The Collapsing Line And The Digital River Running Through Us


“I sing the body electric”

Walt Whitman

Marketingland likes to draw lines. It has long liked to distinguish between so-called ‘above-the-line’ content and ‘below-the-line’ content. Not that real people in the real world saw a line run through their habits and days. 'Above' was big, expensive, and broadcast. 'Below' was more narrowcast, less communal. Or stuff we didn’t understand. Or much care for.

And to this marketers have added the distinction between the 'online' and the 'offline'. Online was anything you did at a computer. Offline was anything that wasn’t constructed out of ones and zeros and networked.

Now however, when digital content is increasingly everywhere, being built into everything, when it’s being integrated into products and environments making them intelligent and responsive, when screens and access devices are portable and powerful, when we can upload and download anything anywhere all the time, the notion of there being ‘online’ and ‘offline’ behaviours and experiences evaporates completely. The distinction is meaningless.

Increasingly, we are always on. ‘Online’ is no longer a destination, a place that we visit. There is no “-line” of any kind. The dyke separating the digital sea from our environments and lives has collapsed. Digital is no longer a separate place but is being woven through the very fabric of our everyday existence. Wherever you are is where digital is. Digital is a river running through us.

WE are what’s digital.

So hurrah for the end of the divide, of the line, of digital. They were silly distinctions that got in the way of seeing clearly the only thing that matters. People. And what we make for them. The end of the “-line” refocuses us, finally, on creating satisfaction, delight, value, surprise, and awe in the lives of consumers. Now let’s just get on with creating awesomeness.