You may find some shivers up your spine (or argue, plausibility, that the story is just another fake conspiracy theory, when you read this Guardian article suggesting how shady operatives used sophisticated data mining techniques and social media to exert pressure on the key “1 per cent” to decide in favour of Brexit in Britain. And there is the more recent story about data dumping and game playing in the last seconds of the French election, and others about the increasing economic pressure and desperation of traditional print and broadcast media, as advertising dollars are sucked into Facebook and Alphabet (the new corporate name for Google.)
These topic, undoubtedly, will underly the themes within the mid-year planning review business at my own business, The Construction News and Report Group, as we continue to evolve from a print to digital company. While we still produce printed publications in Canada on old-fashioned newsprint, an increasing (and reaching majority) percentage of our revenues is coming from digital publications — though we are holding the line, somewhat, by producing them as digital magazines, with print-on-demand qualities (and so are able to command per-unit advertising rates much higher than pure online advertising offers.)
Are we entering a brave new world where artificial intelligence empowers us and frees us from the drudgery of menial details (or for that matter, of driving ourselves around), or are our lives and decisions increasingly being taken out of our control by shady operations playing around with big data and our minds?
I don’t have an easy answer to these questions and appreciate that they may seem distant from your interests as you think about how to promote your architectural, engineering and construction enterprises. Yet, I think they are important to consider.
More and more, marketing with new media (owned by a few large companies) depends on your capacity to slice and dice and reach emotionally to highly targeted niche demographics — and clearly these priorities have always been vital for the highly specialized audiences within the AEC community.
The solution to the power and control concentration may rest with small publishers such as our organization, who retain the focused industry knowledge and experience, both of the AEC and publishing communities. We’re carefully and strategically increasing the number of regional publications and media, and tuning in more closely to the powerful concentration within social and search media.
I hear the concerns and warnings such as expressed by The Guardian article, but also see hope — because forces of good, evil, power, control and freedom have always shaped our lives, and those of the media. Let’s keep our minds, and hearts, open to our own abilities to understand and respond.