Thursday, January 03, 2008

Audience size: everything old is new again

As characters are often saying on the television program Battlestar Galactica, "All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." That's what I thought when I came across this post on evaluating your audience from Robert Scoble:

Chris Shipley’s Demo Conference proved to me it’s not the size of your audience that matters. It’s WHO is in the audience that matters. She has a micro audience. Usually about 1,000 people. But they include VCs, bloggers, journalists, and other influencers on whether startups get noticed or not. She usually has 60 companies on stage that each paid $18,000 to be there and most people in the audience paid more than $1,000 to listen to them.

That this is treated as some kind of revelation tells us something about new media's persistent case of amnesia. Scobe is absolutely right, of course, as anybody who was sitting there in the 1980s poring over BPA audits for print pubs in order to determine what the most efficient way to reach the right readers, rather than the most readers, was.

I don't mean to be overly critical here; I suppose it's a good thing that Scoble wrote about this, and I suspect that lots of people who hadn't given this much thought now will, and that's good. One of the great strengths of online media is the ability to create content that serves niche audiences cost-effectively; niches that never could support print are now served by content producers, and that's great news for marketers who want to reach them.

It's just that reading this stuff makes me feel like I'm watching a toddler figure out how doorknobs work.

It seems obvious that we'd turn to the lessons of old media to figure out how to make new media work - as publishers, advertisers, or consumers. Some things are very different, but a lot of things are not. It's been trendy to declare traditional advertising dead and insist that a revolution has changed everything; the truth, of course, is far less dramatic than that.

So here's a recommended new year's resolution for 2008: don't throw out the past and don't forget history. Old media still matter (and in some market segments, matter more than new media). For marketers, the trick is to remember the whole picture - not just the most exciting shiny and new parts of it.

1 comment:

Mary said...

And something Web newbies need to keep in mind when reviewing blog links and site traffic.

People are still people. The methods we use to communicate have changed. The way we process, evaluate, and retain that communications hasn't. We've still got the same ol' Iron Age brain.