Are You In The Content Business Or The Audience Business?
Warning: Paradigm shift coming!
I have been getting lots of questions from people who have been hugely burned by Google's algorithm changes, especially the changes named after formerly loveable black and white creatures.
In most of those cases, these people complained that they did exactly what they thought Google asked them to do…
They created lots of content about their area of specialty.
In many cases, that content was high quality, valuable content.
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But they still got burned by Google, in many cases losing 75% or more of their traffic.
Where did they go wrong?
I believe the reason was because they focused on creating content.
But contrary to popular belief, that's where most people go wrong.
There's something much much bigger than the content business on which you should be focusing…
The Audience Business.
You see, Google (and pay very close attention to this parenthetical phrase: YouTube) are in the business of building, and more importantly, owning audiences.
They've got plenty of content on just about every subject important enough that lots of people to search on it each day.
Their problem is how to choose which to show first in their results.
And this is, in my humble position, what Google has been repeatedly telling us, sometimes obtusely, and oftentimes forcefully, over the last 18 months.
Google doesn't want you to have tons of content, they want you to build an audience! And they'll reward you when you do!
But like anyone who's ever been in an argument, we keep trying to make our point without listening to their's, forgetting that in the battle of whether your opinion is right or Google's is, Google's is the ONLY opinion that really matters!
I could give you literally dozens of evidences to support this content versus audience assertion, but just trust me on this: Google is in the business of building audiences and in working with others who are doing the same.
One simple reason – that's where the money is!
Loyalty builds profits.
By now, I'm sure you're seeing the value of building an audience, not just content.
But if you stop there, you're leaving most of the real money on the table.
The real money is NOT in building an audience, it's in OWNING your audience!
Think of it this way: Seinfeld build an amazing body of content and a great franchise. He built an audience, and is worth an astounding $800 million.
But did he OWN that audience? No, the network did. And because the network owned the audience, they were able to not only make billions while Seinfeld made merely hundreds of millions, but they were able to use their ownership of that audience to launch numerous other mega-franchises through adjacencies (what program showed just before and after Seinfeld) and also through promotion of other shows during the Seinfeld broadcasts.
I could name many other examples, like Disney, professional sports teams, Lady Gaga, Facebook, and Brendon Burchard.
Each of these companies owns an audience and is able to do amazing things as a result.
So how do you move from creating content
to creating an audience
to owning an audience?
There's no way this subject can be properly handled in a single already overly-long blog post (the purpose of this post was to seed a concept in your mind, to get you strategically thinking, and driving your self and your team to shift your paradigm and start focusing where the real money lies.)
But there are several points that certainly bear consideration as you start to think about these concepts:
1. Every great audience owner I can think of started with a common factor: great content.
They created a steady stream of content that was so breakthrough that it caused people to take notice and share it with their friends.
How good is your content? Good enough, or breakthrough? We can all use improvement in this area.
2. Every great audience ownership company became social in the process of getting to ownership.
As I say that, I don't necessarily mean social media, though that's a viable part of the process. Many of these franchises were created long before Al Gore invented the Internet, much less before Zuckerberg dropped out of college.
But these brands were built on social. They got talked about, they listened to what people were saying, and most of them adjusted themselves accordingly.
I'll just be blunt. There's no way that you're going to own an audience today without figuring out how to properly get social and use social media in that process.
3. Every great audience owner stays in that position by continually producing more great content.
Disney has faltered, because they hired management that took their eye off the audience ball and started focusing on the content ball, trying to shift their audience, and making multi-billion mistakes along the way.
Seinfeld's wealth drops daily because he is no longer producing content. Football teams that stop winning conference championships rapidly lose at least a portion of their franchise.
Don't get me wrong, it is possible to retire, but audiences are fickle and they WILL leave when your content production either stops or shifts to something that's inconsistent with what your audience chose to follow.
With just a few exceptions (the Beatles) you can't stay on top based on memories. Audience ownership demands constant reminder and renewal with even more, great content.
4. Great audience ownership companies usually expand through integration.
You'll always be limited if the only thing you do is what you originally did. Seinfeld did one thing, but could have done much more if he would integrated his essence into more ways that his audience could own more of the Seinfeld experience.
Great brands expand their offerings. And, if done correctly, they profit substantially as a result.
There are lots of other ways to expand your audience ownership, which I invite us to talk about in the comment section.
But I want to end with a key point.
You don't have to be a mega-million dollar company to own an audience. You can own an audience of 500 and live a highly successful and happy life as a result, if they're the right people.
You probably already own an audience at some level. It may only be your 3-year old who loves the nightly stories you make up about him slaying dragons and righting the world's wrongs. But, I can promise you, that it's rare for audiences to be owned without specific strategic thought, planning, and effort to get there.
What are or could YOU be doing to build and to actually OWN an audience? Let's talk about it by leaving a comment below, and don't forget to Like, Share, Tweet and Pin this article!