The Locality of Real Marketplaces

Recently, Doc Searls, for whom I have the deepest respect, summed up a recent piece on his blog with this :

Here’s where I’m going with this: The marketplace that matters is the primary one where we live and work and shop. Not the secondary one where people we don’t know are sniffing our digital butts to see what we’ve consumed and might want to consume instead (or again).

To which I had to add the following comment (replicated in this space for convenience) :

Is the world really this simple?

I believe one of the great promises of the internet/web is to help us create a much more pinpointed communication and accordingly a much more efficient and less wasteful distribution : in other words, let producers sell their products to their customers in more targeted ways, and let their customers more easily find what they’re looking for (and find what they’re not looking for, but are intensely interested in). In other words, a more connected world, with less waste of eyeballs, time, energy and ressources. Local producers need to reach their potential customers on the other end of the internet, especially if they’re producing within a niche, which does not make economically sense if based solely on their local customers (say, those within driving distance).

I agree very much the “sniffing of digital butts” (what a magnificent expression!) has come much too far. It extends and twists the thinking of conventional one-way marketing to “fit” an internet context and sees internet users as nothing but consumers in need of convincing to (occasionally) click on banner ads. It is indeed one-dimensional and short-sighted.

But where I disagree is that “local” businesses won’t need to connect with their current and potential customers on the other end of the internet, and in the process collect data on their transactions along the way. I believe you can do this respectfully and transparently, and partly have to, because you want to deliver the best possible (and less wasteful) communication and service.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 Doc Searls on 12.03.11 at 2:35 pm

In that excerpted quote I didn’t mean to say that local businesses won’t need to connect to customers and prospects, or that sellers shouldn’t collect transaction data. I do mean to say that the real-world marketplace is based on social contracts that are well understood, and here privacy for the most part is respected — and that this should be the model as we work toward coming up with appropriate ways of dealing with each other in the online side of the marketplace.