Saturday, September 24, 2005

UPDATED: The Myth of the "Mainstream": A Seminar Recap that tell us where we really are!

Last week I sat on a panel in San Francisco entitled, "Vlogging & blogging & podcasts, oh my!" The panelists were actually a mixed bunch of folks that don't actually blog or podcast or vlog, and a couple of us who do. And I was definitely the only one who takes blogging to such extremes (tomorrow I'm launching my 9th blog, and 6th one for a client: the hip & zen pen.)

The audience members, far as I could tell, were well on their way to being consumers of, at the very least, text blogs, but not very far down the path of becoming creators. There were a smattering of PR agency reps, journalists, marketing and development folks from non-profits, and just a few people more closely aligned with the industry, such as podcaster Michael Rice and Loomia founder David Marks. Whatever their backgrounds, the majority were still on the outside of this trend looking in.

The panel served as a stark reminder that while we in the industry may be bored, filled with ennui, completely over certain basic questions about blogging etc., the vast majority of folks beginning their investigation of this trend are decidedly not!

The questions from the audience, and even the moderator, still included:
-What is "new media?"
-Are bloggers journalists?
-Is this a fad?
-What's the difference between a blog and a web site?
-Aren't blogs just diaries?
-Don't you need a lot of complicated equipment/coding knowledge to create any form of blog, text, audio or video?
And so on.

It is extremely valuable for me to talk to groups such as this one...populated by people outside the space...rather than preach to the converted at the various blog or social media-focused seminars and events. The latter are certainly terrific for networking, but the former keep me grounded in the reality of where we are in terms the evolution of this technology's adoption into the mainstream.

I recently commented on a post at J Wynia's blog on this very subject of "mainstream." I had a conversation as early as this past February with an industry bigwig who believed I was totally wrong if I didn't believe that blogging had gone past the mythic Gladwellian "tipping point." I still think he was smoking crack.

The numbers, though growing nicely, still indicate that the vast majority of online denizens still don't know much about blogging, and even less about podcasts, vlogs and even RSS. And these are online folks, so you can imagine that those who are not online much know next to nothing about it.

This does not qualify as "mainstream", which is defined as the "prevailing" practice of a culture or society.

So, why am I nitpicking about this definition of mainstream, and about whether blogging etc. as reached it? Does it matter to me or my business all that much. I mean, I'm doing pretty well working with folk who are out there enough on the cutting edge to want to work in this space, so who cares?

Well, I care for two reasons, one selfish and one selfless:

Selfishly I want to keep being able to grow my business. I'm doing great, but one doesn't start a business to stay in one place, one wants to expand, to grow, to hire, to create new models. So evangelizing this technology is critical. And that means you have to be able to communicate to people who don't know what the hell you're talking about without a) making them feel stupid or b) drowning them in language that assumes a knowledge or acceptance that just isn't there.

I care for another reason: because we in this industry believe in the power of these connect, to communicate, to, I'll say it, change the world. Not just for those of us who are already involved, but for those who are traditionally less at the forefront of technological evolutions, but who need connection and community perhaps more than anyone.

If we can reach out and engage with those who are not already in the tech world. If we can convince them to start using this technology. If we can get them to get their elderly parents or their disaffected youth to give it a shot...then we will have accomplished more than building businesses and creating viable business models. We will helped people raise their voice and take concrete actions!

When regular people who couldn't care less about technology, except about how they can use it, are using it in these ways...then we will be part of the mainstream. And it could be a beautiful thing!

UPDATED: J Wynia writes a nice responsive post to this one, on which I couldn't resist further commenting of course. Check it out..

It is remarkable, it is the amusing answer
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