Paritosh Joshi: No money to buy media? Make your own

26 Oct,2012

By Paritosh Joshi


I advise a startup in the Personal Finance space. Like many businesses at a similar stage, their ambitions are running ahead of their resources. An area of particular antsyness is the inability to advertise their service.


It is time to stop complaining and start acting. I mean that literally.


act·ing/ˈaktiNG/ noun: The art or occupation of performing in plays, movies, or television productions.


But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Back up a bit then.


On more than one occasion this column has spoken of bought, earned and owned media. Indeed, just last week, you read about what Felix Baumgartner was really doing – creating a large, owned media opportunity for Red Bull.


Now it is one thing for a large and successful multinational to stage such an expensive production so that it can communicate its brand story to millions of current and potential customers but that is clearly not what the wee business I advise can do. Which shouldn’t come in the way of building the audience it needs.


There’s this thing called the internet. Um, I almost forgot. You are reading this on that very thing, aren’t you? And Mr. Rajan Anandan told us last year that we are on course to have 300 million Internet users in India by 2014, up from 100 million when he made his prediction in September 2011. Tens of millions of these users regularly access YouTube and Facebook. Use them right and you have all sorts of possibilities staring at you right there.


Thanks to my kids, one of my regular destinations on YouTube is Smosh. Get this. The boys who started it in 2005 were 18 years old at the time. At 25, they run a channel with 5.6 million subscribers and 1.8 BILLION video views to date. For comparison, Lady Gaga’s channel has a mere 1.8 million subscribers. Difference? Smosh wasn’t built on the back of the financial and marketing budgets available to a Universal Music imprint called Interscope.


Now it is true that from their very first parody take on Pokémon, Smosh was making some rather impressive video but the real secret of their success was the endless amplifying power of the meme. Cultural anthropology is, if grudgingly, accepting memes into mainstream thinking. On, a meme is defined thus: “a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes”.  How many years have they been around? For as long as human civilization has, it would be fair to say but with the caveat that, thanks to the internet, their speed and power are at levels impossible to imagine even 10 years ago. A meme is a contagion. Unlike biological contagions that need physical transmission of a vector via a host to a recipient, memes leap from mind to mind via digital connections at the speed of light.


So you are not Smosh. Do you still have a chance at doing this meme thing? Let me introduce to you the ‘long tail’. For long, the world had to live with only a few options and a lot of people being compelled to make all sorts of accommodations to adjust to these compromises. No longer. Producers accept and even embrace the endless variations in the tapestry called humanity. On its part, the great god Google fulfils the obscurest wish by putting supply and demand together.


Back to YouTube and amateur video. If there is one common theme that I find running through compelling amateur video it is this: authenticity. If you have an idea that will make sense to someone, express it clearly. Pat Condell is, depending upon your position, a venomous racist or brutally candid, but armed with nothing more than a simple video camera and with a blank white wall for a backdrop, he has scored over 43 million views- and counting. (You’ll find an extreme example of authenticity here: Jazz for Cows).


Happily, the power of authenticity does not stop just with getting the initial viewers for such content. Social media, or at least Twitter, are informed by the same extensive use of authenticometer. Honest content carries a warm aroma of being authentic. Generate an honest video. Upload to YouTube. Tweet and ask, humbly, for retweets. And be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. After that, of course, it is the power of the idea and if it will become a meme, at least for the precise audience to which it is addressed.


Which is why I said, stop complaining and start acting.


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3 responses to “Paritosh Joshi: No money to buy media? Make your own”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Himanshu and Sai. Encourages me to keep at it, week after week!

  2. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    Brilliant post!

  3. Sai Nagesh says:

    Brilliant !! Absolutely outstanding. Hats off Paritosh, not just for the theme of the article but for the language too !!!