The Myth of Fragmentation: and the danger of failing to recognise that people haven’t just moved, but that they’ve moved on

Fragmentation_Grenade
a Scout Trooper with a fragmentation grenade: has no bearing on the post other than the fragmentation reference but any excuse … source

there’s a very good opinion piece in this week’s Adnews by MediaCom’s head of implementation, planning and investment Nick Keenan. if you’re a subscriber you can track it down here.

Keenan makes the smart observation that ‘fragmemtation’ is an overused and too simplistically deployed term: “It felt that unless you had worked out how to speak the new hybrid tongue of ‘Tradigital’ (my invented language of combined consumers) being spoken across new ‘BIG’ consolidated/integrated networks you as an advertiser were now hopelessly lost and would never see a mass audience again. We were told and believed we now must grapple with using multiple platforms within traditional media to reach the large numbers we once accessed in single channel environments”

source: Nick Keenan writing in Adnews 3.4.12

Keenan goes further, arguing quite correctly that not only do mass audiences exist, but they have more mass than ever before: “Facebook has over 80% of all people 25-54 … Google has 96% of all Australians online … Put simply these examples along with others such as Amazon, YouTube, and eBay have enormous mass audiences, the likes of which we have never seen.”

source: Nick Keenan writing in Adnews 3.4.12

whilst its very true to say that mass audiences still very much exist, and indeed exist with more mass than they have ever had (media consumption is increasing overall), there is a very real and present danger that we fail to recognise that people haven’t just moved (from Nine to Facebook or Ten to YouTube), but that they have very much moved on too …

they are no longer the ‘passive massive’ (as Faris would put it) that they were when mass audiences existed in the broadcast stream, a mass audience on Facebook or YouTube may be as big or bigger than a Nine or Seven audience, but they (1) behave very differently and (2) have very different expectations of brands …

a mass audience on Facebook or YouTube is in control of what they watch, listen, or interact with. it was Clay Shirky (I think) who observed that whilst in the long tail of content the average quality of what gets made goes down, the average quality of what gets consumed goes up. just landing our content in the new mass platforms is no guarantee that they’ll be viewed let alone interacted with or passed on.

our expectations of what we want in exchange for our attention have changed. the old mass contract stated that if you give us 30 seconds of your attention we will entertain / educate / inform you. the new mass contract is essentially the same, albeit with an extended list of services (utility for example), only now we have a lot more to choose from and less attention to give.

so I’d counter that fragmentation is one of the most profound shifts in our industry right now – but its not fragmentation to platforms (big audiences, as Keenan rightly points out, are getting bigger rather than nicher); rather its a fragmentation towards individual moments and decisions … to watch or not, or pass on or not. that’s crazy fragmentation that introduces more than a little chaos into our mass delivery systems.

yes the mass audience has moved, but more importantly … they’ve moved on.

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