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Editor's Note:

I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Here's the link: Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian

Thanks for Reading!

The Audience In The Media Ecosystem
by: Jaffer Ali

"Mayo doesn't have friends, he only has customers."
-- Lou Gosset Jr. in Officer and a Gentleman

"Target has a personality all its own. And, for a multitude of reasons, Target attracts guests just as unique as its stores."
--From's press room

There are many parts in every ecosystem. A natural ecosystem has six main components: soil, atmosphere, heat and light from the sun, water and living organisms.

In a media ecosystem, we have content creators, publishers/media owners, networks, agencies, advertisers and of course the audience. If the ecosystem is healthy, the audience eventually gets transformed into happy customers. This last sentence warrants repeating. If a media ecosystem is healthy, audiences eventually are transformed into customers.

With the exception of folks like holistic thinkers like Bob Garfield and my friend Jeff Einstein, much of what we read comes from experts who specialize in only one part of the ecosystem. This results in advice that generally misses the mark and is overly compartmentalized.

The biggest error of omission is any real attention to the audience. Let's start with the explaining what I mean. A good working definition of "audience" is a group of listeners or spectators. Not surprisingly, the root comes from Latin and it means a "state of hearing."

What many in the media ecosystem do is confuse customers with audiences. The dictionary definition of "customer" is a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer.

Do you see the difference between "customer" and "audience" when you read them back-to-back? Is there a difference between a "friend" and a "customer" (Mayo of Officer and a Gentleman initially could not.)

The reason Target changed their language from "customers" to "guests" was that they wanted to compel their employees to treat those people who came through their doors differently. Target knew that happy guests would eventually lead to happy customers.

But most Internet advertisers and marketers forget about treating the audience as anything other than customers. Advertisers stalk audiences with ever more novel, invasive marketing technologies. Marketers bombard the audience with meaningless ad messages because there is no respect for the audience as an audience. They are only customers.

Publishers lend themselves to the folly by adopting the latest technologies that promise more than they ever can deliver. Publishers have lost their way trying to get a bigger piece of the advertising pie.

Agencies used to be at the forefront of audience development. Now agencies are glorified bean counters unwittingly leading a charge in their own disintermediation. Disintermediation is a highfalutin word for eliminating themselves from being in the middle between media and advertisers.

So if arguably the most important element in the media ecosystem is the audience, then who is paying attention to this segment? The simple answer is the audience is listening to each other. Audiences do what they have always done; listen ("state of hearing"...remember?)

The rise of audiences participating in social media is in direct proportion to the decline in respect for the audience by the rest of the ecosystem. And traditional advertising is finding it difficult to break through in this new environment because they broke the respect barrier with audiences long ago.

Original Article: The Audience In The Media Ecosystem

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