Uncovering the Most Powerful Person in Media
Who is bigger than Rupert Murdoch or Lady Gaga? Who makes the decisions that Oprah bows to?
The most powerful person in the media right now isn’t Rupert Murdoch. With almost 20 million Twitter followers, Lady Gaga isn’t even close to being the most influential individual. And even Oprah bows to the might of this decision maker. So who is the lucky one who controls what we see and interact with? I’ll give you a few hints. In 2006, he was voted Time's Person of the Year; millions of dollars are made or lost at the click of his remote control, mouse, or touchscreen; and that person is reading this article right now. Yes, you guessed it ... it’s you.
So if you are the most powerful person in the media, then what does that mean for mass media? How does this shift in power change what we watch and overall watching habits? And most importantly, what do we do now?
First, let’s look at the shift from mass media to our current scenario. Mass media, as defined by Wikipedia, “refers to [a] medium which can communicate a message to a large group, often simultaneously.” The overarching method of mass media was one to many, whether that was a book, a newspaper, or the internet. We have transitioned into a new era that includes a new subset of mass media, which I am calling micromedia. The biggest differences between micromedia and mass media are the speed of the message, barriers to entry, and opportunity for immediate interaction.
You can find a recent example in the History Channel’s Top Gear US. Prior to the launch of season two in 2011, the network poured dollars into TV spots, online ads, interactive apps, and even sponsorship of a NASCAR race. All of those mass media dollars couldn’t compare to the micromedia power of one person. My friend and a co-host of the show, Rutledge Wood (@RutledgeWood), has almost 67,000 followers on Twitter and does a running commentary on each episode for them. A few days before the February 2012 premiere, I started seeing tweets from Rutledge about the launch. I saw a tweet from him on the night of the show and changed my channel to watch. The speed of the message was instant, it didn’t cost anything for Rutledge to send the tweet, and I was able to respond and have a conversation while watching the show.
This micromedia power is not limited to celebrities and media stars; one individual can move eyeballs to a relevant piece of content simply by sharing a link. Social sites such as GetGlue.com, IntoNow.com, GoMiso.com, and TunerFish.com. allow you to check in, share what you are currently watching on Facebook and Twitter, and see what your friends and the rest of the world are viewing right now. According to the GetGlue blog, the 2012 Academy Awards had 170,000 check-ins, with a social reach to more than 60 million people. The power of one is more relevant now than ever.
It may have been used in the Bible (Luke 12:48) and by Voltaire (in French), but the quote made popular by Stan Lee in Spider-Man is perfect for micromedia: With great power comes great responsibility. So what can you do with this awesome power? First, share great content. Yes, we can argue all day about what constitutes great content, but find things that inspire and entertain you and share them, loudly. As consumers of content, we have the power to vote by encouraging others to watch with us. Second, reward great content. The only thing that speaks louder than your voice is your wallet. If you like the comedian Jim Gaffigan, buy the $5 download that he is making available exclusively on his site. For just a dollar you can support your favorite content via Kickstarter. Get the season of your favorite show from iTunes instead of torrenting it. Rewarding great content with cash is a good way to see more great content.
The age of micromedia is here. You have the power to find what you like, share with others, and reward those who are creating what you want to see. The power of mass media is shifting and putting you in control. You have the power. Now what are you going to do with it?