Build on rented land or the desert? Think Vegas…

If you don’t listen to Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi talking about American football, why Apple should have bought Disney and rant and rave about various salient marketing topics on PNR: This Old Marketing podcast, then I recommend it.

It feels to me like being welcomed to eavesdrop in on a wonderful, warm, funny, insightful conversation that is often about marketing, rather than an earnest marketing podcast. And when I cook at the weekends, my family has become accustomed to me welcoming this conversation into the kitchen (as well as Robert’s solo gig – The Weekly Wrap).

In the last episode (#225) Robert and Joe talked about the walled gardens of content consumption, Facebook, YouTube (et al) and the troubling potential slide back into the old media model where access to an audience is controlled by gatekeepers.

A changing of the guard, the specter of swapping the old big media companies like ABC, The Washington Post (etc) for big tech companies like Facebook and Google whom we would need to convince or pay to get in front of an audience like you used to do to get published in a newspaper or make a television show.

As Joe and Robert mention, in content marketing, the mantra is “not to build on rented land”, meaning that rather than use someone else’s platform to tell your story, you should own the property.

A rented platform might seem attractive at first with its instant audience, but it could change or disappear and pull the foundations out from under what you are building. You should, therefore, stake your claim on a corner of the internet, do the hard work, on your own land and build on your own content platform and audience.

However, I think the real estate we are talking about here isn’t a physical thing, nor I would argue is it a digital property, the website or publication, it is the fraction of the audience’s attention we seek. The social media giants already own great swathes of this attention and as Mark Twain apparently said:

“buy land, they are not making it anymore”

The same holds true for audience attention, while Google is trying to make more of this land, pushing the technology for autonomous cars so that we can spend more time watching YouTube videos, the truth is there are only so many content consumption hours in a day.

What inspired this post is a seemingly casual throwaway line on the podcast that suggested that maybe all the good real estate was taken and all that is left is desert.

I know it wasn’t a serious point, that these two pioneers and evangelists for the content marketing craft are suggesting that all is lost and the only option is to grab an office in Big Social Tech Trump Towers, with its wonderful view and access to the teeming internet metropolis and surrender the little plot you’ve been nurturing.

But, imagine if that’s where we are heading where the only option left is to rent or be cast into the desert and I hurriedly scribbled on the closest piece of paper to hand (the shopping list):

Bread
Milk
Tea

Las Vegas was built in the desert.

The origins of Las Vegas as the self-styled entertainment capital of the world is the building of the Hoover Dam, an influx of workers, with nothing better to do with their cash, needed entertainment and despite the best efforts of the government to keep it’s workers attention on the work and more wholesome activities, the market found a way to satisfy this need and the city boomed and many, many people travel to this desert.

Like those itinerate Hoover Dam workers, our attention wanders around and is difficult to control. Right now I am researching a piece for a client, I am looking for something very specific that I won’t find on a mainstream channel or even a B2B marketing channel, it’s certainly not in an attention-grabbing listicle. I am traveling far into the attention boonies for this, in the hope that someone cared enough about the topic, to not care about the vanity metrics.

When I pull the handle on the Google slot machine and I find what I am looking for, it will be like Vegas for me, the jackpot.

The internet business guru sensation that is Gary Vaynerchuk was early into content marketing, he started a Youtube channel (Wine Show TV) back in 2006 to promote his successful family wine business. It’s classic content marketing, building an audience and community around the product through useful content.

The first video from this series is still online and I’m willing to bet, based on the comments, that the majority of the views are from an audience who have discovered him since he became the shining, golden Mandalay Bay edifice that is his presence in our attention today.

Back then he created Vegas in the desert for the relatively small number of people looking for wine advice (until he discovered that 2.5 MILLION people would subscribe to sweary hustle porn and being scolded about watching too much Netflix).

I’ve digressed. I just like the term “hustle porn”.

My point, be the best answer to your audience’s question and you too can turn the desert into Vegas for you and your audience.


The image of drillers on the construction of Hoover Dam is public domain, from Wikimedia commons.