Fragmentation of Mass Messaging: The Past 10 Years of Direct Marketing Part 2

[Editor’s Note: This is the second article in an eight-part, weekly series.]
On Sept. 11, 2001, I watched the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapse the way most everyone did in the United States: I saw it on TV. Then I rushed to my job as a daily newspaper reporter in Cleveland, where I helped put out an afternoon edition of what was normally just a morning paper. By the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I was living in New York and running a news and opinion site where I could get the news out myself, without having to “stop the presses!”

I didn’t realize it then, but that one horrific day perfectly illustrated the fragmentation of mass messaging to come.

In 2001, the Internet wasn’t the first way to reach most members of the public. Even though online versions of the news sites existed, fewer people were likely to click on The New York Times, USA Today and CNN than to see them in print or on television. Plus, they couldn’t check @NotifyNYC, @NYPDnews or @FDNY, because Twitter didn’t launch until 2006. Telecommunications then were, and still are, invaluable, but have possibly undergone the largest evolution I’ll mention here.

Although publishers are direct marketers who understand the lessons here, because they’ve had to adapt or shut down, they’re not the only ones who know how much fragmentation can impact a business model. Direct marketers, as a whole, now work to be where their customers are and integrate the customer experience in all channels into a relevant dialog. But to me, it looks like what they’ve really done is learn a lot from history.

A decade ago, a news consumer likely watched television, read the newspaper for a more detailed account of the story, called relatives to ensure they were OK, left voice mail messages and wrote emails to the people they couldn’t reach, listened to the radio for updates, mailed greeting cards, and wired money. That’s a lot of channels, and marketers were already using and benefiting from them. For instance, Americans got the message and donated $2.8 billion to help the victims of 9/11.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

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