Marketers used to talk about a ‘captive audience’ when discussing marketing strategies. The general thinking was a brand wanted to find a captive audience and then bombard them with marketing messages as often as they could get away with or could afford.
In recent years the tables have turned and ‘the audience’ has broken free of its chains and now gets to call the shots. The drivers for this have been mobile devices, new applications and the wireless Internet. We get to decide exactly what content we want to interact with, through what device and at what time.
Content can now be recorded, pulled out of its original form, aggregated, curated and redistributed around the world. The days of a newspaper arriving on our doorstep in the morning, listening to the local radio station and looking forward to watching our favorite TV shows at fixed times are seeming more and more like inflexible and dated concepts.
I was reading a piece in the NY Times recently about how the music industry is changing and how people are discovering music in new ways:
JON PARELES: Well, what is the mechanism? I think what’s going on is that audiences like to find music on their own. You’re having so much stuff thrown at you, like you have Rihanna just blasted at you from all directions, and you think: “Wait a minute, I want something that’s mine. I want something that I’m curious about, where my curiosity hasn’t been smothered by the barrage of marketing.”
RATLIFF: That’s the new authenticity. You found it by yourself or with a few of your friends online.
I think this search for ‘new authenticity’ will fundamentally change the way all businesses reach their customers.
Brands can no longer just ‘blast away’ at their audiences. There are two main reasons for this. First, because a captive audience is becoming more and more difficult to find. Second, because the Internet gives us more choice and freedom to go out and discover something for ourselves that feels more relevant and more authentic.
The sectors that are the most advanced in their thinking here are the artists and the businesses for whom the content is the product. But I believe that over time all companies will need to become content creators and, ultimately, publishers.
Content marketing is the new marketing. The empowered audience is now able to see through or simply avoid superficial marketing messages. The Internet empowers, connects and makes everything more transparent.
Companies will need to create content that is authentic, captivating and demonstrates knowledge or opinion that builds credibility for their brands and their products. It will also need to be tailored to different users to ensure a more relevant and personalized experience.
I call this ‘captive content’ that we seek out, engage with and share as our own.
The good news for companies is that it is becoming easier and easier to create, design and distribute content. The Internet, mobile devices and social media combine together to truly democratize the publishing process.
As an investor I believe there will be many opportunities in this space to help companies to create, distribute and personalize their content and that the market has only just got started.