Imagine a Giant iPhone with Everything On It

The world is a lot like a giant iPhone.

On the iPhone, like in the world, everything is media that passes through the screen. Some apps on the iPhone are like television and professionally produced. Others are kind of ghetto but deeply interesting to a few people. Both are successful in their own way.

On this giant iPhone where everything is media, all conversation (like Twitter or text messages) can be understood as being extremely targeted content. It’s created by one person, for one person. So it passes through the screen and hits the eyeball, just like television, but it works because it is applicable only to a few people. So those people find it interesting and others ignore it.

For example, Gary Vaynerchuk succeeds on Twitter because he is creating highly personal media in the form of responses. It is as targeted as media can be, because it is a genuine conversation. This would not work on television because you have to be present to wait for your name (like the birthday shout-outs in Romper Room).

So the more targeted an app is, the more interesting it is to the group or individual in question, and the less interesting to the population at large. The funnier something is to a subculture, the less funny it tends to be to the regular population (see: 4chan).

All good media is targeted. All good conversation is therefore also targeted.

Bad media, as a corollary, is like a bad conversation. It is untargeted, neither interesting nor surprising. It is like Kraft Singles— you’ll take it if it’s there, but you’d rather have pretty much anything else.

As a creator, the purpose of your channel is to create media that is as interesting as possible to the population at large while also creating conversational media that is briefly interesting to one person, over and over again. This is why sales letters always start with “Dear friend.”

This is also why Facebook and Google are the ultimate media. Google involves you in content that you are interested in at that very moment, and Facebook hooks you up with conversations by people you know, and are probably interested in, at that very moment. Highly targeted.

Anyway, this iPhone has everything on it, so the only way to compete with Angry Birds (or whatever) is to be as targeted as possible. Twitter does this better than Facebook right now because it shows you when people are talking about you and you can ignore it otherwise. Inside of Twitter and most social media, the best way to do that is with conversation (Twitter spam tries to subvert this process, actually.)

Social in general is the best way to get someone’s attention. It is about them, so of course it’s deeply interesting. But it’s best to view conversation as highly targeted media, and bad media as being like a bad conversation.

The real problem is that television has a model wrapped around the content. Conversation does not. Or does it.

Anyway, if this iPhone has infinite choice (and it does), your strategy should be obvious.

This idea is both simple and complicated, and I’m still trying to figure it out, but it’s clear enough that I can write this. Enjoy.





10 responses to “Imagine a Giant iPhone with Everything On It”

  1. Joshua | The Minimalists Avatar

    Good points about social media taking over our attention. I’ve made the argument a lot recently that if fiction/novels die, it won’t be the fault of the readers. It will be that writers aren’t writing something compelling enough to drag people away from their Facebook status updates to read it. Novels require work on the part of the reader, and for that work readers expect a payoff that is much more gratifying than what they get on FB or Twitter or blogs. I suppose this translates to other mediums as well (e.g., TV, movies, radio, newspapers, etc.).

    Take care,

    Joshua Millburn

  2. Joe Sorge Avatar

    Interesting how these same principals work in an outward way when building communities (read: armies).

    Thanks Julien.

  3. NomadicNeill Avatar

    It’s the time of the Long Tail.

  4. Jeremy Meyers Avatar

    True. The thing is though, if you bring this to a CFO or anyone who is more $-focused than value-focused, they will say something like ‘kraft singles make gazillions of dollars’ (or as Godin said recently, they “mint money.”, so they must be doing something right.

    A continual war between art and commerce. Balance is frustratingly difficult.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Jeremy, I agree. But becoming Kraft Singles is expensive. Being a good conversationalist is cheap.

  5. Jason Berek-Lewis Avatar

    How laser focused should your target be? Can your niche be too small? Can you create your own niche, or at least enhance an existing one? All great questions that tumble out of your post Julien – thanks as always for getting me thinking!

  6. Peter Paluska Avatar

    Excellent thought-provoking primer here, Julien.
    The tightrope is alive and well: how to engage with people engagingly without trying (too hard). That’s when we real people win.
    I think the not trying comes with practice.



  7. Tony Avatar

    I was directed here by some other blog, and haven’t left.

  8. Jeff Goins Avatar

    I like this a lot: “As a creator, the purpose of your channel is to create media that is as interesting as possible to the population at large while also creating conversational media that is briefly interesting to one person, over and over again.”

  9. Jeremy Meyers Avatar

    @Julien True. But also counterintuitive when business school, capitalism and pop culture teach everyone (especially the business-minded) that the goal is to be as big as possible as quickly as possible and make as much money as possible.

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