Book Short: Why Audience Trumps All Other Business Imperatives
The following is a book excerpt from Jeffrey Rohrs’ Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers, published by Wiley. Jeff makes this complete section free for DMA Advance readers.
Audiences are all around you. They are direct, responsive, and extremely cost effective. They’re also new, constantly evolving, and quick to anger if you cross them. Your company needs audiences to survive. If you aren’t building, engaging, and activating proprietary audiences of your own, you’re falling behind.
Bruce Springsteen (@Springsteen) is no stranger to proprietary audiences. With over 120 million albums sold worldwide and thousands of live concerts under his belt, he lives for them. And while you might think a veteran performer would be the last person to worry about fi nding an audience—you ’d be wrong.
After four decades as a performer, Bruce remains concerned about his ability to build and sustain an audience for his product (i.e., his music) in the Internet age. His quote at the beginning of this chapter sums the challenge up perfectly:
Getting an audience is HARD. Sustaining an audience is HARD.
It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.
If The Boss is worried about getting an audience, shouldn’t you be worried? Shouldn’t your boss be?
The question of where the next sale will come from has always dogged businesses. Indeed, the entire fi eld of capital-M Marketing rose up to address such fears head on. Over the years, marketers have used a combination of creativity, messaging, and well-placed advertising to help their companies generate the vast majority of their sales—so much, in fact, that we completely lost any fear about on-demand audiences disappearing. After all, there were always print publications, radio stations, and television networks out there,
all willing to put your product in front of an audience at a moment ’s notice in exchange for cold, hard advertising dollars.
And then, the Internet happened.
New, interactive channels fragmented consumer attention, toppled traditional information gatekeepers, and decimated the business models of traditional media. Consider that:
- From 2008 to 2012, daily newspaper circulation dropped 26.6 percent in the United Kingdom and 14.9 percent in the United States.
- Twenty-nine percent of TV viewing is time-shifted thanks to DVRs, VOD, and Web-streaming platforms (and 41 percent of recorded shows go unwatched).
- By 2020, the average consumer will own 50 Internet-enabled devices.
(Sources cited in the book section excerpt.)
In Bruce ’s industry, once all-powerful, taste-making radio stations now stand as homogeneous shells of corporate effi ciency where fewer owners play fewer artists to fewer listeners. Record stores are on life support, sustained by a few die-hard music enthusiasts, vinyl addicts, and the resale market for CDs. As for the music-buying experience, it has shifted from tactile and personal to virtual and impulsive. Practically overnight, the biggest artists went from selling entire albums to pushing MP3 singles for 99 cents a pop.
This is why The Boss is worried. The Internet, mobility, and social media have drastically altered a formerly stable and profitable means of manufacture, distribution, and promotion. Traditional influencers who propelled his albums to platinum-level sales have lost power. And if Bruce can’t find new, cost-effective ways to reach audiences, his records won ’t sell, his concerts won ’t sell out, and his cash register won ’t ring. But we know this hasn’t happened. The Boss is doing just fine. His 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, topped the charts—his tenth album to do so.
He has amassed an incredibly loyal audience over the course of his 40 years in the music industry, and as times have changed, so have the ways they follow him. Instead of learning about his new album from a radio DJ, they hear about it directly from his website, email, or Twitter account. Or they hear about it from a new tastemaker—a blogger or fellow FAN on Facebook. Whatever the case, The Boss has retained his following because his management understands the absolute necessity of Proprietary Audience Development
over the long term.
Proprietary Audience Development is a comprehensive, collaborative, and cross channel effort to build audiences that your company alone can access. This new marketing practice is built upon a mandate that I call The Audience Imperative :
Use your Paid, Owned, and Earned Media not only to sell in the short term but also
to increase the size, engagement, and value of your
Proprietary Audiences over the long term.
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To learn more, just download a free section of Jeff’s book.
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