Welcome to the Outrage Economy

In front of me is a 65-inch Vizio TV that has my Twitter feed streaming on it in TweetDeck.

Over the past decade since Twitter started I’ve hand followed 90,000 accounts, and every half a second or so a new tweet appears on the first column. I rarely look at it because it moves too fast.

When I do look I see just how noisy our world has become (instead I watch mostly the 10 lists where I split that stream up into journalists, investors, founders, and companies).

I started my career in media back in the 1970s at a small Silicon Valley church (I ran one of its three TV cameras for a show that was shown on Sundays and in the middle of the night) and back then the world was a lot less noisy.

Really most of us back in the late 1970s only had four or five TV channels to watch and one or two local newspapers to read.

Life was so much less noisy and, even, outrageous back then.

Today my kids with my current marriage, who are now eight and 10 years old, have had their own iPads since they were about a year old and are now adept at moving around YouTube (both learned to navigate that before they could read). When I was a child I had to go outside, breathe the fresh air, and knock on our neighbor’s door to have any fun. Funny, my own kids recently learned that joy, they play with the kids of someone who works for Facebook who lives two doors away and who believe in keeping their kids off of electronic devices. I’m coming around to that style of parenting.

Back then if we wanted to get a message out to everyone we would have to convince many committees or spend many dollars. Heck, the TV camera I ran cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (in 1980s dollars) and a local TV station came and trained us on how to align its tubes and, even, store the cable properly to it, which, unlike the $19.99 cable to my iPhone, ran many thousands of dollars itself.

Today your phone not only can do all that, but does it with a far nicer picture and does it live on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Our church never could afford to do live TV, instead we would run a video tape down to the local TV stations that we broadcast on.

Which shows the shift in our media in just one lifetime. Today we all have our own TV channel thanks to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or Periscope on Twitter, and we can use it to broadcast literally everything from your husband getting shot by the police to infinitely funny stuff our kids do and everything in between.

Homework project: ask Google Assistant “show me a funny video.” Then say “show me another one” over and over and over. It will never run out of new ones to show you.

What does this new “everyone has a TV channel” world cause? A new world of attention-seeking media folks and new marketing teams designed to outrage you, get your attention, and then sell you product. I’m not the first one to notice this.

The Financial Times’ Robert Shrimsley wrote “What he grasped is that fame is easy to obtain if you do not care what price you must pay for it.” Which gets me to why I’m an authority on this, and why I’m writing a book about it, along with a few others who serve this new marketing and political world. I was pretty good at it, building up to millions of followers across Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

My most outrageous image was seen more than 40 million times on CNBC, CNN, BBC, and in many many other media outlets (Edelman, the famous PR company, wrote in a report that what I did for Rackspace brought at least $1.5 million of free PR to it). My wife shot it and we designed it to gather attention AND get distributed in the new media atmosphere. I told my wife “make sure you don’t shoot any nipples.” We knew the rules, Facebook would never have distributed it if it includes nipples. It blocks photos of even mothers feeding their babies, which, on its own is outrageous.

Our media has responded in kind, too. Advertising rates are so low that most media companies have fired their fact checkers and are living off of the brands that were built over decades. Many readers haven’t figured this out yet, and assume that everything they read or hear is true. I can tell you it’s not.

Heck, my own former boss lied about me two weeks ago and had to retract his statements. It’s so easy to get caught up in all this move to gather, and control, your attention. This need for control of attention is changing how our companies are built.

A couple of days ago a CEO of a new augmented reality company was here as part of the research for the new book that I’m writing and he was watching my Twitter stream and noted that inside companies is just as noisy now. He told me he uses Beachhead Strategy now to deal with the noise. What is that? Tim Berry writes about that here.

Basically he got everyone to buy into a singular strategy and then he turns down everything that doesn’t fit into that strategy. “It’s really hard, as a startup,” he told me, “to turn down new business of hundreds of thousands of dollars.” He told me by chasing all new business he almost killed his business.

Same is true for media types like me, which is why I focused so hard on VR and AR over the last couple of years. Was that a mistake? Many of my friends think so, one told me to get out of that because neither VR nor AR will be important in 2018, he said. Maybe in 2020 when Magic Leap and Apple ship their products, but not now. Me? I see that differently, that AR is a new user interface that will come to define computing over the next decade so I don’t see that investment as a bad one, and will continue to do speeches and articles about it, even as I take a look at the broader market again.

What am I finding?

A new series of tools that entrepreneurs are using to generate their products, find customers, and track and move them down paths toward conversion.

A guy who worked in growth hacking (term for new age marketer) at Lyft gave me a list of tools he uses:

http://www.curveju.mp/ (manages ideas)
https://gsuite.google.com/marketplace/app/streak_crm_addon_for_gmail/800057673271 (CRM for Gmail, tracks all sorts of stuff)
https://www.busybot.com/ (Slack project management)
http://www.codesign.io/ (manages visual projects)
https://wipster.io/ (manages content teams)
https://frontapp.com/ (manages shared address like contact@ or help@)
https://buddypress.org/ (manages online communities, teams, or groups)
https://www.learndash.com/ (manages online courses and training)

Instead of playing VR or with my Microsoft HoloLens all day, I’ve been going through each of these tools, along with others, and finding they are all developed for this new Outrage Economy.

The teams I’m working with now are using these, along with many other techniques, to guide corporate storytelling, product development, customer acquisition, and more. I’m now interviewing entrepreneurs, and others, including musicians, with a new focus on how they use these new tools to manage themselves.

Look at how Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, picked new cultural norms.

1,200 employees sent in submissions that were voted on more than 22,000 times. They held more than 20 internal focus groups. Internally that’s a HUGE amount of noise for executive teams to go through to pick what’s important. The teams I’m working with will dig into how this is done, I saw early stages of it when I worked at Microsoft, where Bill Gates, a decade ago, had a wiki where any employee could give feedback to him and other executives.

Today the tools are far more advanced and employees are far more empowered thanks to Slack and Atlassian’s tools.

Managing outrage is becoming a real corporate thing.

I’m gathering examples of how companies are managing our outrage with new style marketing campaigns. Here’s one from Samsung. That is only the tip of the outrage iceberg, though.

Marketers are learning new outrage techniques from politicians, including from the head of our outrage, Donald Trump, who used these techniques, possibly with Russian help, to get elected.

Did you know that PR teams now have groups of people they can A/B test marketing messages like this to? All split up by demographics? I’m digging into how these work.

They know how their messages work before they even put out a press release. In politics they know how triggered a liberal housewife in Marin will be, compared to a conservative one in Kansas, and how likely that message will be to drive action. Same in business now.

Samsung knows how likely an Apple user will be triggered by that ad campaign and how likely that will convince a likely Android buyer to go with its new phones instead of a Pixel 2 or a Huawei model.

Marketers use your outrage to sell product and get through the noise of social media where everyone has their own TV station.

That isn’t all, though. Now that they know how each demographic will react they know how to advertise using Facebook, Google, and Twitter’s ad targeting technology. Can you find the likely buyers of your product? The new marketing teams can.

My new partners which you’ll hear about more soon are authorities here and speak at conferences on these topics all over the world.

Finally, these companies look for ways to cheaply find customers using influencers. I recently spent time with a bunch of influencers who have large audiences on YouTube to find out how they work and, even, was part of Huawei’s influencer marketing team called “Key Online Leaders” and saw that from the inside.

Our book, speaker series, and classes to come in the second half of 2018. I’m working with lots of companies behind the scenes as a consultant, too, and that learning will get into the book as well.

A decade ago Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow” explained how marketing would be done for the last decade. But today it’s not enough to be merely remarkable. Your company must break through the online outrage to simply get heard.

Welcome to the outrage economy.

Please let me know other examples that should be included in these efforts: scobleizer@gmail.com