How fans have blown audiences away

This guest post is from Andy Nulman — President of Just for Laughs and author of “Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise.” See the original post this was adapted from and more like it on his blog.

industrial fansThis year I had the pleasure of flying to San Francisco to be one of the speakers at a unique, internal YouTube conference just across the bridge in San Bruno, California. Called “Immersion,” the event showcases YouTube content to advertisers and brands, somewhat like the TV networks have done for years in New York.

Given my professional heritage and current deep dive into YouTube (with my McGill class and concentration on our powerful Just For Laughs Gags channel, which was just listed as one of comedy’s top 1% on the platform), I had been asked to represent the comedy “vertical” alongside Google’s Dave Brown.

I was excited, as this was kind of a “coming home” for me. From 2000 until 2009, I used to spend a lot of time in this part of California, attending the CTIA conference (which stood for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association back in the day), a twice-yearly gathering of those in the revolutionary mobile content space.

These were pre-iPhone days, yet despite the cynicism and sneering from a lot of the business establishment (“Who’s going to type or watch things on their phone?” we heard more than once), we all knew that we were onto more than just something big; we were rushing into a seismic shift in consumer behavior.

Now you don’t need me to tell you how different things are today in today’s media. For example, my blog is net-exclusive, and going by statistics, most of you are reading it on a mobile device, be it a smartphone or tablet. But the fact that you’re still reading it, and I’m still writing it, makes us both somewhat dinosaurish.

Video is rapidly overshadowing the written word; the keyboard is being supplanted by the camera. And if you thought the last behavior shift was seismic, it was only a little jiggle compared to the coming shake-up.

The “street” gets it. The “kids” get it. And like I saw while pioneering the mobile wave, established brands and businesses will soon follow.

For some of them though, not soon enough.

Perhaps the biggest change in the offing is the definition of those doing the consuming. For years, networks talked of “audiences” and brands of “consumers.” To understand where the market is going, heed the words of Alex Carloss, the global Head of Entertainment for YouTube. In a keynote speech at the MIPTV gathering in France (you can watch the whole thing here), he laid it out like this:

“Our partners have discovered the value of building a fan base to supercharge their businesses. Notice I didn’t say ‘audience.’ What’s the difference between an audience and a fan base? An audience tunes in when they’re told to; a fan base chooses when and what to watch. An audience sits back and consumes media; a fan base leans forward and wants to participate. An audience changes the channel when their show is over; a fan base shares, it comments, it curates, it creates. An audience lives within your borders, and a fan base breaks those borders down.”

The concept of fans, most notably “raving fans” has been kicking around the marketing world for a while.

The difference now is that instead of merely “changing the channel” a fan base can easily create its own channel… and in the process, change the course of a business, a TV show, a brand, or a reputation.

So the lesson here is a cautionary tale of power and change. I would say that the shift will be so substantial that you won’t be able to recognize it, but given that it will most probably all be captured on video and shared, you may not see it coming… but you will most definitely see it.


About Andy Nulman

President of Just For Laughs, world's biggest comedy organization. Former mobile tech entrepreneur. Wild public speaker. Wilder public dresser. Author. Hockey player. Gym rat. Needs a longer bio.

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