The audience economy

 We’re all becoming publishers. Brands are publishers. Agencies are publishers. Publishers are evolving too. They’re no longer the gatekeeper between what gets written and what gets read, broadcast or played. Today’s publishers are tasked with finding an audience for what’s been created and making money from that.

I think this is a good thing. This means that it is the audience that is important. This means that the quality bar gets pushed ever upwards as brands and creators compete against one another for the attention of a time-starved audience. Don’t believe me? Upworthy has found that its branded content is more professional and better written than their regular editorial.

The audience is essential, and influential audience members are even more critical. These people can amplify your content and bring it to the attention of the next audience wave.

Influence has been tricky to measure. PeerIndex, one of the early influence measurement providers, has completed a pivot and left the space. Klout continues to develop, but the most recent rollouts – and all roadmap hints – show that the system is helping people find content to share.

Interestingly, Hootsuite has taken a similar direction. You still use Hootsuite to schedule social media activates across multiple platforms, but the most recent addition to the system is a series of content share recommendations.

Odd that Hootsuite and Klout would take a similar development path.

What’s the plan? I can only speculate, but if either platform manages to get traction and find themselves able to persuade a large audience of influencers to trust them to recommend shares and tweets, then that’s a position of strength. It seems likely they’ll attempt to earn money from such a success by selling access to publishers/marketers/agencies. These platforms could charge to put content share recommendations under the eyes of influencers.

If either Klout or Hootsuite does decide to take that direction – and it wouldn’t be a bad choice – they’ll find they’re not alone. Empire Avenue already offers this.

Empire Avenue was born as a socialised influence trading game. People complained that users were gaming Klout and PeerIndex. Empire Avenue avoided such claims by building gamification into the system. Users could buy and sell each other using virtual currencies and take a stock market-style bet on whether the influence wielded by those others would rise or fall.

Empire Avenue soon introduced “missions”. Missions weren’t a simple share deal. In this, players were offered incentives in the form of virtual currency to look at content.

There’s an essential line that Empire Avenue tries to walk. In many cases, it’s not ethical (or even legal) to incentivise people, especially those with interest, to promote content without disclosure. However, you can encourage people to look at the content you’ve created. If they choose to share that content, that’s a bonus.

Klout and Hootsuite might charge marketers to show their content to influencers, hoping to earn shares from that. Empire Avenue already empowers marketers to do just that. If the trading aspect of the platform doesn’t appeal, then the virtual currencies used to power the system can be bought with cash.

I’m a member of Empire Avenue. I find it useful. I joined Empire Avenue because I could very quickly get content promoted. New Doctor Who trailer land? If I want to earn those initial retweets so an account is listed in the “top tweets” section of Twitter search rather than “all”, then I use Empire Avenue for that.

Image credit: Robert Wallace.


Also, note that this repost-and-replace takes content once published on Zebra Eclipse in 2014, backdates it and brings it here in 2023. 

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