- Global Managing Director, Havas Media Group
- Chairman, Havas Media Group France & UK
- President, Vivendi Content
- Vivendi Board Member
- Emmy Award winner 2006
Agnès Yun’s robust exposition of ‘Organic Media’ — contained within these pages — is almost certainly the most comprehensive of its kind.
An ambitious piece of work, it takes us on a journey from the dark ages, when humankind inscribed messages on rocks, through to today’s world of interconnected, ‘living and breathing’ media — and networks such as Facebook with members now exceeding more than a billion, worldwide. Yun amply demonstrates how, along this path, we have ourselves become ‘nodes’ within the network in a 24/7 connected and global society.
Professor de Kerckhove, author of The Skin of Culture and Connected Intelligence, claims that Yun’s illuminating and broad thinking has changed his own outlook on networks. “I see network as an architecture of connections. My limitation in imagining network as an architecture was that it was inert”, he admits. “Agnès Yun’s Organic Media changed that for me… She elicits new keys to understand what is really happening in the digital culture and how to benefit best from it”.
It is the link between the human and the electronic that gives technology today something of an ‘organic’ power. And, as more and more of our lives play out online, there is increasing difficulty in separating the human or the organic from the electronic or the technological.
This book, then, contains the life-story of media. Age-old assumptions about how the media world operates are no longer valid. Agnès Yun illustrates how media lives and evolves, continuously — hence the coining of the phrase, ‘Organic Media’.
So you can imagine my delight when — having been expounding the merits of ‘Organic Marketing’ (my own phrase) to our teams at and our clients at Havas — I met Agnès and discovered that, in the process of writing this book, she has succeeded in explaining our shared passion: ‘organic’ media. And, as an academic, but one with vast business experience, not only does she point out how an organic approach is vital to marketers today, she gives evidence as to why this is so. This book is jam-packed with original insights, astute observations, and visionary thinking,
She takes inspiration from Marshall McLuhan — a man I am known to quote in presentations and meetings — but extends his thinking yet further, given that his most widely known work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, was published back in 1964. Professor de Kerkhove, in his foreword to this book, has already pointed to the many parallels in their thinking. For instance, he quotes McLuhan: “We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us”. This is more evident than ever before, now that we spend many of our waking hours in front of a screen — creating, re-creating, replicating and consuming. Indeed, these are the four stages of content mediation as set out in this book – which makes it essential reading for those seeking to evaluate the real or potential impact of a promotion campaign, as de Kerckhove so rightly says.
But this book is more than just an academic text. Yun links the theory to business. She provides evidence as to why, in today’s media world, it is all about context. “Today, no service (application, device or content) is entirely isolated”, she explains. “They are all part of the network; everything is a node connecting with everything else… Only those who continually evolve through the process of connecting can survive”.
This is the fundamental principle by which organic media operates and it is one that everybody involved in media need continually remind themselves of.
In traditional media, the ‘transmission’ of content is the final step in the process. Yet, as Yun demonstrates, when it comes to organic media, the real work begins after the moment of transfer. Once posted, content acquires an infinite potential for connection and evolution as users engage. She discovered this first-hand as she went about the business of publishing this book, little by little, on the Organic Media Lab. Yun admits that ‘unrelenting’ feedback was instrumental in her efforts to restructure and refine her work, and that “media without user participation is now an empty shell”.
“Traditional media focuses on displaying and exposing its messages to the public, whereas organic media applies itself to extending the life of its content and evolving further, by keeping users interested and getting them to connect”, she points out.
With insight and flair, Yun provides an exposé of how organic media operates. This is something many business leaders have yet to discover. It’s not just content-producers who need to wake up and smell the (organic) coffee, since ‘connectedness’ has become the new standard, both on- and offline.
There have been winners and losers already, of course. This book outlines how individuals and businesses can stay ahead. As millennials age, and a new generation — even more connected to technology — emerges, business leaders need books such as this to shake them out of old ways of thinking.
For instance, as Professor de Kerkhove points out, Yun’s prediction, that “In the future, everyone will be at once author and reader”, links to his very own neologism, ‘wreader’, which he says he uses to express the very 21st century phenomenon of reading on, say, a tablet — a process which involves high levels of interactivity and increasing compulsion to ‘share’ — particularly amongst millennials and their younger brothers and sisters.
With these pages we hear how Apple created an entire value chain for music, and Amazon unleashed the Kindle, thereby conquering the North American publishing market. The secret weapon they shared, as Yun points out, was to put ‘user experience’ first — even whilst this represented a shocking subversion of the long rule of ‘the linear value chain linking production, distribution and consumption’.
And, in this age of information overload, where people are creators of content — seeking services that save them time, context is more important than ever before. The context business is a ‘connection’ business, too, as Google demonstrates, in linking people with information, every second of every day.
Yun also points to the ever-growing need for data analysts. Exposing the secrets behind Amazon’s power, she writes: “Amazon is like the ocean where all streams of data end up. Countless people browse, search, review, recommend, and purchase. The dizzying profusion of traces they leave behind gets processed and filtered into information that’s relevant to me, and connected to my account”. Amazon’s service model is nothing less than ‘connection’, she finds.
And, in this world of what Professor de Kerkhove coins “liquid architecture”, data analysis is indeed key to uncovering patterns, processes and potential outcomes. De Kerckhove is right to warn that “quantified data is only an approximate indication of people’s involvement with a product or a service”. Media professionals have been grappling with rudimentary measurements of impact such as numbers of Facebook ‘likes’, just as the world around us keeps changing, and along with it our expectations when it comes to privacy, transparency, access and convenience.
Today, businesses of all shapes and sizes must ask themselves, ‘Why do we care and why do we share?’ All commercial models can in this way become ‘organic media’ if the business is willing to serve as mediator. Yun describes how Amazon has proved this over its 20-year evolution and how Facebook has proven itself capable of adapting to its users needs, too, just as Twitter has responded by combining forces with traditional TV to amplify the reach and the power of media both old and new.
In days gone by, of course, media wasn’t regarded as a network. Senders and receivers were clearly divided and influence was measured by reach. So we are living in an historic time, in which the value chain in media is being completely rewritten. “In another 100 or 500 years, our descendents will mark and study this age as a momentous turning point, as we did the Industrial Revolution”, predicts Yun.
I urge you to read this book, then, as it provides a convincing glimpse into a future where organic media is not a choice but a given.
The successful businesses of today and tomorrow will be messengers and mediators who help users connect more closely with one another, buy products more easily, and find what they need more quickly.
“We are all in pursuit of messages or media that won’t take up our valuable time”, writes Yun, as she invites us to join her on this ‘thrilling’ journey. That’s no hyperbole. The opportunities inherent in this new ‘organic’ order are infinite.
Dominique Delport, Global Managing Director, Havas Media Group, 2015.