August 21, 2023

A Grumpy Audience

Or, in the case of network television, no audience.

More on that in a moment.

The year was 2012. I presented my Judy / Jennifer / Jasmine framework at a conference. Back then, Judy was a 59 year old catalog shopper, Jennifer was the hated 43 year old e-commerce customer, and Jasmine was the 27 year old mobile future of commerce. Today, Judy would be 70, Jennifer 54, and Jasmine 38 years old. We'd add a 22 year old Jadyn to the mix.

When I presented Jennifer, the audience hissed ... you could hear it, you could feel the contempt. The fine people of New England had no tolerance for the e-commerce loving persona. When I got to Jasmine, the audience glowed. They loved the catalog-shopping 59 year old ... they loved the 27 year old.

One of our intrepid conference attendees raised his hand, and asked me a question.
  • "Can we teach Jasmine to love paper?"

When you are speaking at a conference, you are part of a show. There's give and take. Push and pull. A quick scan of the audience showed a lot of hope ... they anticipated a favorable opinion. Would this be the moment that the speaker (me) charts a course allowing the attendees to continue doing what they love doing?

No.

I told the audience that every generation creates their own traditions. In the same way that Judy eschewed the "big books" produced by Sears or Montgomery Wards or JCP, Jasmine would eschew what had become traditional e-commerce and would not have any interest whatsoever in print. 

She most certainly fulfilled the prophesy.

It was like popping a balloon.

The audience was grumpy. The audience left unsatisfied.

But this is how transition happens. The old-school audience sticks around, you never acquire the newer audience or you acquire them and lose them. Ask linear television about this dynamic. Two things happen - younger customers "cut the cord" or never watch linear television in the first place ... and then the heavy users all end up being age 50+. Somebody will say "oh look at the numbers for the young people who watched 'show x' on 'network y'" ... but those one-offs are always said and are always meaningless. 

Why do you think ESPN is going through an existential crisis?

We are not going to teach younger people how to embrace traditions. Younger people are going to teach us how the world will change. It's our job to adapt and change, and if we don't do that, we become part of a grumpy audience, don't we?

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