Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The power of the audience

If you've taken a look at this blog you'll notice that the role of the audience (consumer) is underlined many times. Be it Peter Hirshberg, or Marshall McLuhan, Charles Leadbeater or Yokai Benkler- even John Cleese's blog and Seth Godin's comments on white bread, the audience/ consumer is recognized as being an integral part of the processes surrounding mass media.

What's my point? I guess I'm saying that New Media is a mass medium like TV or anything else and that understanding how the end user functions and feels is crucial in the creation of the communication loop.

It's not the Web it's us, it's not TV, it's us, it's not the film fest, it's us. How is this important? In designing any campaign of any sort- or even understanding and implementing copyright laws for the Internet for that matter- using the tools available to us today, you must engage an audience of consumers and there are many ways to do that.

Engaging an audience requires that we understand some of underlying dynamics of the various sub-cultures making up the audience. The speakers posted in this blog certainly address this very well. The most important thing to walk away with though is providing the audience with something to do, as Marshall McLuhan would have said. The reason the Internet is far more interesting to most people than Television is that it has been created to allow the users to decide for themselves where to go and what to see. It is the ultimate source of instant gratification to date. It provides the audience with New Improved TV!!!

Having said that, understanding what that means is crucial. Marshall McLuhan describing the advent of new mediums would say that the older medium is the content of the new medium. What he meant was in their beginnings Film’s content was the narrative- the novel, TVs content was the Film, to extend that idea the Internet’s content is TV. But we know, that’s only scratching the surface.

What McLuhan was talking about is the creator’s of these mediums initially impose a certain way of using a medium and that lasts until the audience takes control by creating there own content for these media. Sounds like what I call Technological Determinism and the power of the audience. Marginal enthusiasts take a medium and create content that suits there needs and desires- we call this cultural appropriation. Then, thought leaders and aesthetic leaders pull this re-appropriation into the center where it becomes a major new trend and best of all, copyright and legal ownership is imposed.

Back to the Internet: Web 2.0 is only the beginning, don’t believe the hype, don’t invest in any big ideas just yet, watch the those sub-cultures on the margins of the larger audience (i.e. consumer pool), and always try to engage your target audience by providing them a sense of empowerment. People need to connect- let’s help them do that.

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