Media and Advertising

Danwei: Socialistic anarchists eating our own babies

Sir Martin ponders the threat of socialist anarchists
The previous post about the South China Morning Post's clueless Internet stategy referred, for balance, to some comments by Martin Sorrell, advertising Borg WPP's chief, warning media executives against free content.

It seems that Sorrell is on the warpath against free content. The Financial Times also quoted him on June 20, using rather strong language:

The head of the UK advertising group also acknowledged the difficulty of competing against websites that destroyed business models. “How do you deal with socialistic anarchists?” he asked, referring to Craigslist, the popular, free classified advertising site that has been threatening revenues at US city newspapers.

“The internet is the most socialistic force you’ve ever seen,” he added, noting that the response from some media groups had been to offer their content for free in traditional and digital form.

“They have decided – ‘if I don’t eat my children, somebody else will’,” he told executives from UK regional newspapers attending an industry conference, adding that he disapproved of giving away content for free. “You should charge for it if the consumer values the content,” he said.

He also took the chance to complain about young people and their attitude to working for huge coporations:

Sir Martin believes that the shortage in human capital would be one of the main challenges facing companies in the future, and successful companies were those that could “find, retain, and incentivise good people”.

Young people, accustomed to quick response on the internet, were shunning hierarchical organisations where decision-making took a long time.

“You saw this in the first web boom and you’re seeing it now . . . There are significant changes in the attitudes of young people. They would rather work in smaller, less bureaucratic companies.”

If free content is socialism, you're currently reading the online journal of the workers paradise! 社会主义好!

To quote Mao Zedong again, 天下大乱,形势大好 -- Everything is chaos, the situation is excellent. At least for smaller, less bureaucratic companies that are used to dealing with socialism and chaos.

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There are currently 7 Comments for Danwei: Socialistic anarchists eating our own babies.

Comments on Danwei: Socialistic anarchists eating our own babies

It's too late. There's already way too much free content out there for people to pay for anything that isn't far far above the norm. Sitting here in the U.S., the only general circulation internet news site I think is worth paying for is the Wall Street Journal. is also excellent as well. What else? is worth it too.

As an Economist subscriber and cog in the mighty WPP empire I feel qualified (probably wrongly) to comment upon this issue.

"Socialist Anarchist"? I've just reviewed the various scriptures, documents, charters and writs that form the underpinning of modern western society (yes, I know we're in China, but WPP is English) and I can find nothing that suggests that man is morally obliged to charge for a service that he renders. I often do things for people for free because, well, just because it feels good. I had no idea that made me a socialist anarchist. Perhaps I should seek treatment.

I would never want to criticize the man who sits at the apex of the enormous chain of command beneath which I toil. So I will critize a hypothetical advertising magnate with similar opinions whom I will refer to as "Merton Squirrel". Merton Squirrel is not meant to represent anyone real, you understand.

If I were to encounter Mr. Squirrel and hear the opinion that free content is "socialist anarchy" I would think that Mr. Squirrel had been into the fungal rye bread. My suspicion would be that the man feels many aspects of his traditional business model are under threat, and that this is extremely worrisome. For instance, Google is advertising driven "free content", and ad agencies play very little role in its operation, and are thus not able to take their customary tax on the revenue flow.

But it's not as if the idea of free content was invented with the Internet. Until cable television introduced us to monthly subscriptions, television was free content supported by advertising. Free newspapers have a long and glorious history. Last weeks's Economist (regrettably not free) had an article pointing out the success of Metro, the Daily Mail groups new free paper in London. I see no reason why newspapers can't find a way to make the same model work online. But will not be easy.

Whether Mr. Squirrel likes it or not, newspapers are in decline not because people don't want news or because sinister Craig Newmark destroyed them through the red hand of socialist anarchy, but because the fundamental nature of information distribution has changed underneath them. It is natural that newspapers would then experiment with how to survive that change, and it would be folly to assume that old models, such as charging for access, would necessarily apply.

I would suggest to Mr. Squirrel that ad agencies and PR agencies had better learn the same lessons. That is, if Mr. Squirrel were a real person, and not just a figment of my imagination.

As for the latter part, I had no idea that the Internet was responsible for making people not want to work for large corporations. Shocking. You mean, if I didn't surf the web I might actually *want* to work as an invisible mote in a large, slow-moving, bureaucratic organization wedded to an apparently crumbling business model? Why didn't *anyone* tell me?

Ah, now I see why we have so many bloggers in the Socialist China! (Very well put, Will)

hahah.this is my note

i like hk newspaper.also i din't buy hk newspaper!!!

You have no idea how many people toil for Merton Squirrel, for the blogger ESWN is also a corporate slave to him. However, ESWN is so far removed in the corporate Excel pyramid scheme from Merton Squirrel (many more than six degrees!) that he feels secure enough to maintain a blog which must be considered to be detrimental to corporate interests.

But ESWN's colleagues and his boss and his boss's boss and even his boss's boss's boss are fully aware of his subversive activities and checks up on his exploits many times each day.

The fact is that Merton Squirrel has no idea what his tens of thousands of employees are up to, and some of them are in fact the worst kind of socialist anarchists imaginable!

Long live Proudhon! Long live Bakunin! Long live Kropotkin! Amd above all, long live Emma Goldman!

The below is from The Guardian, an opinion piece called 'Beware false prophets of the internet age'. The article is a little all over the place, but there are some interesting points:

For aren't J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and Mather, historic names from the WPP collection, legacy businesses, too? And what precisely are advertising agencies and their great media-buying adjuncts for any longer? The legacy newspaper distribution business, under OFT pressure, is currently being asked whether driving diesel-fuming lorries along motorways in the middle of the night is the best way of getting millions of surplus copies to recycling dumps 24 hours later. You could ask much the same question about advertising agencies.

The article is at:,,1805274,00.html

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