When it comes to TV networks there is one important principle to remember:
“viewers are not the customer—advertisers are.”
It wasn’t to long ago that those two groups had common goals. In that advertisers wanted more viewers and viewers wanted the television shows that everyone was watching. So the TV networks used ratings as a substitute for advertiser happiness and there wasn’t much of a problem.
This same strategy was true for newspapers. More local readers = happy local advertisers .
Both newspapers and TV networks suffer when average viewers (the mass) start to disappear. And in today’s world, when viewers seek out the quality of the WIIFM – What’s In It For Me, as opposed to what the masses want, advertisers are left to scramble for the most finite thing we have “our attention”.
But wait there is one TV network that has flipped the funnel, HBO.
For HBO the viewers ARE the customer. HBO can program with confidence, because there’s no question about who they are working for.
Search engine advertising works because the search engine knows the searcher is going to leave the site no matter what. They don’t care if you leave to click on an organic link or a paid one, as long as you come back often. And the advertiser is paying by the click, so he cares about having the right people click, not everyone. Fairly aligned goals among all three parties.
Which leads to the complex problem Twitter faces as they try to monetize sufficiently to justify the expectations of their investors.
If they aggressively, relentlessly, and unconsciously sell the attention of their users, they will have a train running off track as they maximize profit. The advertisers will get greedy and want ever more attention, and the users will want to avoid those unanticipated, irrelevant, and impersonal interruptions the advertisers are paying for. Tension will keep growing as users feel trapped by a social media tool with few substitutes that begins to charge a tax in the form of attention wasted.
What will they do? We’ll find out wont we.