In the mid-2000s, technology started to fragment the media landscape. The kind of power that was once only in the hands of large media conglomerates was put into the hands of individual creators.
This paradigm shift eliminated gatekeepers and gave everyone with the desire to express their creativity a permission slip and unlimited access to free or low-cost tools, resources, and distribution channels.
Anybody can upload a film to Youtube, publish a book on Amazon, or distribute a podcast through iTunes.
We went as Seth Godin has said from 500 to 500 million channels (blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels, etc). Individual creators with limited resources and unlimited resourcefulness have built audiences bigger than those of publications that have been around for over 50 years.
The simplest version of how I started the Unmistakable Creative is this. I plugged a microphone into a laptop and started recording my conversations. No barriers to entry, no gatekeepers. And, now a kid in junior high can do that. But it also raised the bar in which the only viable long term strategy to build an audience is to be so good they can’t ignore you.
For decades, all forms of media have been monetized with advertising: TV commercials, sponsored content, podcast midrolls and much more. But the behavior of people who consume media is changing.
- We can watch our favorite shows on Netflix commercial free.
- We can listen to Spotify for 10 dollars a month, commercial free.
It’s getting harder each year for advertisers to reach an audience of millions through one media outlet or publication. The business of reaching eyeballs could eventually take a back seat to the business of touching hearts.
10 years ago, Kevin Kelly wrote about building an audience of one thousand true fans. In a fragmented media landscape, his message his more relevant than ever.
True fans are a small fanatical army. These kinds of audiences are the ones that lead to the kind of success we’ve seen from referral programs at companies like The Skimm and Hustle.Co. An audience of 1000 fanatics is more likely to tell other people about a product or service they love than an audience of a million lukewarm visitors to a web site.
It seems as if the media company of the future would better off creating dozens of properties, each with an audience of 1000 true fans, instead of a handful of properties that with millions of visitors that wouldn’t miss them if they were gone.
The future of the media landscape isn’t going to belong to people who can attract the most eyeballs. It’s going to belong to the ones who can touch the most hearts. It’s going to belong to creators who we would miss if they were gone.