Wanna be popular? Thriving in the new media landscape
Welcome to the changing media landscape, where everything is popular and nothing is popular, all at the same time. We pick and choose from a greater variety of entertainment than ever before and few boast record-shattering support. Products are divided into an endless number of streams that have just enough current to keep them afloat. These varied forms of content function like a Starbucks menu, forcing users to publicly parse out and communicate their preferences in the marketplace, which allows companies to charge more for the things they’re customers are willing to pay extra for.
We could lament this trend, for it seems that we’re losing the cultural artifacts that once bound us together, such as The Beatles’ Abbey Road or Gone with the Wind. Or we could celebrate its potential.
A recent issue of the New York Times Magazine took the latter route. While its special section on popularity offers a bevy of fascinating statistics, it’s the first article that is particularly worth reading for an idea as to where the consumer market—and likely not just in entertainment—is going in the Internet age.
Popularity may not guarantee artistic quality, but it does confer viability. No matter how it’s quantified, popularity ultimately serves as a form of validation, and we all benefit when it’s dispersed more generously. … Cultural popularity functions best when it’s liberally interpreted and freely distributed. If you encounter something that’s popular and it turns out not to be to your taste, that’s fine, no sweat, move on. In the meantime, get excited for all the new things you might enjoy.
Many companies will likely be forced to change their approach to the consumer space as the a la carte trend catches on in areas beyond entertainment. Moreover, industry watchers will have to find new and improved ways to measure consumer support, as firms such as Nielsen or Billboard are facing in television and music, respectively.
We live in a time of great change—disruptive, yes, but full of even more possibility.