“All I have to offer this morning is grim reality.” Bob Garfield certainly didn’t pull any punches.

He is currently the co-host of WNYC’s On the Media, with a journeyman career as a columnist, critic, essayist, pundit, international lecturer and “caster both broad and pod.” In the opening keynote of the 2018 Email Evolution Conference, Garfield shared quick review of what he described as “our media economy.”

With the newspaper and magazine industries “in the toilet,” Garfield says digitally-native publications are plentiful but “almost universally unprofitable.” Why is that? Lower barriers to entry leads to millions of sites, stolen content, and a fast-moving battlefield for eyeballs and minimal ad revenue. “

“Now the same digital revolution that undid the media economy offers ad blockers, filters, DVR and more ways to avoid advertising.” All this effort, just to dodge some ads? Garfield says that most of the money spent advertising for brands is wasted. “To some people, all advertising is spam.”

“The collapse of mass media also led to the collapse of mass marketing.” This has led to the necessity of one-to-one customer relationships at scale, to the benefit of email marketers according to Garfield.

And the corporate misbehavior that continues to sew mistrust? It’s not going away anytime soon, and will only be amplified due to the democratization of web content. “Thanks to Google and social media, everything a brand does is there to exist in perpetuity,” he observed.

“At just the moment trust has become so important, trust in everything is plummeting.” For 2017 to 2018, trust in businesses, NGOs, government and media all fell by at least double digits according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Garfield points to the election of Donald Trump, whose loose relationship with the truth has “made Americans feel dismayed by their institutions, the media,” and many others.

How to fix this collapse in trust? Garfield offered a three-part, unrealistic plan as a potential solution:

  • Break up the Facebook/Google duopoly? – Garfield does say at the outset this is not likely, but that the two companies need to restore trust in their judgment and ability to act responsibly.
  • Repair the media economy – Blockchain seems to be a promising opportunity, according to Garfield. He says frictionless payment would help to fund content and improve ad placement abilities.
  • Truth, Justice, and the American Way – Through honest and brutal transparency, Garfield says it’s time for a restoration of trust in our democracy and media. Show media consumers how journalism is conducted. Pull back the curtain to reveal the important work done behind the scenes in government.

Outside of these efforts, Garfield urged attendees to continue to conduct business in honest and ethical manners. For members of the Email Experience Council, that’s an important call to action.

Want more expertise from the top email marketers in the game? Stay tuned to this blog or follow the hashtag #EEC2018!