Dying to Listen

ListenLast night, I caught the very end of the film To Die For. This movie focuses on the length’s Suzanne Stone, played by Nicole Kidman, will go to to be in the spotlight and on television. I thought the movie a bit silly, but one line at the very end, by a character named Lydia, made it worth the time to watch:

Suzanne used to say that you’re not really anybody in America unless you’re on TV… ’cause what’s the point of doing anything worthwhile if there’s nobody watching? So when people are watching, it makes you a better person. So if everybody was on TV all the time, everybody would be better people. But, if everybody was on TV all the time, there wouldn’t be anybody left to watch, and that’s where I get confused. (link)

Who’s Watching?

We’re at the very beginning of user-generated content reaching beyond one’s family and friends. Over time, the tools to reach a larger audience will become even more readily available to a general user. Now, replace “TV” with “Internet” in Lydia’s quote. If everybody ends up on the Internet, who’s left to watch? If we’re so busy producing content all the time, how do we make time to listen?

Yesterday, watching my Twitter stream, my friend Sean Bohan made the following comment:

new rules – RTFC – read the f’ing comments social means listening as much as talkin (link)

How many of you follow this rule? The word social media has been tossed around A LOT during the last 18 months, but I wonder how much we really understand what it means. I believe those individuals who thought it had a set definition are now finding out that it’s much more fluid than they thought. Some people are content to shove out loads of content, but if they fail to hear what’s being said back, they miss important cues. Consider what’s happening in traditional media channels.

Traditional Media Stumbles

Music buyers have made their contempt for the current marketing and pricing methods clear. Now the music business is crumbling because industry executives made the lethal mistake of listening to their own hype and not listening to their customers. Apple listened, and between the iPod and iTunes, own a significant chunk of the digital music market. Everyone else (Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) is left trying to catch up to Apple.

Then there’s television. People have fallen in love with their DVRs because they don’t want to watch commercials, and they do want to watch their shows on their own schedule. Advertisers and TV executives are moving at a snail’s pace to recognize what this change will mean to their worlds. They were also slow to see how the Internet would affect their medium. Now, the industry is caught up in a writer’s strike that some predict will go into this summer.

Current casualties? The Golden Globes award ceremony will air this Sunday as a READING of the winners. Some wonder if the Oscars can happen either given these circumstances. What about movies scheduled for production this year and for release next year? Then there’s network TV. How long will people watch re-runs before they look elsewhere?

Participation Goes Both Ways

To play in this particular pool of creating, I think you need to develop equal skills in watching and listening. Because individuals can respond, if you fail to pay attention, they’ll take their eyeballs, ears, and minds somewhere else. And once they’re gone, I’m not sure you can get them back because the competition will only get bigger and more varied. If you’re dying to be discovered as the next lonelygirl15, I suggest listening really hard to what’s going on around you first. Otherwise, you’ll fulfill Andy Warhol’s prediction and only “be famous for 15 minutes.” It’s your choice.


(Image courtesy of Simon Crowley. Some rights reserved.)


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January 2008
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