Monday, March 01, 2010

Audiences: the river in reverse

Twice today, posts about audiences have tugged at my attention, sounding similar themes. This post just jumped right out of Google Reader and smacked me in the forehead. Or at least that's what it feels like. It is a reader letter to The Atlantic, about the site's redesign, and came to me via Emily Culbertson:
People don't want a series of headlines. They can get that elsewhere. They want personality. They want community. They want names and faces they can identify and bond with. The age of nameless, faceless "editors" is over. It has been over for quite some time, even if many don't yet realize it. People accepted it when the market provided them with no alternative, but as you both well know the moment alternatives became possible they flocked to them in droves.
And thanks to Jay Collier, I was pointed to this 2006 post by Jay Rosen on "the people formerly known as the audience," which says:
We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun.
These points shouldn't be news to you--or are they? I still encounter trainees in my workshops who are startled to learn that it's the audience they should begin with when planning what to communicate (rather than what they want to say). That's a longtime tenet of communications theory, and long-ignored when news media and organizations decided they were in control of the channel. But with the new tools offered by social media, accessible to all, the river's in reverse. 

Today, the tide took another turn, with news from the Pew Research Center that some 60 percent of Americans get their news from a combination of online and offline sources.  And while TV leads the news-source list (with local TV ahead of network TV offerings), social networks play an increasing role, and mobile devices do, too, with a third of respondents saying they read news on the move.  And 37 percent participate in sharing news, blogging, sharing or commenting.

All of which is to ask: From where you stand, is this rising tide lifting all boats, including yours? Are you watching safely from high ground? As Bonnie Raitt sings, you could go under or enjoy the ride.  I vote for the latter.  Let me know if you're looking for facilitation or consulting to help develop your company's social-media strategy or training. I'm moored at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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