Thanks b!X, for putting RB's argument for change so succinctly. If he'd done the same, we wouldn't have an excuse to debate the matter and he'd receive no royalties.
For my part, I don't foresee a transfer of marketing power and influence to the wired consumer so sudden that large businesses will be left out of the loop. I believe the customer has always had the power to choose but has not always exercised that power. Whether or not the Web will initiate (or has initiated) significant behavioral changes, is debatable. Our belief in it having done so is, at the moment, born more of conviction than hard evidence. Personally, I do believe that change is slowly taking place. Consumers are more informed and will become even more so in a process as evolutionary as past behavioral changes (forty years ago, educated customers were laughing at clueless corporates). Of course the clueless will ignore these changes and they will rightly go out of business. Those that acknowledge them, will become even more powerful. I'm talking the likes of Microsoft and .Net here (or AOL should it prevail), not made-for-Web business like the now profit-generating Amazon. I believe we underestimate the power of big business. Does Microsoft not "listen to our needs" and, as a result, do most of us not use their product? Okay, some of those here might not but 100m desktops do.
My point is that the process is as old as the hills and has taken place with the advent of every new medium in the past. In the long run, I believe most large businesses will adapt their tactics to market behavior but they will do so merely to continue exploiting the naivety of the average consumer.
If they do start engaging their customers in forums such as this one, they will do so to maximize priofit rather than indulge in sincere exchanges of mutually beneficial ideas. (Could it also not be that Chris has missed his own point, i.e. that he is tracing conversations that run far deeper, over longer time spans, than those that affect the hubbub of the day-to-day marketplace? I've a feeling he has a book addressing far wider issues fighting its way out of his crazed psyche.)
Back to the business of business though. What I perhaps should have asked in my last post was, "How does a debate like this move from being a prolonged chat between members of the market segment in question (this amounts to a pretty intimate circle of friends) to an engagement with hardnosed businesspeople or those charged with dumping product onto us? Do they give a damn whether or not they drown us in spam, be it in print, email, onscreen, or on the idiot box? Could they care less whether the Web survives another year? We'll always need bleach." The book, after all, clearly articulates its argument and needs little elaboration (I assume). We need some hard-eyed marketing practitioners rousting things up a bit. I suspect they might raise many of the same questions as Andrew Goodman of Traffick does in his now complete review of the book. Responses to the questions Andrew asks would be illuminating for business, the potential customer, and our buddy now eking out his existence on the publisher's pence.