Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hype Versus Buzz - An Introduction

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #58

1. to stimulate, excite, or agitate (usually followed by up  ): She was hyped up at the thought of owning her own car.
2. to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight.
3. to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually followed by up  ).
4. to trick; gull.

5. exaggerated publicity; hoopla.
6. an ingenious or questionable claim, method, etc., used in advertising, promotion, or publicity to intensify the effect.
7. a swindle, deception, or trick.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #9


2. a rumor or report.
4a. a feeling of intense enthusiasm, excitement, or exhilaration: I got a terrific buzz from those Pacific sunsets.

8. to whisper; gossip: Everyone is buzzing about the scandal.

    "Tout ce qui est exagéré est insignifiant."
   ("All that is exaggerated is insignificant.")

      - Talleyrand

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #43

     Given that they can both involve unadulterated praise, hype and buzz may seem synonymous until we look at their sources.  For our purposes, at least, hype is generated by interested parties:  artists, their family, friends, agents, managers, publishers, organizations, media or government.  Buzz is informal, usually shared between friends in the audience.  Advertising versus rumor.  Producers versus consumers.

     Deft promoters can "hype the buzz", as we saw with screaming throngs greeting the Beatles even before North American's had heard their music.  Occasionally, we'll encounter fans "buzzing the hype" by quoting some of the promotions.  For example, recording company execs might let it slip that their band, "The Bohemian Warthogs", were topping the charts, without bothering to add that this occurred only on two of Bug Tussel's alternative radio stations.  Hyping the buzz.  A listener might turn to a buddy and say:  "Check out the Warthogs;  I hear they're the hottest new band around."  Buzzing the hype.

Where did the supergroups go?

Peter Dinklage
     All things being equal, buzz beats hype.  Always.  This is because buzz is better targetted, coming as it does from those familiar with us and our tastes, cheaper and more reliable, free as it is of financial considerations.  The problem is that, before the advent of the Internet, things were hardly equal.  Even without payola considerations, 20th century promoters, through the power of their budgets, dominated the market with superbands, superauthors, and box-office hits from Hollywood to Broadway.

     Cyberspace in general and social media in particular have blunted this advantage.  With so many channels, so many interests and such accessible avenues, it may be impossible to monopolize the conversation and create another Star Wars, Beatles or John Gresham.  Thus, it is difficult enough to create a common reference (a "mini-icon"), let alone a Frank Sinatra or a Star Trek.  Can we mention Peter Dinklage with any confidence that people who don't get HBO will recognize the name?  Yes, hypertext linkage can help but it is a tedious and distracting substitute for pre-existing familiarity (especially in verbal communication).

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #52
The Buzz-Hype Gap

     When hype fails, as it often does, it involves a loss of credibility.  Blurbers, publishers or awards committees do themselves no favors by giving us quotidian text like this:

We walk
the grid road alongside furrows. I’m numb
to my friend’s talk of her car ride from the coast,
time she took to ponder -- should she leave
her daughter’s father? I can’t care now about her choices,¹
I’m just grateful that she’s here.

    If someone were to rave about your poetry you would, no doubt, be flattered until you saw them praise the above lines, at which point you'd recognize their comments as meaningless blurbing and flattery.  This is the "Miller's Son" dilemma that poetry organizations and their publications face:  in trying to please everyone they end up satisfying no one.  They may still serve as handy reference libraries but their lack of aesthetic consistency discredits them as discerning authorities. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #18
The Bottom Line

    This is modern art's version of The Great Compromise:  the move toward open, fair competition has come at the cost of the other, equally important, need:  objective filters.  This is all the more vexing in the absence of a significant market.

    People hate hype and hyperbole (except as humor).  That is why they zap commercials and avoid politics.  Today, new products seeking viable profiles will succeed or fail largely through word-of-mouth.  This is why Facebook is profitable. 

    Call it crude, scattered, unmanageable and often unmeasurable, but the democratization of speech has shifted influence from hype to buzz.

    What will this mean for the arts in general, poetry in particular?


¹ - Then why should we?


1. Hype Versus Buzz - An Introduction

2. Hype Versus Buzz - Ramifications

3. Buzz Versus Copyright

4. Hype Versus Buzz - Impractical Reality

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