Here are the two possible ways your marketing message will be greeted by your customer:
- Disengagement; examples are cynicism, not for me, overload, annoying, sameness
- Engagement; examples are connection, inspiration, reinforces what I believe, trust and credibility, makes me smarter
The examples above are a few of the thousands articulated by consumers in a recent Northwestern University Media Management Center study. I know, I know, academic studies are often out of touch and don’t relate to the real world, but this is going to answer a lot of questions for you. Right now the research is in its early stages, but this will be the subject of the next BIG business phenomenon like Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence or Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Read on and you’ll get the use of this information years ahead of everyone else.
The study sought to determine why consumers were moving from higher quality content in newspapers to lower quality blogs and news websites. The question was this: Is there a preference for digital content versus newspaper, or is there something else going on?
While many people will be quick to tell you newspapers are dead, thousands of Internet companies go out of business for every newspaper that fails. And it could be the newspapers that fail do so because of their content and not because of the actual paper and ink involved.
For five years, researchers studied the reactions of 37,000 readers encountering 74,000 stories within newspapers, television, magazines, blogs and online media content. As the research progressed, the common themes went far beyond traditional news and information questions. What emerged was something the journalists and news writers never considered.
Most journalists believe they are “informing” their audience or “making them smarter.” This turned out to be one of the least important reasons people consume information.
Here are the reasons researchers heard from consumers and the real basis of whether a consumer liked a particular newspaper, blog or magazine:
“It takes my mind off other things that are going on.”
“It’s an escape.”
“I like to go to this site when I am eating or taking a break.”
“It is my reward for doing other things.”
“I like to kick back and wind down with it.”
“It’s a quiet time.”
“I feel less stress after reading it.”
As info-marketers, we believe our job is to inform or educate. It’s the same misperception journalists have. They believe it’s about getting the scoop and checking their facts. Instead, it’s all about giving consumers a “time-out experience.” It’s about allowing your customers the opportunity to escape into a world that interests them and gives them a reward for their hard work.
I can hear it already, mostly because I said it myself in the back of my mind: “Great, one more thing to implement!” This isn’t another thing to implement; instead, this is a change in what we are already delivering.
Info-marketers tend to measure value in bulk: the more the better; 600 pages is twice as good as 300 pages; and two conference calls a month is twice as good as one monthly call. Customers, however, have a different yardstick, even if they cannot communicate it.
Your customer is looking for a release, validation and an escape. When YouTube piano-playing cat videos came along, viewers realized their usual television shows were boring. When blogs providing strong partisan commentary grew in prominence, television news programs had to adjust or lose their audience.
Next week I’m going to give you several examples from media companies that are making changes based on this study. It’s funny to see how many are moving to an “info-marketing” type approach in their content delivery. Seeing these examples will make the entire info-marketing business seem a lot simpler to you.
In the meantime, what do you think? Do you have a blog or a magazine that gives you the time-out experience? What is your time-out experience? And how do you strive to deliver that type of experience to your customers? Join the discussion, I read every comment and reply when appropriate.