Three people at a party of a thousand – the reality of the’former audience’

Two stats that I’ve seen in the last month have set clear boundaries over the type of landscape that big media brands are now fighting for. We all know that the diversification of platforms and increasingly blurred boundaries between personal conversational spaces and ‘content’ are forcing great changes on the media industry. But exactly how small is this burning platform?

First up, The Guardian argues that the June audience share of 25.1% for BBC1, partly because of the World Cup, could be the last time any channel reaches a quarter of the UK population:

“For by the time the next major sporting events come along to provide a World Cup-sized ratings boost- the European football championship and Olympics in 2008 – audience fragmentation due to the growth of digital TV will be that much further advanced and a 25% monthly share will be a distant memory.”

Meanwhile, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Chris Anderson tried to find out the impact that big media brands have on blogs, by using Technorati to search for references amongst the 2.7 billion blog posts that it indexes:

“What are most people actually talking about? Mostly themselves, their friends, their family and things that are more interesting to them and their daily lives than whatever we in the media choose to focus on with our limited resources and space. To use a proper head-to-head comparison with the searches above, Technorati currently shows more than 152,000,000 posts that use the word “I”. So that’s roughly 300 times more people talking about themselves (and the world around them) than talking about what the New York Times has written about.”

The top brand in Anderson’s search was actually the BBC, but that accounted for only 0.3% of references. In other words, I think the future audience share that big media brands can aim for is something between 25.1% and 0.3%. You choose where you think its more likely to be….

Of course, this is comparing apples to oranges, but thats the point – business models based on chasing the passive side of that share will be chasing a dwindling amount that will never again reach 25%. Between that and the 0.3% are a huge range of opportunities to get audiences actively engaged with your content. These former audiences, though smaller, will be far more valuable in the long term.

So, the strategy that will succed is not about trying to preserve or increase the 25%, but about getting your content out there in ways that it can be talked about and engaged with by the 0.3%. This is less about big brands and gateways than about atomizing your content into the bits that make sense in more conversational environments, and then making sure you somehow get credit back for providing the content in the first place…

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