Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What are you making your audience do to reach you?

Since we talk a lot about engaging audiences, I thought you'd want to think about some lessons from a story about engagement and raising eyebrows, tongue firmly in cheek on both terms.

First, the engagement: If you've read Jay Rosen's manifesto on the people formerly known as the audience, you can see the entire process come full circle in this New York Times blog post by Jennifer Saranow Schultz. In "Wedding Expenses That Aren't Worth It," she includes professional engagement photos, writing: 
The main reason I had the pictures taken (I’ll admit it) was to submit one with our wedding announcement to this newspaper. Unfortunately, our eyebrows weren’t on exactly the same level in the photographs — one of the requirements. So our announcement ran with just text. If I had to do it again, I’d just send in a picture we already had or ask a friend or family member to take shots of us for free.
Having raised the eyebrows, I want to review the bidding:  The paper got to keep its requirements, which mean that the photos are more uniform and therefore easier to scan visually, easier to fit on the page, less likely to highlight height differences between the members of the couple, less likely to waste space and therefore cost more in printing, ink and paper. By having strict requirements, they solve a space issue--many young lovers will give up or get disqualified.  So the paper retains control.

Or does it? The young couple can start a wedding blog or website to feature the photos, send an email photo announcement, start a Flickr photostream,  post video and updates to Twitter and Facebook.  Family and friends can share great photos of the couple, eyebrow-height-matching optional--and all for the cost of the time involved.  Who needs the newspaper, at which someone is presumably tasked with measuring eyebrows with a level? 

So let me ask you: What are you making your audience do to reach you?  What's the barrier for entry to finding your stuff, or letting people participate, publish or poke around for more information? Call it a hurdle, fence, wall, password, registration field, locked door or invisible resource. What are you making them jump over to get to you?

Media companies seem to be struggling most publicly with this (witness TIME's move to put abridged stories online, with a pitch to readers to go to either the print edition or the iPad app, making readers go to two places to finish one story in its entirety).  But the hurdles exist for other companies and organizations, too.  And this really is a two-part question: What are you making your audience do, and what are you doing so that they don't have to?

Google this week gave us a great example of answering the latter question, making a new "app inventor" available (see video below) so that anyone can create a simple Android-based application.  Make it easy, make it available, make it known.  Are you doing that--in your spheres?

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