The more I think about it, the whole advertising business can be summed up in two words: convergence and consensus. Create a place where everyone converges and then build consensus among them.
Pre-internet, the convergence and consensus business used to be a lot easier. People converged around a few tangible places: the TV, Radio, the publications in the newsstand, etc. As a consensus builder (i.e. marketer) you could find the medium where your customer was converging - this was easy given the built in physical distribution channels that mapped to the physical world we live in - and try to sway them with relevant messaging.
But what if there is no single place where people converge? Or worse, what if it isn't possible to build consensus at the point of convergence? Or even worse, what if there are many convergence points, none of which have a critical mass of audience and none of which map to the physical world in which we reside? What do you do then?
It's pretty obvious that, at this point, the traditional points of convergence (TV, radio, newsstand, etc.) now take a back seat to the internet for raw usage (i.e. reach). Unlike those formats where there are physical limitations to where the eyeball can wander, because of the cheap costs of creating an online presence, the total number of places to converge online is at an unimaginable level (as embodied by the long tail concept). So what happens? Somebody (Google) builds a front door to this mess and hands out the best directional guide to wading through it, and voila, people converge there. We're back in business then, right?
Well, actually no. Not If you are in the convergence and consensus business. Google's homepage is designed precisely to not allow for consensus building. It's clean and uncluttered, with no opportunity to sway. Page 2 of Google (the results page) is a different story. That is entirely a consensus building page - both paid for (SEM) and otherwise (more on this in another post).
However, the consensus is built on that page is limited to an extremely narrow topic. With so many places to go - and searches being snowflake-like (i.e. no two being the same), the top search terms for any given day represents less than 1% of the total searches processed. As a result, most folks on Google aren't even getting to the same second page. So the reality is that there is no real convergence/ consensus point on Google.
This is the dilemma. Take the case of the local politician. How does he or she reach their constituency to make a case for their votes? As noted above, TV, radio, newspapers won't do it - they have no reach. On line, the convergence point of the net (Google) just doesn't work for him either. Unless someone is searching "[city name] election" or something along those lines, know one will know he exists on Google.
His other online options are to either seek out the non-search sites that his constituency tends to read (local newspaper.com, etc.) or perhaps work with an ad network that does geo-targeting. Given the that local newspaper.com is only reaching a fraction of the populace's audience, and that the ad networks are also limited by their distribution capabilities across a very long tail, these attempts are not likely to lead to good results either.
So what does he do? Oh, I know what you're thinking - the answer is literally right at your fingertips, he should start a blog and message out himself. This is true, he could start a blog - and he's likely get some links from friendlies and perhaps a bit of search traffic. But then to go beyond that small audience, he'd have to market it - drive traffic to it, keywords, SEO, ad buys, build consensus around it, etc. In other words, he's back to square one.
And there lies the dilemma of this distributed network we call the internet. Right now, there's no single point(s) of both convergence and consensus that map to the physical world we live in. And that's what I call opportunity.