The Mass Market Mentality vs Individual Customer

Doug Kaye states Mark Ramsey doesn’t get podcasting.

Mark Ramsey replies that Doug doesn’t get broadcasting.

Yes, podcasting is a great opportunity for broadcasters to experiment and create a farm team. Yes, podcasting is a no-brainer for a broadcasters to connect with their audience on their audience’s terms. Finally, Yes, podcasting is the easiest way to share audio on a very specific, niche topic with self-selected people.

Mark is right, podcasting and videoblogging can’t be shoehorned into traditional distribution channels:

“But ask your local movie theater how much they care to show a movie only a few people see, ask the local bookseller how much they want to stock a book only a few folks buy.”

No, it doesn’t make sense for a movie theater to show an extremely niche production. Though perhaps if they did, it would help solve their current attendance problems. Mark Cuban suggests focusing on the customer also. Though, perhaps even movie theaters are already catering to niche audience; those that don’t find DVDs from Netflix good enough.

On the Silicon Valley Gillmor Gang, Robert Scoble complains that while Adam Curry’s early Daily Source Codes were addictive (that’s why I started podcasting), Curry’s PodShow on Sirius Satellite Radio isn’t interesting in the least. Proving that podcasting is unique from radio, just as blogs are unique from newspapers, and videoblogs are unique from television.

Nothing in podcasting requires it to be a stepping stone to mass appeal. It could be, and this is a benefit – especially to broadcasters. But podcasting can in-fact be the end game. Independent and ignorant of broadcasting’s constraints a podcaster could build a small (less than 10,000), loyal, and passionate listener base by fulfilling an extremely specific niche. A successful podcast – though a failure by broadcast measures.

iTunes Top 100 Podcast list (counting the number of times in 24 hrs the ‘subscribe’ link was clicked), the Feedster Top 500 list, and every other Top X listing is an attempt at shoehorning. As Dave Slusher eludes, these rankings assume all blogs and podcasts are competing for the exact same audience. If you’re looking for a blog or podcast on gardening in the Upper Midwest or learning Japanese, these lists don’t help. More on the “Evils of Head-ism” at the Long Tail including the fantastic, “Nobody cares if bananas outsell soft drinks.”

Ultimately, I’m talking about 2 very different mentalities:

  1. The market is a mass of nameless, faceless consumers with the same basic needs and the goal is to make advertisers happy.
  2. The market is made of individual customers, each with very specific needs and the goal is to build a deep, unique relationship with them directly.

Considering customers now regularly blog about their market experiences, I recommend option number 2. As does Seth Godin in his recent ‘Clueless’ post

2 Replies to “The Mass Market Mentality vs Individual Customer”

  1. I knew somebody would suggest that theater industry malaise was the fault of their exhibiition selections! Just for the record, I think playing to the niches in theaters would speed their already speedy decline.

    I love your post. The only thing I would add is that your options 1 and 2 are certainly not mutually exclusive. A mass of “nameless, faceless consumers” need communal experiences just as an individual needs an individual one. Mass media provide those communal experiences – not just to make advertisers happy but to make listeners happy, too.

    I can have an utterly unique iPod and still enjoy the same episodes of Survivor you do.

  2. Though I did suggest that, I believe the primary fault is in the theater experience not being sufficiently better than watching a DVD off Netflix in the comfort of my own home.

    I can pause the DVD, grab something from the kitchen, use the bathroom, and not miss a thing. If theaters offered an itermission during 3 hr+ movie, that’d be a good first step.

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