Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Ocean of Starfish

Photo © Dennis Mojado.  Made available under a Creative Commons license. 

NEWSFLASH!  Seth Godin wrote something brilliant:
In a world of endless choice, it's mathematically obvious that something's going to get picked, but you, you the creator, the marketer, the one with something at stake--you're not at all concerned about something. You're concerned about you and your product.
The "Long Tail" only benefits the aggregator.  It has always been thus, and always thus shall be.  When I first started reading web 2.0 stuff, new marketing philosophy, and all that jazz I really came a cropper over two things, both highly touted by the vastly overrated Chris Anderson:  His entire "Free" fantasy and "The Long Tail."  The latter in particular seemed 1) not particularly new or revelatory and 2) of absolutely no use to the individual content creator.

YouTube embodies the "Long Tail."  There are hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- of videos that have been seen by a handful of people.  It's fortunate that such a marketplace exists, but you are literally competing with bad webcam videos of people lip-syncing to crappy songs.  Good luck

When we first started shooting "trailers" for our plays at the old theatre company, it seemed incredibly novel.  For Pin-Up Girls, we tried to extend the theatrical experience into the videos by scripting and shooting prequel vignettes (here, here, and here).  A great idea!  Not one of those videos has cracked a thousand views, three years after being uploaded.  I blame Keyboard Cat.

To their credit, Bitter Lemons has featured such video trailers (including this creepy and evocative video for The Woodsman, produced by the old theatre company.)  I hope they keep doing it.  Bitter Lemons embodies the advice Seth Godin leaves off with:
If you're a starfish, then, don't sign up with the long tail guys. Build your own universe, your own permission asset. Find a tribe, lead it, connect with it, become the short head, the one and only, the one that we'd miss if you were gone.
There is little doubt in my mind that Bitter Lemons is the online hub for the Greater Los Angeles theatre tribe (if such a thing could be said to exist).  Yes, they are also an aggregator, but such a tightly focused aggregator, you don't feel like you get lost in the "Long Tail."

Bitter Lemons facilitates dialogue,  provokes thought, and periodically goes through existential moments where they actively evaluate what they are doing.  All of this is healthy, and it's something that I wish more theatre companies would do.

Bitter Lemons is the kid on the beach, tossing starfish back into the ocean, and it does make a difference.  I am proud to be a tiny, virtually insignificant part of what they do, and of the tribe they are factually leading.

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