This week I had a chance to read Scott Kirsner’s new book, Fans, Friends & Followers, which provides a fresh guide to building an audience in the new media landscape. The book starts out by painting with broad brush strokes the challenges artists have faced finding an audience for their work and then outlines what’s been made different today with widespread access to the web and inexpensive media production tools. That’s the basic pound cake of the book, however, the majority of pages are devoted to the delicious icing of interviews with various people who have been successful finding an audience on the web including: the brilliant Ze Frank, the creator of “theshow,” which I think is among the most creative web shows in part due to it’s very successful participatory component; Michael ‘Burnie’ Burns, creator of “Red vs. Blue,” a machimia landmark; Steve Garfield, one of the best known videobloggers; Robert Greenwald, a documentary filmmaker who has built an audience and community around his films using the web, M dot Strange, an animator with a unique vision that might have otherwise been lost in labyrinth of broadcast television; and many others.
This book will help you think about new business models, how to build an audience around you work, and challenge the old notion that independent media makers should think of themselves as auteurs waiting to be discovered by the record, movie, or television industries or a forward thinking curator. The mainstream is interested in commercial product, the lowest common denominator, the latest fad. Once upon a time you had no other way to find an audience, the gatekeepers ran the show. Today you can find your audience using your own unique voice, rather than trying to fit someone else’s mold. It’s a brave new world and Scott’s timely book provides practical insights into carving your own path towards nurturing fans, making friends, and building your own following. We may always have mainstream media, however, today, as both audiences and media makers, the internet has opened up an alternative channel of distribution full of possibilities, most of which we have yet to see, which I hope will bring us a viable alternative to industrial media product, and instead, hand-crafted, authentic stories, unique messages with new points of view, and personal media to enrich the soul of a new generation. What do you want to express? You have the answer deep inside of you. What can you do to get your expression out to an audience? Scott’s book provides an introduction to how people have been doing that.
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