From time to time, the commuter train I take to get to work is delayed and gets pretty crowded, making it hard to write.
That was the case when I wrote this. So I shared this post:
We invented televisions so marketers would have a way to run TV ads. We have magazines so marketers can run magazine ads.
Make no mistake: mass media exists because it permits mass marketers to do their job.
Mass production, the ability to make things cheaply, in volume, demanded that we invent mass marketing–it was the only way to sell what was being made in the quantity it was produced.
The internet, though, was not invented so marketers could run internet ads.
And, at the same time, mass production is being replaced by micro production, by the short run, by customization, by the long tail.
Just in time, mass media is going away too.
Mass marketers don’t like this and they often don’t even see it. They’re struggling to turn Snapchat and Twitter and other sites into substitutes for TV, but it’s not working, because it’s an astonishing waste of attention.
The Ed Sullivan Show existed to sell Jello to everyone. Today, there’s no everyone, and certainly no media channel that can sell everyone, cheap, to the folks who market Jello.
This is an ongoing challenge for mass marketers, and the opportunity of a generation for everyone else.
For fifty years, TV and TV-thinking was the shortcut. Make average stuff for average people (by definition = mass) and promote to every stranger within reach. It worked.
But mass is fading, fading faster than our desire to be mass marketers is fading. The shortcut doesn’t work every time now, and the expectation that success is the same as popularity is still with us.
Fifty years ago, producers and marketers got smart. They saw the miracle of mass marketing and they adopted it as their own. They amped up mass production and bet on the masses.
The smart creators today are seeing the shift and doing precisely the opposite:
Produce for a micro market.
Market to a micro market.
When someone wants to know how big you can make (your audience, your market share, your volume), it might be worth pointing out that it’s better to be important, to be in sync, to be the one that’s hard to be replaced. And the only way to be important is to be relevant, focused and specific
— Seth Godin, Mass Production and Mass Media
It doesn’t feel micro at all as packed in an overcrowded train.
And maybe that’s the interesting phenomenon; maybe it’s not a matter of mass vs. micro maybe it’s both. Micro does mean that the mass is smaller than it was, but I’m not sure it’s entirely gone away either. Not today anyway.