The future will be terrible because of what they’re telling you about the present.
Yesterday Digiday had an interview with Pat Keane, president of native ad inseminator Sharethrough, in which Keane declared, “Every publisher, if they don’t have a sound, scalable video strategy will die… You have to have broadcast-level investment oftentimes to be successful.” My first thought was, “Ugh, this shit again.” My second thought was, “Ugh, he’s probably right.”
Look, even though we know that readers and writers don’t want video — anyone who is interested in conveying or understanding information would much rather use a medium in which they are able to control the pace at which they process that information, and there has not been anything yet invented which does that better than the written word — we also know it doesn’t make a difference, because they are going to tell us that video is the future, so video is what we are going to get. (Why is video the future? You can charge more for it. Why do people lie? For money.)
[L]ately budding entrepreneurs in the consumer packaged-goods — CPG, as it’s known — business have discovered an even better one to be in: technology. Positioning your toothbrush company as a hot, new, high-growth tech startup means more investment (from venture capital firms), a higher valuation, and — most important — all the tech hype and glory that come with the sweet startup life. Private equity firms usually want to double their money for a nice, solid return. But venture firms want to centuple theirs to become filthy, stinking rich. (Bonus points if you “make the world a better place” in the process.) Who cares if a company’s product has no technological component? Plenty of startups peddle the line that selling their goods over the Internet — basic e-commerce, in other words — means they are “tech-enabled.”
“Disingenuous, maybe. But it’s a winning strategy,” notes Fortune’s Erin Griffiths. Which is to say these lies will continue to be lied so long as they can be gotten away with, and as long as they are needed to be told to establish facts on the ground. Now, sure, in the scheme of things “the future is video,” “we’re a tech company” or “those numbers don’t reflect our full reach because so much of our content is consumed directly on social media,” are less immediately dangerous than “global warming is fake,” “the election is rigged” or “I won’t come in your mouth,” but they do two things that are just as damaging in the long run: They help make the world demonstrably dumber by diminishing our ability to understand it, and they cause us to be more cynical and self-interested as a defense mechanism for coping with all the lies. In the end even those of us who go on and on about how everything is lies will be too tired to argue about it anymore and just give in and watch the video. You can’t fight the future, especially when there’s so much cash riding on it.