The economy: what, me worry?

My daughter works at one of the big malls here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I paid her a visit yesterday. I had a pair of glasses that needed mending and thought it would be nice to have lunch with her. In light of the serious problems in the financial sector, I was stunned by the commerce taking place at the mall. Consumers, it would appear, haven’t really been affected. Yet.

A couple of years ago, my boss (Jerry Gumbert) and I were talking about the future of media, and we both agreed that 2009 was going to be rough. The handwriting was on the wall back then. General trends were pointing the way to the collapse of the hegemony that supports mass media, and I wrote about it in essays and here. One of the key points was the fragile economy, and the news from Wall Street over the past couple of weeks has made it even more dangerous for companies that rely on advertising.

Ad Age has an excellent overview of this today, and I encourage you to explore it and all of their coverage. Those people at the mall were oblivious to what everybody’s worried about — the trickle-down effect — but I can promise you that media companies are concerned. There are no Olympics next year. There’s no election. The business community is going to be hanging on by guarding the balance sheet, and that, too, will impact advertising. It’s going to be a rough ride.

Umair HaqueThe blogosphere has been alive with interesting thinking about all of this. Those who read new media economist Umair Haque, for example, have known this collapse was coming a long time ago. Umair has been talking about what he coined a “macropocalypse” for over a year, the only journalist of any stripe (that I’m aware of) to do so. He’s an economist by study and trade but a journalist by what he publishes. Here’s what he wrote in January:

I think 2008 is going to be an important year — and it’s important for us all to kick it off with more depth.

What’s gonna happen in 2008? The macropocalypse.

It’s not a credit crunch, or a liquidity crisis. Unfortunately, it’s a lot deeper than most of us think.

Now that it’s actually happened, Umair has taken an optimistic and high road view. Here’s the key part of his latest entry:

The real point is this. The time is now.

Now is the time for revolutionaries to step up and build something better, something more real, and something greater.

There will probably never — at least in our lifetimes — be an opportunity for total economic reinvention this tremendous.

Or this meaningful. Because that’s what it’s really about — not shareholder value, money, or “competitive advantage”.

But doing something that means something.

Haque may be idealistic, but he’s absolutely right. Status has lost its quo, and the ruins of a worn-out, modernist, institutionalized, greedy, fat-cat, gluttonous and self-centered financial system should serve — like the aftermath of a horrible war — as a starting point for something better. As taxpayers, we own much of it now, so there’s a big responsibility on everybody’s shoulders, especially those we elect.

November will be very much about the economy, of that I’m certain.

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