A Man for Some SeasonsPosted: January 13, 2014
A few words of wisdom inspired by the “Golden Globes.” First, a brief Madmen-esque story, perhaps apocryphal, but allegedly true:
Fifty-year-old adman sits down at the bar beside a very attractive woman roughly twenty years his junior. He is suave. He is charming. He is on the prowl. He is experienced at prowling. After some time it’s obvious things are going very well and they’re hitting it off. Suddenly, she looks down. At his wedding ring. “Oh! I see you’re married. Too bad. We were just beginning to get to know one another,” she says with a coquettish pout.
“This ol’ thing? It’s not like I’m a fanatic or anything,” he says, teeth gleaming, as he drops the ring in his pocket.
Some guys are just like that. Prey drive is foundational to their DNA. They won’t be broken. Save your breath to cool your soup.
In media, whether you call it ‘tilting at windmills’ or ‘pissing in the wind’ it seems to me there’s a lot of effort to stop that which cannot be stopped. Best case, this is an exercise in futility. Worst, it’s suicidal.
You can’t hold all your audience close all the time. Don’t even try. It’s not you. It’s them.
The season of ultimatums— “you can either have ___ or you can have me”– is decidedly over. Consumers know full well they can have both and then some.
“Or” is out. “And” is in. Way in.
Folks don’t watch TV or surf the web. They watch TV and surf the web (amongst other things.)
The Fifties are gone, folks. We’re with you (usually) and against you (occasionally.) Ask Chris Christie. We’re not lemmings. Blind devotion is in short supply and reserved for only the most sacred relationships. Most content creators and their audience don’t share that kind of primacy.
It seems to me that the media winners in 2014 and beyond will be those that swallow their jealousy and enter into more open relationships with more people, accepting them for who they are: mainly flawed, often promiscuous, attention deficit ravaged goobers. People.
Successful media publishers will utilize new technologies to extend their brands, reach, and business opportunities. Here I see a distinct advantage for audio. Audio was never the bell of the ball. It was happy for the time you spent with it. It always allowed you to see other things (like the road, your frying pan, your bedroom ceiling as you lay there counting sheep to name only a few.) You could talk over it without it or anyone else ever shushing you. With the rise of mobile as the primary listening device, audio’s now even more generous. Tucked away in your pocket it keeps you abreast of the news, plays the guilty pleasure tracks you don’t want others to hear, or keeps you putting one foot in front of the other on the treadmill. It’s always been a companion. Now it’s the coolest companion ever. It’s Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary.
Of course, you should do as much as you can to be appealing. Craft your content like a Renaissance artisan. Make it portable, easily accessible and shareable. Leave room for comment and contributions from the peanut gallery—you never know where great ideas will come from, and pride of authorship is a powerful sharing motivator. Keep abreast of trends, but don’t chase. Most are ephemeral. Great content endures, riding above the churning waves of what’s fashionable this very moment. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth before charting a new course.
Do what you can to make them want you as much as you want them, but do render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. You can’t be all things to all people. Don’t try.
Otherwise, you’re a raving Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction that simply “won’t be ignored.” That’s creepy, not sexy.
Find a middle-ground, a stasis, where mutually beneficial relationships flourish based on genuine shared interests and compatibility. Neediness is not charming devotion. It’s shabby desperation. Not sexy at all. There’s a time for The Onion and The Journal, Yo-Yo Ma and Yo La Tengo. Don’t make me choose because there is no choice. I choose both. Deal with it or be dealt with.
Don’t grip the reins too tight. Do your part and your audience will see you for what you are—an indispensible resource for what you do. They’ll come back soon enough even if they do stay out a bit late once and again. They always do.
Unless they’re mixed up with some bunny-boiler. Then it’s time to roll the credits.