Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 18, 2009 9:53 PM

Mass Media Lazy

Sometimes you don't want to leave any comments on a Blog, respond to a Twitter message, update your Facebook status or Digg a news item. Sometimes, you just want to consume. Just sit back and float through these new digital channels and let everything wash over you without being an active participant. Just like the way it is with mass media.

There seems to be a common rule of thumb that says you have to be an active participant to benefit from Social Media. That the true power of the interactive channel is just that: the interactivity of it all. Some people think they have nothing valuable to add. Some people feel like it's not about what they add, create or contribute but rather what they consume that matters most.

Who are we to judge?

Is there anything wrong with having your Google Reader stacked with a river of Blogs, news feeds and personal opinions that you read through instead of watching TV (or while you're watching TV)? What's wrong with never contributing? What do you think is the percentage of people who actually comment here on this Blog versus those that simply float through to read what's going on (or those who read it in their news reader and never physically come to the site at all)? Personal confession: as more and more channels get added into the mix (like Twitter and FriendFeed) and the amount of quality Blogs continues to rise, it's hard enough to even find the time to subscribe and keep up with them all, let alone contribute and add value.

It's not an attitude thing... it's a time thing. There's just too much great content out there to absorb and not enough time to enjoy it all... and that's a good thing.

Maybe we need to drop the success metric of how many people comment on a Blog posting, tweet or comment on an item in FriendFeed, and maybe we just need to look at the overall health and stature of these individual online social spaces as a metric of success (whatever that means). As more and more channels are created, and more and more content creators are coming into the fold, it's becoming apparent that success is not the amount of people who are taking part but rather the quality of the content - which could be what the creator is publishing, what the comments from the community are, a combination of the two or not. Confused? Don't be. These channels are maturing, it's bringing in a whole new form of content creators, and their attitude towards being able to publish on the fly are very different from the people who have been at it since the beginning.

But what if we forget about the content creators and focus on what the people want?

Maybe your Blog, your Twitter, your FriendFeed and your Facebook are not about what the community contributes, but rather the high-value of the content is enough to suffice your readers. There's simply nothing more to add. That, coupled with the notion that as more and more people start treating the Internet like any other media channel, we all have to expect their interaction to be somewhat similar to how they use the other channels. Meaning: they're going to float through, take what they can/want and move on. Would Seinfeld have been that much funnier if the viewers were also active participants?

What do you think? Is it ok for people to be engaged in these channels as just consumers and users or are they missing point?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Darren Negraeff
    Mitch Joel

    I definitely think it's ok that people are only consuming media - it's quite natural to be passive I think, and though perhaps social media is changing that to some degree, it seems likely that the Jakob Nielsen rule of 1-9-90 will remain true for a while yet (but perhaps we will start seeing lurkers shift it toward 20/80 so long as the tools continue to be free and easy to use.) Also, I think we will see some shift as more and more younger people who have not known what life was like before the internet begin to participate more fully as they themselves age.

    I don't think people are missing the point - democracy still requires leaders and the internet is no different; there are leaders among thought, art, and entertainment, and that will probably continue to be the case despite the overall democratization of fame.

    Reply
  • Posted by Karen
    Karen

    Good post Mitch and great comment Darren. Leadership is required!
    I am a daily reader of this and several other marketing blogs, but I am not a marketer. Therefore, I am primarily here to learn. I often have comments but I try to self edit and only post what I think might be of interest to others. Mitch, you say it well in this post. I don't want your blog to become a random stream of consciousness from your audience. I want your well written posts with intelligent discussion - which is what we have seen. Which is what keeps me coming back every day (and why I share your blog on Facebook and via emails to my friends).
    And, I think you will see the size of your "Tribe" when you see your book sales!

    Reply
  • Posted by June
    Mitch Joel

    I now feel compelled to comment :)

    It's a time thing. There's so much to consume.
    And if readers simply comment "interesting", is that useful to you?

    Instead of "Laziness", can we look at this behaviour as rapid "Prioritization"?

    About getting feedback when there's lack of comment or tweet, have you tried turning on Clicktale and watching movies of visits?

    Reply
  • I'll now comment for the first time.

    It must be ok to just consume. Sure It's a time thing. But we're also different as persons. The people writing ar dependeing on both the active and the consuming-only readers. If we demanded that everyone contributed there would simply be less readers.

    I find that there are three factors to the probability of me commenting:
    1) Number of prior comments, the more there already are, the smaller the chance of me adding mine.
    2) The "level" of the blogger. If I feel I have an opportunity to add value at a somewhat compareable level, the chance of me commenting is bigger.
    3) Internal factors as personal stress and state of mind at the moment of the reading.

    Reply
  • Posted by Amod Munga
    Mitch Joel

    Some of us are performers. Others are the audience.

    It's a symbiotic relationship: without one the other cannot/does not exist.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Chambers
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with you that it's a timing thing. I also agree with the others that it's a matter of "can I add value here or not?" And, while people enjoy reading, not everyone feels the need to contribute their opinion -- regardless of the quality.

    I think there's one other aspect: people used to use comments to generate traffic and build their reputation. That just doesn't really work anymore, so people quit commenting because they never really cared in the first place.

    Reply
  • Posted by jer979
    Mitch Joel

    Well, if this isn't a post that demands any fence-sitting commenters to chime in, then I don't know what is.

    It's a great question, but I think we recognize that our roles change. On some blogs, I comment. Others, I share. Others, I just read. There are those who 'participate' in other ways than comments (though we all love commenters on our blogs), so we may need to expand the definition.

    If I forward your post to a friend, that's a participation, of sorts.

    I think Clay Shirky nails it when he says that deep down we want to contribute and participate, it's just that we don't want to do it everywhere.

    Well done, as usual.

    Reply
  • Posted by Benjamin
    Mitch Joel

    I would like to think that I'm contributing somehow. It's hard for me to agree not to do so.
    Anyway, any one should do what he feels right to do.
    Definitely makes you think..

    Reply
  • Posted by dsriedel
    Mitch Joel

    Adaption rate is becoming higher and the audiance broader (not only techies), so blogs, microblogs and social sites becoming mass media is for sure (marketing is going there, where the people are).

    I think that "just consuming" lies in every area of interest a person might have. In the past, Sci-Fi fans meet on conventions, when they wanted to. Car lovers went to road shows (well they all still do). If you are really interested in movies you might become a camera man, director or author, but there is also the side of just sitting on the couch, having some chips and a beer and enjoying your movie subscription from the video store around the corner.

    I think it is more about the personal motivation, supported by the ease of use of tools to do so, to join into the conversation and sharing of something that matters to yourself.

    And when you do not consider yourself an expert in a certain area and do care about the others opinion anymore, you keep on sharing, asking, following, commenting and requesting feedback to continually improve yourself (well probably I go to far now, but maybe that is my point of motivation).

    Mass media or not, I think it attracts people to try themselves out by posting and commenting to see how they are perceived by others. If they are satisfied and do not feel challenged anymore, maybe the stick with consuming, if at all...

    Reply
  • Posted by Bryan Person
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    We've seen the 90-9-1 rule that Darren references in most of the online communities that we manage for clients. Ideally, do you want those "9" and "1" percentages to increase? I think so. But there's also value in those silent consumers as well!

    Bryan | @BryanPerson
    LiveWorld


    Reply
  • Posted by Minter Dial
    Mitch Joel

    Even before getting to commenting, we are besieged with so much to read. In order to feed the mind and add value in the content, one must read. If we were to dissect where the 9% participants (commenters) are actually spending their time, I suspect that there is an overpopulating of strictly emotional posts/blogs where fervent personal opinions are shared with great abandon. Since we reside in the more rational, content-oriented world, it is normal that we don't always find a pertinent, value-added comment to make. Many posts are, as you write Mitch, complete with high value content; many others are just not given to debate, or at least are not designed to stir emotional reactions. Others just do not warrant comment because they do not connect, etc.

    As always, work comes after luck only in the dictionary, so those that continue to make the effort of participating and commenting will have luck enough to see their efforts pay off... as in the book you will sell, eh?

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian
    Mitch Joel

    Every blog is strengthened by the comments of others because they create dialog, which other media outlets can't really claim. An print-pub editor's selection of "reader comments" can never do what we can do online, raw and uncensored. I may not have the time to comment but I've most likely read other people's comments and it's nice to know that there are other people out there that think like I do(or not), and it makes me feel a little more connected.

    Reply
  • Posted by bruno boutot
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with Bryan that there is value in passive readers: they are the target of advertising, so they are important members. Value is not based solely on interaction.

    As for the 1-9-90 golden observation, I have long thought of it as working both ways:
    1 - The community way: 1% of daily contributors, 9% of occasional contributors, 90% of passive readers.
    2 - The personal way: I contribute actively to 1% of media I read, I contribute occasionally to 9% of them and I am a passive reader of 90% of them.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tim Zack
    Mitch Joel

    I am one of those lurkers. this is me first ever blog comment. For me you hit the nail on the head, it is a time issue. I am newly married and barely have time to read blogs let alone follow all of the comments and add something of value. I look forward to that next device/app that makes the whole thing more efficient. Thanks for the great blogs and podcasts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Emily Wight
    Mitch Joel

    I recently attended Northern Voice 2009, and the topic of commenting on blogs came up. The general consensus was that commenting on blogs takes time, which we don't have all that much of, and, unless we're really invested in the discussion, a lot of people just don't bother.

    Furthermore, what often seems to happen is that the conversation moves faster than the time it takes to craft an interesting or relevant response - that is, if I want to sit and think about my comment before posting, it's likely that the conversation will have moved passed what I wanted to say before I've had the chance to say it. If I don't have time to sit for five minutes to think of something, maybe I'll think about it and post an hour or a few hours or maybe a day or two later, when everyone's moved on. So, I read, find things interesting, and move on to the next thing to read and find interesting.

    I read and enjoy quite a few blogs. This is the first time I've felt compelled to comment.

    Reply
  • Posted by Michel
    Mitch Joel

    hello,
    this is michel,i definitely think it's ok that people are only consuming media - it's quite natural to be passive I think, and though perhaps social media is changing that to some degree, it seems likely that the Jakob Nielsen rule of 1-9-90 will remain true for a while yet (but perhaps we will start seeing lurkers shift it toward 20/80 so long as the tools continue to be free and easy to use.) Also, I think we will see some shift as more and more younger people who have not known what life was like before the internet begin to participate more fully as they themselves age.

    ----------------------
    michel
    ------------------------------
    Miami real estate- Miami real estate

    Reply
  • Posted by boler
    boler

    There seems to be a common rule of thumb that says you have to be an active participant to benefit from Social Media. That the true power of the interactive channel is just that: the interactivity of it all. Some people think they have nothing valuable to add. Some people feel like it's not about what they add, create or contribute but rather what they consume that matters most.

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1058