Wiz Nordberg

The days of one-way consumer marketing are over. From now on, it’s a two-way proposition.

Paying attention

wiz nordberg

A few months ago, I wrote about the Post-Network Economy. The basic idea is simple. In a world where content is plentiful, attention becomes the scarce commodity. The winners are those who figure out how to slice-and-dice, repurpose, and target content to consumers at low-cost and with maximum flexibility.

Companies like Google are leading the pack. But companies like News Corporation and NBC are teaming up to exploit new models in more and more productive ways. Even if they are first steps, deals like the one between News Corp and NBC are glimpses of the big media initiatives of the future.

As a businessperson, it is tempting to jump to conclusions about who wants the attention and who is getting it. We assume that it is people like us that want the attention: for our websites, for our video content, for our TV stations. We assume that it is the attention of consumers we are after.

Over the past few months, I’ve been reconsidering this and now believe such a viewpoint is naive.

We now have an Apple TV at home, and last month Apple introduced YouTube as an Apple TV feature. At first, my prejudices against the “awful quality” of YouTube content prevented me from seeing the obvious potential and disruptive effect that this technology will have. While it is true, I believe, that most YouTube videos are not even close to being compelling or competitive in the broader media world, this is just the beginning.

The marvel of YouTube and Apple TV combined is the capability itself. The result is slick, easy navigation of “chunks” of media, rated, sorted, and organised, and often produced only minutes before you see them. After you use YouTube on the Apple TV for a while, the imagination begins to work overtime, and it becomes obvious that only a slight increase in content quality begins to seriously threaten that “other stuff” I can watch on my HDTV.

But here’s the thing that’s really worth noting: YouTube is a two-way street. Not only is YouTube getting my attention, but it is getting the attention of the content producers: the myriads of contributors who are making YouTube possible. And this brings me to the flaw in the thinking of many businesses who are trying to exploit new media – they are too focused on getting attention from their customers to bother spending time paying attention to their customers.

One thing that all the successful new media companies do is pay attention to their content contributors. The blogging platforms like TypePad do it. YouTube does it. Google itself does it.

Maybe this is no secret. Maybe I’m just discovering what everybody else knows already.

But I don’t think so. I see traditional media companies trying desperately to figure out how to push more content to consumers, how to “attract them”. But rarely do these companies figure out how to pay attention to the consumers needs and take the steps necessary to involve consumers in their brand. By paying attention to their audiences, new media companies get attention, and can sell it.

The idea that paying attention to your audience gets attention is supported very strongly by our experiences at SLCN.TV for the last few months. While many companies are struggling to engage people in Second Life, SLCN.TV has not only engaged people but is being deluged by people who “want to be on TV”. The audience and the producers are becoming a blurred line, and it’s obvious that the more attention we pay to those who want to be involved, the more people who will be energised by what they are seeing.

So, when considering how to revamp your media strategy, don’t just consider whose attention you want. Think about what kind of attention your customers want, and how online tools can empower them. The days of one-way consumer marketing are over. From now on, it’s a two-way proposition.


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