Convergence: Born 199?, Died June 2, 2003

Convergence 1: the act of converging [coming together] and especially moving toward union or uniformity…. 3 : independent development of similar characters (as of bodily structure or cultural traits) often associated with similarity of habits or environment

Confluence 1. a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point, 2. a : the flowing together of two or more streams b : the place of meeting of two streams c : the combined stream formed by conjunction

No, this is not an English lesson. It’s a statement of the obvious we need to accept: Convergence is dead.

Exit Convergence

Uniting the TV and PC is the ideal convergence. Guess what. Didn’t happen, never will. Why? Because the very notion of convergence is flawed. From the literal interpretation of the word, “convergence” used to describe what technologies experience is impossible. When two things come together, one would assume this new thing encompasses both in one.

For example, in 1999 Mark Cuban got up in front of an audience of analysts, marketers, press, and the like at eTV World and unveiled the next-generation ubiquitous entertainment box. It had everything: TV, DVD, VCR, PC — it even did Windows. Needless to say, it was the first — and last — time this engineering feat was seen. Why? Convergence assumes all-in-one. This box was supposed to represent what many still chase: the all-in-one set-top box.

While the technology industry has been preaching convergence, marketers, advertisers, and developers have tried to overcome convergence’s barriers. Like, how to you change consumer behavior? How do you introduce bridge technologies? How do you program for two or more fundamentally different media? How do you keep manufacturing costs down? Failure after failure, mediocre performance after mediocre performance, the industry still chases the convergence pipedream.

I submit that convergence is dead.

Enter Confluence

Welcome, confluence. The beauty of the changed focus? Confluence is attainable. It centers on the juncture, the points at which two or more constants (whether data streams, forms factors, or consumer behaviors) come together, then emerge as one. This intersection, and the resulting new output, is where the next wave of thinking should focus.

Example: interactive television (iTV) commerce. What are the markets, behaviors, and so forth marketers must evaluate to understand where and how iTV commerce will develop?

Let’s take the best of TV (home shopping channels and infomercials) and the best of the PC (online shopping portals and retailers) and see what the confluence of these segments is. If each segment is represented by a circle, the intersection, or convergence, of the segments tells you the best of what each will contribute to the new entity. In this case, iTV commerce. Confluence of the convergent segments is the exciting part. Taking the best of each, merging them into one, and understanding how this new entity will act and react in a new marketplace is where we are today.

Theories aside, convergence is over. It never got started. By applying the concept of confluence to a marketplace, marketers arm themselves with a new toolset to help predict, develop, and target new and exciting products and services. Ones never before imagined.

Don’t miss ClickZ’s Weblog Business Strategies in Boston, June 9-10.

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