From Degrees To Pixels

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It’s hard for many to embrace, but it’s a reality. Changes in business today are becoming more and more dramatic and pronounced.

It’s not just something that has been written about in this column for the past year and a half, it is change that has been nearly two decades in the making. The Internet is changing who we are and how we do business. The recession is also part of the equation, as it continues to push businesses to do more with less. Before the Internet, businesses really could do and say whatever they wished in one part of the world and change their story in another. There were many businesses that would have a great reputation in one city and be – practically – unknown, or despised, in another. There were local brands that could overpower the traditional advertising spaces in a small geographic region, and by doing so, would give off the perception that they had global reach, appeal and style.

Here’s a true story…

There was a growing company based on the West Coast in the U.S. that was doing little traditional advertising, but still gaining momentum and substantial market share because of the positive online word of mouth they were benefiting from. Their employees were proud to be a part of the company, but often complained in both employee evaluations and to Human Resources that they wished the company would do more in terms of advertising and getting the company brand "out there." In a very provocative move, the company informed employees that they were heading into a major branding initiative, but all they really did was take out two billboards. One was within view from the company’s head office, and the other billboard was placed near a high-traffic downtown intersection. The grumbles and complaints from the employees disappeared almost overnight. They would drive to and from work and see this massive billboard, and when they were out with friends and family on the weekend, they could point to the billboard proudly from the terrace of their pub of choice in the downtown core.

Perception was reality, and traditional mass media has a way of making things bigger, more important and even more relevant than they may be.

The rumble and buzz that is generated from traditional mass media coupled with a strong and solid online digital marketing strategy is really the big game in business hunting these days. Most businesses still struggle to really understand the power of New Media, and that’s mostly because the technology behind it is either one big question mark or something that scares them into the belief that they have to double-down on their IT investments (both staffing and infrastructure).

If you add it all up, it’s enough to cause any business to fall into analysis paralysis.

But the truth is that technology is not a barrier at all. There is a reason online platforms and channels like Twitter and Facebook are as popular as they are and why their usage and dominance trounces previously popular channels like Second Life and MySpace. What we’re quickly learning is that the reason they are so popular is that the technology behind them is not a barrier. In fact, the technology is easy and simple to use, and that is exactly why people are using it.

In an effort to make things easier for business, I wrote a book called Six Pixels of Separation (just like this column, my blog and my podcast), and it is in stores this week.

I’m sure you’re also wondering: "Why would a New Media guy take the time and effort to write a book?" The answer lies in my most recent visit to the car wash. While waiting for my car, I was approached by someone who reads this column every second week. They were both kind and flattering in saying they never miss it. The strange part is that if you like what I’m doing here, you do not have to wait two weeks to hear from me again. Every day, I add my thoughts and perspectives over on my blog, as well. And that’s the point: there are many businesspeople who are beginning to understand the shifts that the Internet has brought to business and media, but they’re not reading blogs, listening to podcasts or following anybody on Twitter.

They’re busy chasing airplanes or relaxing at home with the newspaper and some magazines when they finally get a break. The point of my book, Six Pixels of Separation, was to speak to businesspeople where they are most comfortable in a media format (hardcover book) they use. It was also important to use language they understand – the talk of business, strategy and how to make more money. I’m hopeful the book does well, but it is also an experiment to see how many people will make the transition from the printed word on the page to digital ones on their multiple screens.

So, as dramatic as the changes in business are because of the Internet, there is little doubt that as we move from degrees of separation down to pixels, there will be some overlap. Those who get through it and succeed will – without question – be the ones who can find the balance and bring their consumers from the old way of doing things into how things will be done going forward.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post the article here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

Montreal Gazette – Technology doesn’t have to be a barrier.

Vancouver Sun – Opinion: Local brands are now global.


  1. Mitch– Great column today. Your last point about why you wrote a book, so that you could use a medium and format and language that was comfortable for the intended reader, in this case business people, totally makes sense. It takes courage to be a 100% digital guy and then turn around and write a book. Cheers

  2. Great post Mitch. I read your blog almost religiously (smile). Your first to last paragraph which starts – They’re busy chasing airplanes or relaxing at home with the newspaper. . . is right on my friend. The genius in all of this (knowing how to maneuver successfully with the transformation of the economy) is understanding the different layers that exist and how to balance the old with the new and in the process forge contemporary and innovative ideas, processes and strategies of the future.

  3. I’m looking forward to reading the book! Even though I’m a digital native, rarely running for a plane, I like moving away from screens on occasion to a place I can read, consider and scribble in the margins. Now… can you reveal who the west-coast company you mentioned was? Or am I gonna find that in the printed pages?
    (By the way… great captcha application below!)

  4. I’m really taken with the idea that small is the wave of the future, that longtail will mean those huge companies with their big hits are going away. I see you work with larger companies. I would love to hear more on what barriers you’re hitting when working with larger clients. I work with entrepreneurs. The social media phenomenon is wonderful for them. They adapt quickly and have a lot to gain because their companies are smaller.

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