When quality content meets social media . . .

The medium is the message

Marshall McLuhan, Canadian educator, philosopher and scholar

If one were to take McLuhan’s axiom at face value, then one would reasonably assume that the method of delivering or disseminating content would take precedence over the quality of the information that is being shared.

Certainly television, or as our parents often lamented, the idiot box, lends credence to this point of view based on the success of such tawdry swill like the Simple Life or Teen Mom to name sadly just a few.

However, and this is a BIG however, at the end of the day sustained success with an audience has to go beyond a mere flash in the pan sound-bite to avoid falling into the abyss of the “who was that guy,” or the ranks of the “do you remember the show about a talking car” trivia game recall.  By the way, the name of the show was My Mother The Car starring Jerry Van Dyke who interestingly enough turned down the role of Gilligan to star in the short lived series which was cancelled after just one season.  Hmmm . . . perhaps there is still hope for television?  Especially when you consider the fact that the show’s co-creator Allan Burns went on to create some of the biggest TV hits of all time including Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant.

Adding insult to injury in terms of the talking car show as well as stressing the point that McLuhan’s medium perspective is not absolute, is that the show was cancelled in the 1960s when TV was relatively new and quite frankly many of us at that time were tuning in to watch a test pattern just to see the then new medium work.

This of course brings us to the point of today’s post and specifically some interesting numbers from right here at the PI Social Media Network . . .  numbers I might add that kind of snuck up on us.

Let’s start with today . . .

I was asked by the SaaS software vendor COUPA to write a multi-part series on the history of spend management and the evolution from traditional ERP players to, as I have called them, the new Titans of SaaS.

I have to admit that I never honestly considered nor anticipated the level of reader response.  In fact I never do, as I have always written about those subjects for which I have the greatest interest and passion.  In other words write it and let the readership chips fall where they may.

Despite this approach to the creative process, I have to admit that I was happy and as always a little surprised when the readership numbers for Part 1 in the series came through.

According to COUPA, they normally average 500 impressions per post, but with my first instalment they had 2,523, with an overall increase in blog traffic of 38%.

This result spoke volumes in that I had only previously made the occasional contribution to COUPA’s blog which meant that I did not have an opportunity to build an indigenous following.

Now as a talk  radio host I always attribute solid listener numbers to a combination of the timeliness of the subject matter being discussed and the calibre of the guest or guests.  In this case the topic is definitely one that is of intense interest to many in that specific market.

The point of course in relation to this post is that COUPA and more specifically, the COUPA blog, as the method of dissemination would be the medium in the McLuhan message.  Yet the written content, which was the new variable, caused a significant spike in reads or impressions.  So the question is simply this . . . is it the message or the medium that ultimately creates a sustained (sustained being the operative word here), brand presence?

Let’s look a little closer to home so to speak and in particular the PI Window on Business blog.

As a follow-up to our launch of the PI Window on Business Blog Talk Radio Show in March 2009, the show’s namesake blog began publishing in June 2009.  The intent was to create an informative and entertaining venue through which our listeners could access show information including on-demand broadcasts and upcoming segment overviews.

Perhaps in what could be considered an understatement, the PI Window franchise has come a long way.

As a Featured Show across the entire Blog Talk Radio Network which itself has more than 12 million listeners every month, industry experts call us one of the “most popular Podcast’s in North America.”

Not to be outdone, the blog also progressed at an incredible rate from 217 visitors in June 2009 to 35,000 visits in the month of August 2010 alone.

There is little doubt that the popularity of the radio show* had, over the period of a little more than a year, some influence on the dramatic growth in the blog’s readership.  But here’s the thing . . . the biggest jumps in number occurred when content that was unique to the blog was posted.  In other words, articles about topics that were never broadcast over the virtual airwaves drew the biggest numbers.  Go figure.

The long and the short of it is simply this . . . like television and the radio before it, mediums continue to evolve.  While the Internet is the quintessential definition of disruptive technology surpassing even television for its social impact on a global basis (after all it is not unheard of for someone without a TV to have a notebook or at least a smart phone through which to access the Internet), content as the numbers above demonstrate is still the defining factor.  Or to put it another way, what good is it to be standing before a massive audience without having anything worthwhile to say or share?

The question we must all ask ourselves – especially those of us considered to be part of the Y and Z generation, is whether the medium makes us being the message or, do we the message or content creators, make the medium?

* Audience Reach; I have on occasion been asked upon what is our more than 2 million monthly audience figure based.  It is both a good and a fair question.

To calculate this we have employed the same formula that is used to determine the success of an on-line advertising campaign which is the Click Through Rate or CTR.

We believe that it is the content that drives the CTR and not an increasing number of impressions.  What bears this approach out is the fact that with the industry’s CTR steadily dropping from a high of 5% to 3% in the 1990s to today’s 0.2 to 0.3%, it is a safe bet that merely appearing on-line is no longer a guarantee of reach and ultimately influence.

Based on the fact that the PI Window on Business radio show averages 10,000 downloads per month, using the current day 0.3% means that we have to make 3.4 million impressions each month or be seen by 3.4 million people to hit the 10,000 download mark.

The reason we refer to the more than 2 million number versus the 3.4 is that we also believe that as the quality of the content or show becomes known by a larger audience, it will take fewer impressions to achieve a higher CTR.  Hence the reason we use 0.5% to calculate the rate.

As time progresses, and with it the size of our audience, we will adjust this percentage upward to reflect what industry pundits claim is the mark of a very successful advertising campaign, which is 2%.


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