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Advertising is about Audiences – not Distribution Channels


Twitter’s ability to attract a swarm of conversations around particular TV shows means that it can marshal a large audience engaged in a particular show without necessitating the use of the traditional TV spot. From the advertiser’s perspective there will be a motivation to reach the people who count without blowing a big wad of money on the TV spot that was traditionally used to do exactly that. Why bother, when Twitter’s “TV conversation targeting” is designed to do something quite similar?

This is a reflection of a larger realization that is, of course, obvious: Advertisers are buying audiences, not distribution channels. If Twitter can provide the most active and engaged portion of a show’s audience without the need to advertise on that show, it amounts to a parallel distribution channel to the best part of that show’s audience – one monetized by Twitter, not by the network airing the show.

One has to ask: If brands – your clients – can reach consumers by routing around spots, won’t they?

And the answer is, of course, “yes.”

Recently one of my clients related a comment from one of their partners who heads digital marketing for a major cable TV channel. “All the action is on Facebook and Twitter,” he reportedly said. “Our website is almost irrelevant.” In other words, fueling, feeding, amplifying, and stoking the audience for any given show is happening primarily through social media, not through the owned digital assets of the brand itself, and certainly not through the network’s advertising for its own shows.

This means any brand with unique and compelling content can attract an audience and “be media” once that audience scales sufficiently. In other words, any of your clients can substitute for the media-ness of your brand if they attract enough eyes, ears, and engagement.

Today, audiences swarm around content, not simply around distribution channels. That makes it more important than ever to nurture and own the right content and express it across every platform. That won’t keep Twitter from stealing a piece of the attention the content earns and monetizing it on their own, but it will maximize your ability to do the same.

Tom Asacker once asked me whether radio (for example) considers itself to be in the content business or in the distribution business. I believe most broadcasters would answer the distribution business.

But that’s not the right answer.

Just ask the TV network that loses the spot buy to Twitter.

Radio should be less interested in the “future of radio” and more interested in the future of attention and the content that attracts it.

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