Back in the 1970’s, despite the best efforts of IBM and other large computer companies, computer users started to make their own. The barrier to entry was shrinking. Apple and garage based companies formed making hardware and software.
Since the computer, and later smartphone, became the ultimate communication, media production, and publishing / broadcasting device, it opened up the possibility for the audience to define what they wanted, rather than some monolithic gatekeeper that defined the products and rules about their industry.
Audiences Now Rule
Most media companies are still stuck in their self-defined rules and roles and trying to find a way in this new reality. They still want to control; but, that has been taken from them.
They don’t like it. New business models are talked about endlessly and tried but the traditional media companies still don’t get it. Do you think Blockbuster gets it yet?
A perfect example is the newspaper industry. Their answer today is paywalls. Control access to their content by forcing you to subscribe.
It works for the Wall Street Journal. Why? Because they have fantastic content. Emphasis on fan. The audience is willing to pay for it.
Not so for most local newspapers. Why? Because their content is often not fantastic and is not something the audience is willing to pay for.
The passive audience is tired of waiting. It reminds me of the Jack Johnson song, “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.” The active audience is now making it themselves.
It’s simple. Give the audience what they want and they will pay for it. Otherwise the audience will make the content and distribute it on their own.
The active audience realizes there aren’t many rules, set processes, or limits to production or distribution. They figure out what some audiences want and they give it to them. The passive audience is glad to consume it.
It’s demand filled by supply.
Publishers & Broadcasters Looking for Answers
The newspaper publishers, now semi-media companies, don’t get it. They are ‘semi’ because they are holding onto their rules and processes.
The audience is tired of it, at least the ones with money.
News organizations limit what they publish and broadcast on purpose. For example, most editors and journalists are sticking to the old and tired concept of newsworthiness. Their definition of newsworthiness is:
1) If it bleeds it leads.
2) If there is sex involved, that’s even better.
3) Conflict rules. No conflict, no story = not newsworthy, not published or broadcast.
4) Stories about animals are more important than what is going on with employers.
Of course the audience does have its bottom-feeders for #1 and #2.
The conflict angle, #3, is interesting because it makes great narrative, usually isn’t boring, and sells. This is where news operations miss incredible opportunity.
And hey I like animals but they don’t pay my salary, #4. I seek information religiously about my clients and an employer. Bet you do too. They pay the bills and I want to know what’s going on with them, even if they publish it.
The news organizations argue that they cover business, sports, weather, real estate and lifestyle in sections or segments of what they provide. They claim they are impartial. Nobody believes it or is buying it because for the most part it isn’t true.
News organizations can stick to their old editorial model all they want, argue about it, defend it, and continue to lose audience and money.
The problem with their definition of newsworthy is that it is so limited that they automatically handicap themselves. Both passive and active audiences are interested in much more than that. But the rules don’t allow these semi-media companies to expand their content into something that audiences are ready and willing to consume or pay for.
That opens the door for the active audience. I was at a lunch with George Lucas at a Las Vegas trade show in the 1990’s and he said “everyone is going to become a producer.” He was dead on.
The Audience is Now the Publisher
Every Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. post is from a publisher / broadcaster.
Every website, WordPress blog, and more is a publishing organization.
The web is exploding. In August of 1995 there were only experimental websites when it went live. Just a few. Now according to a report from Verisign as of December 2012:
• Total number of websites: 634 million
• Number of websites added in 2012: 52 million
• Number of domain name registrations across all top-level domains: 246 million
• 4 billion hours of video was viewed via YouTube each month
• Number of indexed webpages: 25.21 billion
• Roughly 2.4 billion people worldwide used the Web
These numbers are expanding exponentially. Some estimates are saying 2 billion websites by 2015.
North America leads in the number of websites but users, those in the audience, we are only 11.4% – in third place. Asia leads with 44.8% followed by Europe with 21.6%.
How many of the audience are publishers of content? Hard to tell but be sure, a large percentage of the 2.4 billion are in it because they want their voice heard.
What’s the Answer for Organizations, Publishers, and Broadcasters?
Ever since I was at IBM in the 1980’s and 90’s we knew content would be king. It always was in the publishing and broadcasting industries. That’s still true.
In addition to the traditional publishers and broadcasters, the rise of brand journalism, content marketing, native advertising, blogs, apps, and more defines information now.
If your 3 year-old kid accidentally locks himself in a room in your house and you have to find out the exact tool to open the doorknob lock from the outside, getting clear, concise information fast on your smartphone is a lot more valuable right now than anything the NY Times published that day. If you’re the doorknob maker, you have an opportunity for great content distributed by channels your audience cares about. [Silly example but think about what great content can do for your organization. Every organization MUST be in the publishing and broadcasting business now to compete.]
Defining an audience by creating personas that help you understand what your audience cares about and creating and distributing that content is the key to the future.
Don’t limit yourself by industry or corporate rules. The audience rules.
That doesn’t mean you have to seek the lowest common denominator on the information you provide. You must provide for your niche and look to expand it outside your comfort zone or location. Great content wins.
Don’t be bound by traditional channels. Expand them based on where your audience hangs out.
Your goal should be to make content and use channels that inspire interaction with you. Don’t just keep blasting out like it’s a one-way street. Think of media that folks in your target audience will want to react to, re-post, comment on, like, and follow.
The mix of content and channels you work on is defined by the audience you are trying to reach. They will seek you out if you make content they want or need. Capture their email. Find out what social media channels and groups they spend time on. That’s your best subscriber.
Many channels are free (social media), but creating content is not. At a minimum it takes time and that is not free.
Audiences are taking over so your content is ripe to be republished. Find ways to help and encourage them. That takes a content marketing strategy.
Speaking of creating content, the cream will only rise to the top if it is the best and delivered – if not first, real close to first. That takes top professionals with amazing God given talent: real writers, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, video pros, and creative management to lead them.
Get Content Created
There will be breakout producers with inexperience that will rise to the top but you usually won’t find them in your family, your spouse, your friends, the club, or your neighbor’s kid.
If they don’t have at least the beginning of a stellar portfolio of their work, and don’t live and breath working on it, don’t risk wasting your time and money. Your audience will appreciate it. After all, they are the ones that matter and are voting with their eyes and ears – and their cash.
If you want to find out more about creating audience personas, creating a communications – publishing – broadcasting strategy, or have content produced by top pros, contact me today: MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com