returns to the deeper, more lasting and way more profitable relationship with the audience? The human family is where our bread gets buttered. How long before we organize our structures around their content consumption as opposed to whatever type of box they happen to be watching it on? How long before a progressive agency network or, more likely, a progressive entertainment brand, hangs a shingle on an experimental division with the title, “Conscious Content?”

If audience momentum isn’t enough to make the industry move in its direction, then it can resort to a buzzword it already uses: “ecology.” The most important ecology on the planet today isn’t that of the polar ice caps and the rainforests. It’s the ecology of human consciousness. We have reached the point where as this ecology goes, so go all ecologies we touch: environmental, cultural, corporate, familial, etc. We have the honor of being the industry that creates the main input of this seminal ecology: media content.

How unconscious will we remain, or how conscious will we become, of that honor? And will we create this content by choice or, as is the pattern, because it’s mandated by our audiences and brands? It was hard not to notice that the sponsor of the Oprah and Tolle Webinar was not some crunchy New Age brand, but one of the most conservative Middle America brands in existence: Chevrolet.