Saturday, 11 April 2009


Not many of you would link 50 Cent, the rapper, with HP's Social Computing Lab. But they agree completely when it comes to understanding the relationship between relevancy and the scarcity of attention in today's media market.

In a recent interview the 50 Cent was asked who has the best model for staying relevant to fans [amongst his rivals]? He answered:

"Puffy has the best model for staying relevant, because [he does it] without a song. He’s been able to maintain an interest and stay in a space to executive produce television and film projects, and stay relevant to hip-hop culture. What was the last record that made you feel like, ‘Oh, my God, Puffy is on fire’? You don’t need it. That’s what makes his business model exciting to me.'

Smart words. 50 cent is no fool. To be up there and successful in today's media is no small task. Diddy and 50 cent know the art of public relations very well, and have the knack of being able to read the zeitgesit, contrive a story that is newsworthy, and consequently keep themselves in the spotlight. 50's approach is usually to contrive a 'beef' with another rap star, or cause some type of 'trouble' to re-affirm his positioning as rap's most dangerous bad boy. Diddy 's approach is to push his take on glamour and hedonism, he has even coined a term for it - Ghetto fabulous. This is all skillful, professional stuff - sophisticated public relations.

For a rap star and for a brand keeping relevant is today's key skill. However, attention is today's most valuable commodity, only a few can aim to be relevant at a given time. It's a zero-sum game. In a recent post on the BBC, Bernardo Huberman, a senior fellow at HP labs, and head of HP's Social Computing Lab, has called this a return to the "dawn of the age of intimacy".
Huberman and his fellow researchers have focused on what people do when information becomes more available, cheap and valueless. He and his team have studied why people gravitate to certain websites, stories or products and how long they stay there. "Attention is now the key commodity in this information explosion," said Mr Huberman.

For those striving to be novel and popular at the same time for a long time, Mr Huberman suggested looking at how Paris Hilton maintains near constant headline status.

"There is something to be said about people that, however trivial we might consider them, manage to create enough novelty to be on the front news page all the time.

"If I were to do something idiotic like stand on my head now on this table perhaps some of you might write about it. If I keep doing that every hour of every day of the week, most likely you won't do it. So I have to invent new things to be on the news the way Paris Hilton is.

"That's a huge talent in a sense," said Mr Huberman.

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