In a recent post on Doc Searl’s Project VRM site, responding to a post on ReadWriteWeb, Doc says he’s “flattered to be called an academic”, (he probably deserves that tag now, so perhaps he shouldn’t be) but plainly takes umbrage at Bernard Lumm’s observation in an interview with Richard de Silva from Highland Capital Partners, that:
“…Some recent blog chatter says that online advertising is doomed. The best reasoned case for this is made by Doc Searls (of ClueTrain Manifesto fame), who is touting his radical Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) as an alternative.”
Doc responds that: “if VRM is radical, it’s not in an oppositional way. It’s not against advertising, or CRM.” – OK… it might not be against ‘Advertising’, but my understanding has always been that VRM grew out of, and was defined as being antonymous to CRM. If its not “against CRM” what is its agenda? So, there seems to be some back-peddling going on… with Doc wanting to clarify VRM as not really so “Radical”.
(As I said in my comment on Doc’s Blog) The real problem is that VRM is not so much being ‘radical’ as ‘rhetorical’ i.e. “expressed in terms intended to persuade or impress”…
Doc takes a swipe at both Bernard Lunn and Richard de Silva (from Highland Capital) by saying:
“ReadWriteWeb is a micro medium. So is Digg, in which Highland is an investor. They may be big on the Web, but they’re micro next to the giants of mass marketing that have kept Madison Avenue in business… What keeps ReadWriteWeb and Digg in business isn’t Madison Avenue. It’s Highway 101.“
Yes, ReadWriteWeb and Digg are being driven by “Highway 101″ (if by ‘Highway 101′ Doc is referring to a mass of users themselves) however, the major problem for VRM is that it is patently NOT being driven by Highway 101… It is ideologically concerned with “Highway 101″ without a broad validation by its claimed constituency… Therefore, its weakness is that it comes across as a ‘top-down’ prescription for a ‘bottom-up’ solution.
For Doc to make statements like: “VRM is also about Highway 101. It’s is one more stage in the not-very-seamless transition to whatever succeeds mass marketing.” actually succeeds only as a rhetorical statement, which he is not supporting by any compelling argument.
Further, to say: “Our job is to make the pudding that proves our ideas.” is very much like the statement Doc made last year in his post ‘Clues vs. Trains, cont’d’ (http://tinyurl.com/c2rld3) that: “We need the invention that mothers the necessity” – and as I pointed out that the time:
“We need the invention that mothers the necessity ~ That is an inversion of a parable, the same way that VRM is an inversion of CRM. I get it, and its clever, but… the inverted meaning really kind of messes with the logic of the original parable. The original, points to what drives human invention: ‘need’. To say that we need the invention to mother the necessity (i.e. the need) is to almost admit that ‘need’ has failed to be the driver.”
– June 2, 2008
Where is the mass bottom-up push for VRM from Highway 101? Many of us see the ‘need’ (me included)… but you can’t pronounce the solution into being, and you can’t rely on an “open-source” approach to magically provide the answer. This is the ‘Achilles heel’ of VRM… and (I still think) The exponents of VRM have to address this ‘elephant in the corner of the room’, before they try and address ‘managing vendors’ on behalf of customers.
[note: I support the overall ideas behind the VRM movement, but have issues with the rhetoric and the process, rather than the desired outcome]