Monday, August 28, 2006

The audience is...

When George Lucas came out with the THX theater sound system, their tagline was, "The Audience is Listening." You can see the trailers for the system here.  As a kid (hey, in 1983 I was 17), I thought that was an odd marketing tag. "Of course the audience is listening. What does he think? We weren't before? Duh..."

Now, of course, I understand that he was subtly digging at the idea that we generally talk about how audiences "watch" movies. Not "listen" to them. His point being that the sound systems of the day, well... sucked. Now they don't. Largely to the efforts of THX and some other pioneers in cinema sound.

We're often like that in marketing -- we take the audience and what we think they're doing for granted.

Witness this Advertising Age article titled "Marketing Reality Check: Blogs, Pods, RSS," about how the marketing technoscenti is too far ahead of Mr. and Mrs. Suburbia in terms of where the marketing lasers are pointed:
While marketing prognosticators and technophiles rush into the future, raving about the next big content delivery system or ad model, the fact is most Americans -- notably adults with steady incomes -- still get their content the old-fashioned way. Consider: According to Jupiter Research, 7% of American adults write blogs and 22% read them; about 8% listen to podcasts and 5% use RSS feeds.
Now, I'm often the first one to jump on the "Don't Jump on the Bandwagon" bandwagon. And I applaud AdAge for making the point that we should not be yelling about media that's not making our numbers and our clients' numbers. Just because something is hot, hip, cool, fun, sexy, etc... well, that's no reason to shove money in it like it's a coal furnace and your feet are freezing. And while it's clear that interactive and online marketing has got to be a part of any sensible marketing program and/or ad buy, I've also heard way (waaaaay) too many pundits going on about how "old media" is dead. It's not. Shut up. As the AdAge article points out, lotsa lotsa people are still reading things on flat bits of dead trees, watching screens that don't have keyboards, and listening to music that comes from the sky.

But... here's the number in that mix that made me sit up and slap Zembo, my panther-chimp sidekick, upside his lopsided, goofy head. 7% of American adults write blogs. Did you catch that? Did I stutter? Were you still laughing at the picture of Zembo? Was that too distracting? I'll repeat myself, becausse I love to.

7% of American adults write blogs. And while 7% isn't the kind of number that US marketing wonks used to salivate over -- we remember the days when big TV shows pulled in a 40-share -- it's really, really big. That's a lot of people sitting down to do something... That's not watching.

The audience is... writing.

So... what's the big deal? We've got Technorati and Feedburner and RSS feeds and the mainstream media all pointing at blogs, so we're paying attention (maybe too much, as the AdAge article points out). What's your point, Havens? You just said that this isn't the bandwagon, right? Balanced approach to marketing, people still reading paper, etc. etc.

Yup. But they're not just reading. Not just consuming media. Which is what all the ad buys in the world (almost... cue ominous music) are currently interested in. They're writing. Which is a fundamentally different activity than reading, watching, listening, etc.

Because when I write my blog... yes I also read, watch, listen, etc. But I do so as a creator. And the sources that are going to talk to me and influence me are going to have to address me as such. Just like Lucas was interested in the moviegoers ears as much as the eyes, the marketers and advertisers that are interested in that Big 7% are going to need to target the "writer" portion of the bloggers' brains as much (or more than) the "reader" part.

How do you do that? I don't know. I just had this idea today. But the thing that initially came to my mind (ominous music peaks) is Google's recent purchase and more recent re-opening of Writely, an online word processor. This is a tool that bloggers will probably love. And it's one that might (I say) be able to market things to you while you create content that might (I say) end up on a page that more Google ads that might (I say) direct you to other sites that have more Google ads and stuff.

Creating content is the first step of the media-advertising-advertiser-product-customer food chain. Whenever you can cross-connect one part of the chain to another, you gain all kinds of advantage. What? Your cows can now live on sunlight? Wow! And your chickens eat spent nuclear fuel rods? Amazing! So if Google can monetize-advertize the creation space, turning writers into... an audience... then they win.

Because the audience is already an audience. It always has been.
It's just a question
of getting

[PS. Sorry I haven't blogged in so long. I've been working on another web project. If you're interested, check "More" below. If not, not. ]