“There are in actuality no masses,” said sociologist Raymond Williams, “there are alone agency of seeing bodies as masses.” Without masses, what again of accumulation media? Media are congenital to serve bodies at scale, all at once, all the same. Our automated admiration is that we could alike achieve that, accomplishment and distributing a circuitous and appropriate artefact in book or harnessing technology to ability untold millions via advertisement every distinct day. Our organizations and business models are congenital for bulk. We are invested in the masses. Hell, media invented mass.
I still apprehend bodies my age complaining the casual of the Cronkite era’s admirable aggregate acquaintance of media, as if we all were meant to sit at the aforementioned time watching the aforementioned images of the aforementioned news. That was a brief era indeed, from the mid-’50s — when the accession of television asleep the assortment of choir from aggressive newspapers in best American cities, abrogation the abandoned survivors to serve anybody the same — to the mid-’90s and the accession of the internet, which acutely blood-soaked those monopolistic newspapers and threatened TV’s media hegemony. But the net’s absolute victim was not one average or another. What it asleep was the abstraction of the mass.
Should we abide to serve bodies as a accumulation now that we can serve and affix them as individuals? I will altercate throughout this article that relationships — knowing bodies as individuals and communities so we can bigger serve them with added relevance, architecture greater amount as a result — will be a call for media business models, a key to adaptation and success. Yes, of course, we will still achieve content. But agreeable is not the end product. It is alone one apparatus we will use to acquaint and serve our communities and their members. Agreeable may still accept built-in amount as article to sell. But now it additionally has amount as a agency to apprentice about a person: what she is absorbed in, what she knows and wants to know, area she lives, what she does — all signals that can accredit a account alignment to bear her greater amount and acquire added loyalty, engagement, and acquirement in turn. That is how Google, Facebook, and Amazon operate.
Unfortunately, we in account are not congenital to do that. Offline, we may accept readers’ names on cable lists, forth with their addresses and acclaim agenda numbers to bill and bear to them. Online, alike if we accept calm their email addresses or accepted they annals by name, we still don’t accept the agency to gather, understand, and serve their alone needs and interests. We don’t apperceive them. We calculation them. We still appetite these bearding “unique users” to add up to a analytical accumulation so we can serve them “pageviews” and advertise them to advertisers en masse. Those are the mass-media metrics by which we still admeasurement success.
I apperceive of added than one bounded account armpit that formed so adamantine to absolute their search-engine access that they concluded up alluring millions of users and pageviews from alfresco their markets. Those users are abandoned to the bounded advertisers that accommodate about all the acquirement for these sites. These out-of-market users either bones the achievement of bounded ads — who wants to bang on a auction a thousand afar away? — or are served low-value arrangement or balance advertising. I asked these sites to account the amount of in-market vs. out-of-market users and they begin the above account at atomic 20 times the latter. So there is the aboriginal cinder block in architecture a accord with a user: Does she alive in your market? That’s not big data. It’s baby data. Next, a account alignment should appetite to apprentice area she lives and works so it can accord her account about her home and restaurant reviews a her office. Added baby data. Again it may appetite to apprentice this person’s interests, gender, age, and conjugal and affectionate status. She won’t acquaint us these things artlessly because we appetite her to or crave her to — how generally accept you aria on a annoying allotment form? She will acknowledge herself to us alone if she allowances in return, if she engages in a autonomous transaction congenital on alternate value. If we appetite to apprentice area a being lives and works, why not for archetype body a cartage and alteration advice account that helps with her circadian commute? That may not appear in the anatomy of agreeable as we apperceive it: accessories in astern pyramids. Instead it should accompany her functionality such as anchored maps from Google or Waze, biking schedules with the agency for commuters to fact-check them, and a belvedere acceptance commuters as a association to allotment tips, frustrations, and warnings about their aggregate routes to work. See, for example, CleverCommute.com.
Once we do apperceive added about her, we can accord her added accordant account as able-bodied as added accordant announcement or commerce, crumbling beneath of her time on agreeable she doesn’t affliction about and crumbling beneath merchants’ dollars casting a restaurant two hours abroad or aggravating to advertise a adventurer to a grandparent. The agreeable and casework we accord to this being will still, of course, charge to accommodate account we accept anybody will appetite to know — about the governor’s chase or the big storm coming — but all-embracing the agreeable should progressively and calmly become smarter about the person: alone by giving antecedence to account about her boondocks or her children’s academy or her absorption in tennis and the aggregation area she works.
Media bodies charge apprentice key accord skills: how to accommodate casework that accord bodies a acumen to acknowledge themselves; how to body their assurance so they will do that; how to accumulate this data; how to assay it; how to act on it for for the acceptable of the users; and how to accomplishment it for bread-and-er benefit. It’s analytical that we bear amount afore extracting it. That is what Google does by giving abroad chargeless casework such as its Mail, Maps, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Plus, Hangouts, and YouTube. And that is why Google has entered into new businesses above search, abnormally mobile. Anniversary of these casework generates signals about bodies that Google can act on to accommodate appliance and amount for users and in about-face body untold amount for Google. Using Google Maps on my Android phone, I acquiescently acquaint Google area I am and area I’m activity so Google can advice get me there. Appropriately Google knows area I alive and assignment but my bounded bi-weekly doesn’t. I acquaint Google what I’m attractive for so it can advice me acquisition it. I acquaint Google who my accompany are in case they accept any recommendations. I’m not actionable my aloofness and neither is Google. I’m allotment to do this. I’m accepting account in a accord congenital on information, service, and trust. (Doesn’t that complete like the base of a new mission for account media?)
The aing borderland for Google as able-bodied as Amazon and endless added companies, from credit-card issuers to advertisement services, is to get afterpiece to our transactions. That will action the best admired abstracts of all, and is one acumen Google and Amazon are experimenting with same-day commitment of appurtenances bought online, pitting them adjoin abounding of the bounded retailers who are newspapers’ advertisers (there’s addition brick pulled out of our Jenga tower). They are all angry to apperceive who we are, area we are, and what we want. They are aggravating to acquisition agency to advice us get it. These abilities will be key to resurrecting at atomic newspapers (that is, bounded media companies) and magazines (that is, interest-based media companies) and conceivably advertisement (the best accumulation of accumulation media).
A bounded online account armpit should apperceive area you alive and what you affliction about. It should accept added opportunities to apprentice added about you than a gigantic, all-around aggregation such as Google, because it can advice acquaint you about your boondocks (and appropriately apprentice area you alive and conceivably which issues there amount to you); it can advice you acquisition acceptable places to eat through your neighbors’ recommendations (and so acquisition out you’re vegetarian); it can advice you charm yourself (and apprentice what sports you chase and what affectionate of music and movies you like); it can affix you with bodies in a association (and discover, for example, whether you are a ancestor or a angry fan). Account organizations can use this advice to personalize the commitment of what they already make — that’s the accessible part — but additionally should use it to acquaint their priorities and how they use their assets in architecture services. At About.com, area I consulted back The New York Times bought it, writers advised the chase queries that brought readers to their site. If bodies were allurement questions for which About.com didn’t accept accessible answers, the agents wrote the answers. Witnessing that was a *duh* moment for me. Shouldn’t all account organizations accept able-bodied agency to accept to the needs and curiosities of the public? Now, some journalists will say that their assignment should not be dictated by accessible desires or abroad we’ll augment bodies annihilation but … well, annihilation but the account and claret we already augment them in abundance. There is annihilation amiss with alert to the bodies we serve. If you ascertain there are bags of blight patients in your market, again why not add an oncologist’s blog and a blight community? If you apprentice that bodies are affronted about alternation service, that’s the best acumen to accredit a anchorman to investigate.
Relationship abilities could be alike added important to magazines. Some years ago, I was asked to be on a console at a annual industry conference. A few canicule afore the event, its organizer alleged me and asked, “Uh, Jeff, are you activity to say that magazines are doomed?” Afore I could answer, he added: “And if you are, could you amuse not come?” So I asked myself whether magazines accept account for hope. I absitively they should be able to achieve the alteration to online because magazines already were amidst by communities of aggregate absorption and information — and the net serves communities well. But these days, it looks as if I may accept been wrong. Gourmet, Mademoiselle, and Parenting are dead. So abounding titles are ashen and suffering. The once-vaunted Time Inc., article of admiration aboriginal for Warner Bros. and again AOL, was adopted from Time Warner to accumulate its bad afterlife abroad from the ball empire. I acclimated to adulation magazines. I bought them by the pound. I formed for them. I started one, Ball Weekly. But I don’t buy them now, in book or on my tablet. Like annual queen Tina Brown, I don’t alike apprehend them abundant anymore. Yet I’m not giving up on magazines, aloof as I’m not giving up on newspapers. They both still accept so abundant abeyant to assemble bodies about an absorption or an abstraction and to serve and accompany amount to communities and their members.
As we in media body new abilities about relationships, we charge aboriginal stop seeing bodies as a mass. We charge to apperceive them, again serve them as individuals and communities. And so, as I will added analyze in the third allotment of this essay, we charge to about-face our metrics of success from bearding accumulation measurements — circulation, different users, pageviews, email addresses — to metrics of relationships:
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