Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Wise Observation by Seth Godin

Like many of you, I read Seth Godin's blog which you can find at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/
There is no doubt that Seth is a marketer's marketer. His ideas are well based, intelligent AND practical. If you ever get the opportunity to watch Seth in action at an ASAE event, DO IT!

In today's update entitled "Driveby culture and the endless search for wow," Seth points out something very important about what I call "fast-food value" where the value proposition of a service or product lasts about as long as the time it takes to consume a hamburger or burrito.

The web has allowed these 'shoppers' the opportunity to kill hours just...looking. Taking a piece here and there, but never committing to a strategy or line of thought.  As membership marketers, are we pandering to an online audience who have the loyalty of a cat (no offense to you cat owners, but come on) as we fight for awareness as measured by clicks, views and eyeballs in an effort to satisfy our internal leadership, or are we using this exciting channel to educate and show our members and potential members that we provide the products and services they need to grow personally and professionally? The other question is, are these people really interested in that?

This is a thought-provoking article and I hope you enjoy it. Even after I've read this article 3 times and as I'm writing this at 7:06 am, I am distracted by my own thoughts on this very topic. Seth, good job and thanks. Again you've made me think.

Here you go...

Driveby culture and the endless search for wow.

The net has spawned two new ways to create and consume culture.

The first is the wide-open door for amateurs to create. This is blogging and online art, wikipedia and the maker movement. These guys get a lot of press, and deservedly so, because they're changing everything.

The second, though, is distracting and ultimately a waste. We're creating a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not).

Imagine if people went to the theatre or the movies and stood up and walked out after the first six seconds. Imagine if people went to the senior prom and bailed on their date three seconds after the car pulled away from the curb.

The majority of people who sign up for a new online service rarely or never use it. The majority of YouTube videos are watched for just a few seconds. Chatroulette institutionalizes the glance and click mentality. I'm guessing that more than half the people who started reading this post never finished it.

This is all easy to measure. And it drives people with something to accomplish crazy, because they want visits to go up, clicks to go up, eyeballs to go up.

Should I write blog posts that increase my traffic or that help change the way (a few) people think?

Should a charity focus on instant donations by texting from a million people or is it better to seek dedicated attention and support from a few who understand the mission and are there for the long haul?

More and more often, we're seeing products and services coming to market designed to appeal to the momentary attention of the clickers. The Huffington Post has downgraded itself, pushing thoughtful stories down the page in exchange for linkbait and sensational celebrity riffs. This strategy gets page views, but does it generate thought or change?

If you create (or market) should you be chasing the people who click and leave? Or is it like trying to turn a cheetah into a house pet? Is manipulating the high-voltage attention stream of millions of caffeinated web surfers a viable long-term strategy?

Mass marketing used to be able to have it both ways. Money bought you audience. Now, all that buys you a mass market is wow and speed. Wow keeps getting harder and dives for the lowest common denominator at the same time.

Time magazine started manipulating the cover and then the contents in order to boost newsstand sales. They may have found a short-term solution, but the magazine is doomed precisely because the people they are pandering to don't really pay attention and aren't attractive to advertisers.

My fear is that the endless search for wow further coarsens our culture at the same time it encourages marketers to get ever more shallow. That's where the first trend comes in... the artists, idea merchants and marketers that are having the most success are ignoring those that would rubberneck and drive on, focusing instead on cadres of fans that matter. Fans that will give permission, fans that will return tomorrow, fans that will spread the word to others that can also take action.

Culture has been getting faster and shallower for hundreds of years, and I'm not the first crusty pundit to decry the demise of thoughtful inquiry and deep experiences. The interesting question here, though, is not how fast is too fast, but what works? What works to change mindsets, to spread important ideas and to create an audience for work that matters? What's worth your effort and investment as a marketer or creator?

The difference this time is that driveby culture is both fast and free. When there's no commitment of money or time in the interaction, can change or commerce really happen? Just because you can measure eyeballs and pageviews doesn't mean you should.

In the race between 'who' and 'how many', who usually wins--if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erik,

    Great post regarding the dangers of conforming rather than working against the tendency of the quick readers surfing across sites, for example by being a content aggregator and making the association site and e-newsletters important, unique sources of industry-specific compiled statistics, commentary, case studies, and other resources.

    At the same time, the electronic-only memberships some of us offer strike me as potentially 'dying products' as they become indistinguishable from asking people to pay for content on many blogs. No matter how quality the content, the entire structure and range of resources of an association membership offer a unique and appealing product compared to a paid online subscription.

    I wonder what the market share of e-memberships in the US and/or world are relative to the total paid monthly e-memberships to any of the other standbys that we actually pay for ... and most of our counterparts with paid monthly sites are not direct competitors (Porn? WSJ? online gaming?)