Category Archives: Attention Economy

Kelly says: start looking for a few true fans

Kevin Kelly has a lovely and encouraging idea for creative people wondering how to make a living from their talent or craft. It only takes 1,000 True Fans — people willing to spend $100 a year on your stuff – to gross $100,000. Back out some expenses and that’s enough to make a modest living or renumerative hobby. He writes:

“One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.”

Kelly allows that the number will vary: “Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker.” And he provides examples for encouragement and ideas for sites or services that would assist in this bootstrapping approach:

“Digital technology enables this fan support to take many shapes. Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the mininum is not reached.”

I spent 10 years running a small business in the pre-Web world and Kelly’s prescription for building a small business out a fan following resonates with my experience. I got into business by accident in a sense at age 26, with no formal training and no role model — my dad was wage-earner as I am now. But what struck me way back then was how a core group of clients made our business (a mom & pop typesetting and publishing shop). It was never easy. It was always feast or famine. So much work we were setting type until our eyes bugged out or else were worried by the lack of a backlog and trying to hustle up some work. But we ran that shop for 10 years and sold it as a going concern (though it died not long thereafter; to use Kelly’s metaphor, new owner did not bond to our fan-base).

All in 1000 True Fans is an idea that is actionable, pragmatic and inspiring. Thanks to Tim (BerkeleyBlog) Bishop for pointing me to it.

It’s the interactivity, stupid!


“The internet is a copy machine,” Kevin Kelly says in “Better than Free“ an essay in which he paints the net as a “super-distribution system.” It churns out copies so “super abundant they become worthless.” Kelly advises creative people to invent new ways to make money because it is no longer possible to charge for content.

But Kelly is only half right. Sure the net is a copier. But he overlooks the more revolutionary trait that will work to our advantage as communicators — the net is interactive. It restores the feedback between audience and author that we used to enjoy back when stories were told around the camp fire.

That feedback loop went missing about six hundred years ago. Blame Gutenberg. He mass produced thought and packaged it in books. They diffused knowledge more efficiently than dispatching story tellers hither and yon.

But something was lost in the leap from oral to print. The oral story was interactive. If the audience seemed puzzled the story teller rephrased the tale. Print was practically set in stone. It never paused to look for comprehension. Print told only one version of the story and it always flowed one way. About a century ago broadcast untethered stories from literacy. Knowledge radiated even more widelybut it still flowed just one-way.

And that’s the way it was.

Looking at today’s internet you’d never guess interactivity had staged a comeback. Today’s internet has bolted-on some interactive features – viewers can comment on stories or vote in informal polls. These tactics seem reminicent of early television when announcers cupped one hand behind their ear for better acoustics — realizing how silly they looked.

What would an interactive publication look like? OhMyNews, the South Korea citizen journalism phenomenon, may be the best example. About 20 percent of its content is produced by professionals. The rest is citizen-generated. It was founded in 2000 and is thought to have swayed the 2006 South Korean presidential race. 

Yes, the Internet is a copying and distribution engine. It is destroying jobs and rewiring industries. But the more pregnant change has yet to be realized. For more than 600 years the author and the audience have been sundered. Now the audience is coming back into view. We can see them just beyond the circle of flames. How do we catch their eyes and entice them to stay? That the question will preoccupy the 21st Century publisher.

Browsers spend three hours plus on videos


More than 140 million Americans watched 10 billion online videos in December says a report from comscore Video Metrix. That’s about 72 videos per viewer. Video Metrix said the average video was 2.8 minutes. Over the course of a month the  average viewer spent three hours and twenty minutes enjoying this new habit that didn’t exist even three years ago.

Google sites had 43 percent of this new attention-getter, followed by Fox (23.9 percent) and Yahoo sites (20.8 percent).

Wired Magazine editor Nancy Miller calls this “Snack Culture.”

Lord only knows what Americans are snacking on, however, because comScore Video Metrix didn’t say.

AdAge job report: marketing rules, news drools


News media are losing jobs; but Ad Age says marketing broke an employment record in November

If you’re in the news business maybe you ought to slide over into marketing.

An analysis of federal jobs statistics by Advertising Age magazine says media jobs — newspapers, broadcast and cable TV, radio, magazines and internet media companies –“fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing-services — agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers — broke a record in November (769,000).”

Here are a couple of excerpts from the February 18 article by Bradley Johnson.

Marketing thrives:

“Among all the ad-related job sectors, the hot spot is marketing consulting. Employment in that field in December reached a record 148,500, accounting for the lion’s share of job gains over the past year in advertising and marketing services.”

News writhes:

“Since media employment peaked in dot-com-infused 2000, media companies have eliminated one in six jobs (167,600) . . . The only media sectors to add jobs: magazines (up a meager 400 jobs) and internet media companies (up 9,200) . . . The big problem is newspapers, which account for half (82,800) of media jobs lost since 2000. One in four newspaper jobs have disappeared since newspaper employment peaked in 1990 . . . Newspapers, saddled with heavy costs of printing and distribution, last year accounted for 38% of U.S. media jobs, down from 50% in 1990.”

To drill down further into the current numbers, Johnson and AdAge presented a separate page of charts showing 2006 to 2007 job movements for each of the job categories inside of communications – jobs in all news media plus advertising and marketing.


Tips for television interviews: be energetic, unhurried

tn_friedman.jpg Marsha Friedman says: relax

So you’ve got your 15 minutes of fame and you are about to represent yourself, your company or your cause on a television interview. No pressure! Wrong. It will be unnerving and pass quickly. Study the tips suggested by publicist Marsha Friedman.  Be energetic and concise. Pay attention to body language. Pay attention to the interviewer. Be descriptive. Strike the proper emotional tone.

Why not do a mock interview with friends and supporters.  Encourage tough questions. Practice thinking on your feet. I love and hate television. Noting else has the reach . . . or the shallowness. I have been a television guest a few times in conjunction with my reporter’s duties and I remember one time that I wish I had been able to take one of Friedman’s exhortations to heart. She says the last thing you should do before going on-air should be to research your topic for new themes or subtopics:

“If the anchor asks you a question about a timely news story and you don’t know what he’s talking about it erodes your credibility, and ‘likeability factor’ to their audience.  So it’s a good idea to do a quick online news search for any stories related to your topic right before your scheduled interview.”

 Would that I had done that back in the late 1990s when I was covering the Microsoft antitrust case from a bureau office in Silicon Valley and I was invited to appear on either CNN or FOX in San Francisco. I had to drive up to the city after filing my column and I barely made it to the office. No time to check anything. And what am I asked?

“What do you think about the ham sandwich remark?”

So there I am on network television with a look of astonishment on my face: ham sandwich? Well, as it turned out, Joel Klein, the Justice Department lawyer prosecuting the government case had that very day filed a legal brief to the effect that Microsoft had asserted the right to require computer makers ” to put ‘orange juice’ or ‘a ham sandwich’ in the box with a PC” as part of the contract for loading Windows onto the machine.

Of course I had not checked in advance — I suppose I had a pretty good excuse but what did it matter. After a brief and painful experience I was allowed to leave. I was never invited to return. All over a ham sandwich. Well at least I know why Windows is so slow in booting up. It’s got to eat that ham sandwich and rinse it down with OJ.

What then is to be done: build or berate?

tn_change.jpg Interactive media invite change

I was arguing with another blogger over the weekend over the best way to make a difference as a writer, and it finally occurred to me that that writing and journalism are too timid for the times, and out of step with the technolgy. Writing is about suggesting ideas. Good ideas are a useful but that judgment is in the mind of readers and they come to most stories with a set of preconceptions. They already have some predisposition toward the facts and when they read it is to see whether the writer has or has not conformed to those preconceptions. Everyone does this. At least so I believe based on 53 years of life experience including 16 years as a newspaper journalist. But I formed this bias, if you will about how people process information, back when I was a 20-year-old Navy journalist, reading a nightly newscast aboard a warship in the Pacific. I used to walk down the passageway from the closed circuit TV studio where I did my thing and hear from my crewmates playing cards on the mess decks. That was during the 1970s. During the 1980s I wrote columns for a now defunct weekly in Arcata, California. It was a small town of about 15,000 and I believe I earned $10 or $15 a week. But for me, as a small business owner, it was about the exposure. And I recall one day in particular when one of my townsfolk stopped to compliment me on something I had written and I made the error of asking them what — and they told me something 180 degrees to the opposite of what I had intended to convey. Whatever they had read had been the opposite of what I meant.

So now we have interactive media available and I think that changes everything. Suddenly the communicator has the ability to request or provoke an action. That is the fundamental difference. So far writers and broadcasters have focused on the ease of distribution. Yes it is easier to send digital copies. And yes this has completely upended the economics of publishing. That economic disruption has complicated the task of journalism. It used to be we could imagine that somewhere, somehow, the news industry would cover the important topics of the day out of the profits they enjoyed through advertising. And both print and broadcast news used to be extremely profitable. So there probably was sufficient wealth to insure a level of scrutiny from the press overall sufficient to play the watchdog role that journalists imagine to be theirs. Nowadays I think every aspect of that supposition is wrong. As the profit goes out of the newsgathering industry there is an inexorable pressure to create content that draws readers and advertising. Pay-per-click advertising demands “good” news because there is nothing that can be sold alongside a keyword like “genocide” (I explored this topic previously in a posting titled Hot Tubs vs. Hot Zones.)

But interactive media change the whole process of communication in a way that we are only beginning to understand because it is so new. We can invite activity. If you agree, vote this article higher. If you agree, write your elected or corporate official. If you agree, join the movement in some way appropriate to your circumstances. The communicator no longer need be merely the guardian angel (or devil) whispering in your ear. They become the organizer or inciter of activity. The writer becomes a rabble rouser. Otherwise they leave the most powerful capability of new media unused, and that is the ability to use the network to coordinate the actions of like minded people.

Why did I wake up this morning in this “storm the Bastille” frame of mind? It has to do with that argument I mentioned. The other party was interested in tracking down some supposedly misleading information about global warming. Why bother is my thought? I can no greater waste of time than trying to change the minds of people whose predispositions make them more likely to sneer than to smile at my ideas. If I wanted to do something about global warming, I would plant a tree. If I wanted to do something in a big way about global warming I would start a group of people who plant trees. I would share information about which trees have the best carbon-dioxide conversion rates. And what about city dwellers? Are there potted plants that could decorate an office or apartment and enlist more folks in the effort?

It all comes down to how change occurs. During most of the last 15 years I have covered Silicon Valley where change is an industrial process. The main take away is the power of small teams of dedicated and focused individuals. That’s what a startup company is — a few people with a laserlike focus on making something happen.

That same method would work just as well for the sort of change that gets lumped under the rubric of social progress. If you want to change some part of the human experience,  create a web page to lay out what you stand for and find the people who agree. Make it easy for them to join you. Or you join them. Do something. Actions speak louder than words. Interactive media finally connect the two. So why fight the losing battle to change minds when there are minds that already agree with you and are just waiting for something purposeful to do?

Postscript: the artwork is from

Survey says bloggers more diverse than nation


A detail from a float celebrating the diversity of San Jose, California, where 130 languages and/ dialects are spoken in the school district.

A newly-released survey from BigResearch drawing on a panels nearly 16,000 respondents suggests that one in four Americans blogs “regularly or occasionally” and that this blogging community is more ethnically diverse than the general adult population.

 I offer a snippet from the top of the press release and post its entirety below because I couldn’t find a link. The press release is written as if the data are statistically valid but I found no note about methodology:

“Twenty-six percent of all adults say they regularly or occasionally blog. Of those, 53.7 percent are male and 44.7 percent are married. Twenty-eight-point four percent hold a professional or managerial position, while only one in 10 (10.4%) are students.  Bloggers tend to be younger, averaging 37.6 years old, compared to 44.8 for adults 18 or older (in the general adult population). Ethnically, 69.7 percent of Bloggers are White/Caucasian (vs. 76.1%), 12.2 percent are African American/Black (vs. 11.4%) and 3.7 percent are Asian (vs. 2.0%). Twenty percent of Bloggers are Hispanic, compared to 14.8 percent of adults 18+ (in the general population). In addition, Bloggers report a lower income ($55,819 vs. $56,811) and are better educated (14.3 years of education vs. 14.2).” (emphasis added)

    .*                    *                   *                  * 

COLUMBUS, OH – (MARKET WIRE) – 2/12/08 – The art of blogging is no longer reserved for the college student with too much to say or the unemployed, self proclaimed “computer-nerd,” according to BIGresearch’s ( most recent Simultaneous Media Survey (SIMM 11) of 15,727 participants. 26% of all adults say they regularly or occasionally blog. Of those, 53.7% are male and almost half (44.7%) are married. 28.4% hold a professional or managerial position, while only one in 10 (10.4%) are students.    Bloggers tend to be younger, averaging 37.6 years old, compared to 44.8 for adults 18+. Ethnically, 69.7% of Bloggers are White/Caucasian (vs. 76.1%), 12.2% are African American/Black (vs. 11.4%) and 3.7% are Asian (vs. 2.0%). 20% of Bloggers are Hispanic, compared to 14.8% of adults 18+. In addition, Bloggers report a lower income ($55,819 vs. $56,811) and are better educated (14.3 years of education vs. 14.2).In the blogosphere, political blogs are becoming increasingly common, especially in an election year. 24.6% of registered voters say they regularly or occasionally blog. 37.6% of Libertarians regularly/occasionally blog, followed by Democrats (26.9%), Independents (25.7%) and Republicans (22.9%).“Bloggers are a diverse group and not who you would expect,” said Gary Drenik, President of BIGresearch. “This diversity provides political Bloggers with a forum to discuss issues or maybe be influenced by others, while Candidates have an opportunity to reach interested voters.” Another point of interest from the analysis of the Blogger shows that they are using most forms of new media significantly more than the average market.

Regular/Occasional New Media Usage (Top 5) 


Cell Phone 93.0% 87.5%
Instant Messaging 75.3% 49.3%
Download/Access Video/TV Content 72.2% 45.0%
Video Gaming 66.9% 47.5%
Text Messaging  65.5% 45.2%

Source: BIGresearch SIMM 11, Jan 08, N=15,727More Bloggers regularly seek advice from others before purchasing products or services (21.3% vs. 16.8% of adults 18+). They are also more likely to give advice with 38.3% saying they regularly give advice about products / services they have purchased (compared to 29.4% of adults 18+).Although Bloggers are more likely to use new media, the analysis finds that more conventional forms of media trigger their Internet searches. Magazines, at 51.6%, rank highest; followed by reading an article (48.8%), broadcast TV (46.1%), cable TV (44.5%), face-to-face communication (42.5%) and the newspaper (39.7%). To receive a recap of the key findings, click BIGresearch
BIGresearch is a consumer intelligence firm providing solution-based insights of consumer behavior, present and future, in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media. BIGresearch conducts the Simultaneous Media Survey (SIMM) bi-annually and the Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (CIA) monthly. More information is available at