Active Vs Passive Content Consumption

There has been some discussion lately about why it seems like podcasting adoption has hit a plateau. I would suggest it has a great deal to do with what I call active content consumers and passive content consumers. Here’s a test. Do you know who Doc Searls, Robert Scoble or Leo Laporte are? Do you know what Joost is? Are you aware of Twitter? Do you use Skype? If you answered yes to any or all of the questions, you are what I would call an active content consumer. The very fact that you are reading this blog at all means you fall into the active category.

But what about the people who don’t know who or what any of those things are. Are they stupid? Are they lazy? Or are they just too busy to bother seeking out content. I would suggest the latter for most people. They know what Desperate Housewives and American Idol are and have some idea that the Iraq war isn’t going well, but ask them who Arianna Huffington is and they don’t know who you’re talking about. They know about Google, but ask them what they think of Wikipedia and they respond with Wiki-what? They’ve seen iPods but have no idea what iTunes is, much less how to sync it with the computer. They know about audio books, but still think you have to get them on CD. It never even occurs to them to download the audio from iTunes, sync with the iPod and play it in the car.

These passives are large in numbers but they are not stupid, far from it. They just live in the old media world. A world that has a vested financial interest in keeping things as they are. How many local TV news stories do you see about kids getting raped by online predators or an elderly couple getting suckered out of their life savings? If that’s all the information the passives ever get about the internet, no wonder they just stick with broadcast radio and television. It’s safer, and familiar. That’s not to minimize the dangers of the internet, they do exist, but it’s not the whole story. If the best place to find out information about new internet technology is on the net, how are new users ever going to find out about it? Not unless friends or co-workers show them.

Until more people become active searchers for new media, the blogging and podcast audience will not grow. Everyone who knows about podcasting is already participating and everyone else either doesn’t know about it, or thinks it’s too hard. Unfortunately as time goes on, the learning curve for the passives gets steeper and steeper. We must educate as many people as possible, everyone we come into contact with, about new media. And not in a dismissive, condescending way, but an excited “here’s why this is so cool” approach. The Apple TV will help bring video podcasts to T.V. sets, YouTube is bringing peoples cat and laughing baby videos to millions. But it has to be a grassroots initiative, because the forces that want to keep things as they are will be doing everything they can to keep everyone passive content consumers.

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2 comments

  1. I am an active content consumer on the internet but sometimes i am a passive tv viewer. So i like to join every new site to test out the service and push it to be useful for me. I also like to just watch almost any tv channel and see (passively) what’s going on.

    I think that you’re blogging about a key point of understanding that is current and in fashion (not that it’s ever going out of fashion).

    Some good active / passive services that let people engage with them or just go for a ride are: viewmy.tv (best internet tv site on the web), stumbleupon (best social recommendations site), itunes radio (the idea of having so many stations to choose actively or to simply sit back and listen).

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