New Media Platforms, Building Audience, and the Purpose-Centric Web

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Last week Seth Godin posted a piece on his blog called The platform vs. the eyeballs. The idea is that in "old media" the medium has control of the customer and "rented" them out to people who wanted to influence them. This is the premise of anyone getting paid for advertising. If you have control of a flow of users, you can charge other people for access to that flow. In essense you're renting out the flow.

Seth argues that in "new media" you're not renting an audience, you're building one. Seth calls the thing you use to build your audience a platform. He says there are two steps: buy a platform and then fill it with people. He goes on to give examples of this including book authors going directly to readers and real estate agents starting their own magazines. The beauty of building an audience over renting eyeballs is that the latter has small--often sub 1%--conversion rates. Platforms have conversion rates in the double digits--sometimes as high as 90%.

I think the reason for the high conversion rates is that "customer acquisition" (I hate the term, but nothing serves better at the moment) is done via what Britt Blaser calls "stepping stones." Convincing someone to receive your newletter or follow you on Twitter is easier than getting them to spend money or join an organization. But it's also the first step in a journey.

You don't have to look far to see examples of this phenomenon: blogs, podcasting, Twitter, and Facebook are being used by organizations and individuals alike as platforms on which to build a private audience. I chose the word "private" with some care since I think it would be a mistake to think of the audience as proprietary or owned in any way.

In fact, that's one of the real strengths of this model, as I see it. I can choose to read your blog--or not. I can unfollow--or even block--you on Twitter. As a consequence, the new media model shifts the balance of power. This shift gives organizations an incentive to do right by the individual. What's more, individuals are more likely to share information about themselves with organizations they trust and have a relationship with.

One way to look at Kynetx is as a platform company. Because Kynetx apps are cross-site and contextual, they can be used to create powerful platforms on which to build an audience. As I said in my post on the purpose-centric Web, "context matters more than content." When you are using a blog or newsletter as a platform, you're doing old media in the small: create an audience with content.

But as Paul Graham recently pointed out, you can't really sell content, you can only charge for the medium. And the ease of publishing online has created a situation where your content is competing with everyone else's content. Take it from someone who's blogged for a long time: creating good, compelling content day after day is tough.

Paul finished his blog post with this statement:

The reason I've been writing about existing forms is that I don't know what new forms will appear. But though I can't predict specific winners, I can offer a recipe for recognizing them. When you see something that's taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn't have before, you're probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that's merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you're probably looking at a loser.
From Post-Medium Publishing
Referenced Tue Sep 29 2009 15:38:28 GMT-0600 (MST)

Catering to someone's purpose for being online with a cross-site, contextual application is "taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn't have before." While the Kynetx applications that people are building now are simple, they nevertheless represent platforms that support a private audience. More importantly they do it in ways that are extremely useful to the individual who uses them and thus are more likely to be used frequently and shared often.

In fact, Kynetx apps are so powerful and different compared to blogs, newsletters, and the like, that I don't think of the individuals who use them an "audience." Rather, I think of them as a community. Once someone has a app card installed, they've joined the community. The card owner--the platform builder--is responsible for bringing that community together, but if they fail to make the experience relevant and personal or, worse yet, fail to act with integrity, the community will dissolve.

Done right, a Kynetx application has the opportunity to interact with an individual over and over again. What's more these interactions are inherently customer-initiated and thus more likely to be welcomed as long as they continue to provide value. Going back to the "stepping stones" idea, apps work because the app can reduce friction and ease the journey down the path. Again, if it's not useful, then individuals will just opt-out giving app developers the right incentives.

I invite you to find out for yourself about Kynetx by reading my post on the Purpose-centric Web, signing up for a developer account to create your own apps (it's free), and registering for Kynetx Impact, our conference to help you understand and use Kynetx as a new media platform for building your own private audience.