Monday, May 21, 2007

Famous for 15 people

In 1968 Andy Warhol predicted: ‘In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes’.

It’s usually contracted to ‘Famous for 15 minutes,’ of course.

Andy was right from where he stood. But his future is now past. Now it’s about being ‘Famous for 15 PEOPLE’.

I first referred to this in the post ‘Famous for 15 minutes? Famous for 15 people is better’.

And over time it’s become clear to me that this phrase, and Andy’s, and the shift between them, offers a neat description of the way things have changed.

Once, the idea of mass media was to reach ‘everyone’. The Warhol prediction describes the last moments of mass media very well - a world of frenzied vying for attention in which the attention that’s grabbed becomes worth less and less. When everyone can be famous for 15 minutes, what is the value of fame?

A brief, non-immersive relationship with anything has little value.

Consider how that applies to content or advertising, or customer relationships.

If you are assaulted by a parade of interruptive ‘sells’ they become a passing blur (quite literally in the case of the fast-forward button on your PVR) none of them registering, none of them engaging.

Far better to be fully engaged with a small number (a niche – and please don’t take me literally on the ‘15 number’…) than to broadcast to a billion who are looking the other way.

This is the lesson of the long tail.

We're at the start of a new and even more powerful (long-tail-led) internet revolution/disruption.

Only this time... it's personal.

It’s personal because the mobile device is critical to how we will make use of and contribute to the internet from now on. The mobile offers a level of personalisation that is a giant leap up from the fixed-line web.

The fixed line net was initially grown by content providers of the mass industrial age, the mobile web will explode as a direct result of User Generated Content.

And because of the social nature of web2.0 the growth will be exponential. It will dominate the way the mobile web develops in a faster and more pervasive way than we saw with the original fixed-line internet.

The long tail will wag the mass media dog way more vigorously than it has in the fixed line internet world.

Converged consumers/creators/designers/buyers/sellers/marketers etc are setting up their own mobile sites, sharing their interests, forming their own communities, creating their own content and services and selling them. A whole new way of discovering and creating value is emerging.

Emails bounced back and forth with Communities Dominate Brands’ Tomi Ahonen (itself an illustration of the power of the network in action), helps crystalise how this can shape the way we must start to think about the emerging opportunities.

He said: “Yes, of COURSE! The long tail is an excellent metaphor for personalisation. The longer we move along the personalisation "long tail" the more we can find real opportunities in it, and discover "segments" or personalities that are ill-served by current media, technology etc. GREAT thought!”

The community of readers of this post are small in number. But they are absolutely the right ones. This post is not intended to be famous for 15 minutes. That would have little value to you or I.

If it becomes famous to 15 people, 15 people who are willing to contribute to it, share it, change it ENGAGE with it, own it... then we 15 may discover value we never knew we could share.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?