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Newsflash: Blogging is getting common!

I came across this article earlier today by some guy who I don’t know about some other guys I don’t know and how the other guys blogs no longer rule the Blogosphere or something.

I’m going to get this wrong, no doubt, because I’m not cool, but apparently this Duncan Riley guy is some sort of marketing dude, and he is cool. Per his above-linked blog entry, the techy guys who were the first bloggers are no longer the most popular bloggers in existence. According to Mr. Riley’s treatise, there have been three generations of bloggers/blogs: the geeks, the extroverts, and now everyone else. And now the geek bloggers are no longer the most important ones: the most important ones are the ones who appeal to “the common masses” whoever they are.

The first part of Mr. Riley’s thesis strikes me as somewhat self evident. Geeks write about stuff that interests geeks, and not everyone is a geek. Amazing- I’m glad someone took the time to explain that to me. But the latter part of his earth-shaking revelation is that marketing people know exactly what it is that people want, and so people will gravitate to blogs written by marketing people. Maybe that’s not exactly what he meant, but that’s the way I read his post. A couple of other rather obvious factors: in a technological medium, the first adopters are technologists, followed by people with something they feel is important enough that they hire technologists or become technically proficient so that they can say it, and finally, when the technology becomes pervasive enough and easy enough to use, the unwashed masses.

Mr. Riley’s blog entry title (“The demise of geek bloggers”) suggests either that geeks who blog are going to all die of some strange malady, or that geek-oriented blogs are going to go away. But the stats themselves don’t bear this out: more people read geek blogs now than read them 2 years ago. As Mr. Riley himself says, its only when looked at *as a percentage* of the overall blog views that geek-oriented blogs seem to be less important now.

Here’s my theory, which is equally obvious but apparently not very understandable to marketing people. Or more precisely, perhaps its that they fear what I am about to say. The entire wonder of the Internet in general, and Blogs in particular, is that people discover that no matter how odd their own personal tastes, they will find a “place” where they seem normal. If I’m a pin collecting cross dressing neo-Nazi, I’ll probably find a blog (and a news feed, and online videos, and music) that appeals to my preferences. I’ll book mark those places, and visit just those sites that appeal to me, and eventually come to think that the entire world is filled with pin collecting cross dressing neo-Nazis. The really key thing here is that “the whole world is filled with…” statement- a demographic can effectively turn off the entire rest of the Internet, everything that isn’t of primary interest to them and them alone. I imagine this is Hell itself come to earth for marketers…how do you position whatever it is you want to sell in a world with literally millions of demographic slices, with new ones popping up every day?

Now *that* would be an interesting question to write a blog entry about….

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3 comments to Newsflash: Blogging is getting common!

  • Chris

    Unfortunately, I think the answer to how you market things to a world with more and more demographic slices is to manufacture your own slices.

    The idea of everyome being able to find their own niche is a mixed blessing. The concept of the “global village” was based on the growth of mass media. Everyone had certain things in common because they all watched at least some of the same TV shows, same adverts, read the same news articles. There was a basis, perhaps somewhat artificial, for common understanding and communication. Of course the downside of that was the “advertiser as god” syndrome, and the idea that whoever controlled the mass media controlled the world.

    The anarchist ideal is of a completely fratured world where every person is a demographic of one. As an ideal, it’s not nesc. a bad one. No Mass marketing idiocy, no media manipulation, and no one has any more power to impose their view of the world on any other because everyone is equally potent, or impotent anas the case may be. But, that can be a very lonely world. And while it might take some effort for people to get together in groups to do ill, it also requires extra effort fro people to get together to do good.

    What we have right now, I think, is a transition phase, which is rahter dangerous, where you have “small market” media that focuses on select groups. It creates demographic segments based on basic common elements, and usually the easiest to ones to access in the human psyche are negative. Fox News, the republican machinery and the cult of fear and xenophobia that seem so obvious in the united states for example. ( And when you are George Bush and you only have to look at media that supporst your view of things, it’s much easier to believe that the only valid veiwpoint is yours. )

    It might be fine if you are a pin collecting cross dressing neo-nazi who thinks the whole world is filled with people like you… until you get into a position of power and make decisions based on that belief. And the marketers will be looking for the common denominator between cross dressing neo-nazi’s and and other groups, to make a controlled demographic… chances are the elements that pin collecting neo-nazi’s and radical christian cat immoliators share are going to be very basic, primitive urges. Fear, hatred and other easily manipulated negative emotions.

    While as a misfit all my life I can apprecciate the appeal of an individualistic media, and don’t miss the big brother aspects of mass media, I do miss the unique ability of mass media to disseminate and innculcate a certain sense co belonging, togetherness and community on the world. I’m enough of an optimist to think that given time a world full of individuals can come to an understanding of their common humanity…I’m enough of a pessimist to worry that we may not give ourselves that much time.

  • Agreed, Chris. You and I have talked before , I believe, about the risks of a world where people can choose to hear only the news and viewpoints they want to hear. It sounds good in principle until you start to see how it works in practice, where people become convinced that the viewpoint they have chosen to listen to is THE viewpoint.

    I think that’s a real problem, a real risk. But the idea in the source article is that the marketing gurus will be able to control/direct people because they somehow “understand” everyone better than geeks is a different issue, and I think the source article is missing the point. I think the problem marketers face with Blogs is that people see a blog as a communal thing- more like gathering around the water cooler than reading a newspaper. They will frequent a blog where the poster(s) speak to them, using their language, about their interests. Geeks understand geeks better than marketers, and they can speak to other geeks with an honest voice. If Joe Marketer sets up Geek-O-Rama, people might go there but they’ll soon realize its really a marketing site, not a blog. This won’t ultimately diminish the congregation of geeks at the “real” geek sites (or the pin collecting cross dressing neo-Nazis at their sites…). Now…if you create a blog that has a larger potential collection of interested people, you will probably attract a larger percentage of the overall “world of blogging”…but not because you are somehow cooler, smarter, or a better people person. Instead, it will be because you appeal to a more common set of interests.

    To me, the original article stated the obvious (“geeks are a niche community”), then said (in essence) that people with more broadly based interests must perforce be smarter and more people centric. That doesn’t fly. More people like TV than like quantum physics, but the “TV liking demographic” and the people who write for it aren’t necessarily smarter/wiser/cooler.

  • Chris

    Oh they are “cooler” ;-) Being smart, or at least obviously smarter than most ofthe people around you has never been “cool”. It isn’t as uncool as being obviously a moron, but it’s never been in the “cool” category. People like people that are just about as smart as they are, because no one wants to feel stupid. Making people feel stupid ( or at least lots of people, rather than just a few singled out for group ridicule ) isn’t “cool”. The fact that it i s unintentional and ones own inate brilliance ( ahem! ) makes others feel stupid in comparison isn’t any help… as far as the masses are concerned you make them feel stupid so you can’t be cool.

    Teen age pop stars with way too much money that show people places to shop for overpriced handbags… now they are “cool” :D

    BTW: To the original point, marketers are salesmen. They pride themselves on getting people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do ( like by cinnamon flavoured toothpaste, or buy a lip synched CD from a teen age pop star. ) Even if they don’t start out thinking they are outsmarting everyone, after successs at getting people to spend money on stupid things it would be pretty hard not to start thinking you were smarter than everyone else.

    Of course marketers live in a world where they eat, live and breathe marketing… and like the cross dressing neo nazi succumb to the illusion that that is all there is in the world. Thus they focus on market share, while the actual size of the market dwindles away… because those people that don’t succumb to marketing son’t register in their world view. Ironically, marketting may therefore be most successful on the marketers themselves.

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