Thursday, January 20, 2005

2005 -- The Year of the Lawyer

The Year Will Bring a Perfect Storm of Law, Policy and Reform

Years from now, when we look back on 2005, we may remember it more for the disruption it brought – legal, social, and political – than the technological advances that caused that disruption. With the rapid emergence of new media (blogs, wikis, and other tools), marketers are now confronting an unprecedented number of questions about the law, policy and reform. You can almost say it’s a perfect storm. And in the eye of the storm is an unlikely hero – the techno-savvy, policy-making, forward-looking J.D.

More than anyone, the American lawyer will take center stage in 2005, sweating and vetting the biggest questions of the year – and taking and receiving the biggest rewards and punishments. And she will be very adept at dealing with one of the most potent new forces to emerge on the business and political landscapes – the network of bloggers that demonstrated its power in a series of well-documented episodes. Among many other achievements, in 2004 “the network” took down one of the most powerful anchors in television history (Dan Rather); forced a bi-partisan Congressional investigation into the integrity of the 2004 election; and drove a major brand to offer a free exchange for a faulty product in circulation (Kryptonite locks). What cause, business, or product is next? One thing is certain: as the network continues to develop its ability to investigate, assess and adjudicate, the scope of its activities will widen.

What will this mean for marketers? Is there anything we can do to prepare? Will the American penal system contribute fresh ideas to home design in 2005? Read on! These are our top ten predictions for 2005:


10. What is a journalist? This will be one of the biggest questions of 2005, as the lines continue to blur between bloggers and traditional members of the ink-stained class. But don’t expect the answer to come quickly, as businesses have begun suing bloggers for leaking “trade secrets” on their sites, a practice known as scooping in the world of journalism. With big-name analyst firms launching their own publications, expect the debate to get even livelier, for the entertainment and economic benefit of first-amendment lawyers.

9. The new face of “evil.” Microsoft-bashers had less to work with in 2004, and we expect a continuance on the reprieve that Microsoft enjoyed last year. So who, then, do reporters beat up on? Expect them to take a closer look at new market Titans. Questions: Will Google live up to its “don’t be evil” credo, or will Forrester Magazine replace halos with horns on Google co-founders Larry and Sergey? We’re betting – and hoping – that Google keeps the faith.

8. Green marketing won’t wash. 2004 was a banner year for less-than-genuine attempts to market companies around their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). But the blogosphere has gotten hip to the game, and has begun sorting the saints from the sinners. Advice to the would-be greenwasher: don’t do it. If your company is truly committed to CSR, the network will know it and reward you. If your company is not, but you say that it is, the network will rally and punish you.

7. Importing goods, but exporting marketing. In The United States of Europe (2004), Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid described a new economic colossus – the new European Union that already has an economy, and an export trade, superior to the United States. What does this mean for American technology marketers? With a threat equal in size coming from the East, the game of the 90’s may need to operate in reverse. Instead of teaching American companies how to sell abroad, in marketers will teach foreign companies how to sell in America.

6. Entertainment embraces P2P. We’re already seeing signs that the entertainment world – namely music and Hollywood – is growing weary of its litigation-only response to P2P networks. In 2005, expect public-policy lawyers to push aside the litigators as businesses explore ways to leverage the power of distributed networks. Biggest winner in 2005: Stanford Law School’s Lawrence Lessig, one of the architects for new IP economy.

5. The rise of citizen journalism. If 2004 was the year of the blog, 2005 will be the year of citizen journalism, a rather advanced iteration of the blogging phenomenon. Expect at least one major launch of a large-circulation online newspaper led by professional journalists, but staffed largely by grassroots, amateur reporters. The model for this – OhMyNews, the widely popular Korean outlet that was featured in Dan Gillmor’s We The Media, 2004’s best book on new media. But will Dan lead the first U.S. venture? (If he does, that would be a smart guess, not a scoop.)

4. Marketing gets transparent. Don Tapscott, the management consultant, recently sounded the alarm in The Naked Corporation. Message: businesses are hurting themselves by hiding the truth. Just as important, businesses that come clear and clean have a competitive advantage. This year, expect the debate to extend to the world of marketing, now that the network has gotten riled by recent transgressions in stealth promotions (e.g., the controversy surrounding BzzAgent), greenwashing (see prediction 8), and covert pay-for-play PR programs (e.g., the Armstrong Williams scandal). Again, the network will organize, reward and punish.

3. Open-source marketing. As quickly as stealth marketing falls into disrepute, an alternative model will emerge: open-source marketing. A few leaders in word-of-mouth marketing will take their greatest assets – networks of people who are willing to work on behalf of clients for little or no economic gain – but change the game by making the entire process more transparent. The first to experiment with the new model: non-profit causes with national agendas. They will teach businesses how this can be done, successfully and ethically.

2. Redemption for a celebrity prisoner. What would a year dominated by policy and reform be without a few well-known prisoners? In 2004, Eliott Spitzer and his brethren put away quite a lot of talent, and we’re betting that at least one their victims takes a star turn. The good money is on Martha Stewart, whose shrewd decision to serve her time early guarantees she’ll be out for NBC’s Fall lineup, with the help of producer Mark Burnett, creator of “The Apprentice.”

1. A star is scorned. And what would a year dominated by policy and reform be without a fall from grace? For the only thing we like more than creating a hero is taking him or her down a peg, when the opportunity arises. And make no mistake – the network will be watching.

So who will slip – Elliott Spitzer, a star reformer that the U.S. has not seen the likes of since Rudolph Giuliani (then U.S. Attorney) of the 80s? We doubt it. But if he does, we’ll advise him that he has the right to remain silent because the network guarantees that anything he says can and will be used against him.

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