We did not enter the Information Age because information began to exist. We entered it because a widespread information base became accessible to every average person. Information has always existed, but throughout history, it was difficult for an average person to obtain any sort of information they desired simply. When the Internet came about, information was now accessible by the masses. With the evolution of the Internet, information on just about any topic has become so widely accessible that it has now become a commodity.
When something is commodity, consumers don’t just choose it based on the actual commodity itself, they choose it based on the context, presentation and packaging.
Take oats as an example. Imagine a society where oats are something that people want to eat, but there is not much availability. Since the demand is high and the price is low, those merchant who sell oats can simply sell them in raw bulk and will have plenty of buyers.
Move forward to a society where oats have become easy to farm and are now commonplace. Many merchants now sell oats and there is still only so much demand, so the merchants now have to find ways to make their oats more appealing. One merchant develops “quick oats” that can be prepared in 60 seconds with just a little water and a microwave. Another merchant develops granola, oats with other ingredients to enhance the flavor and nutrition. Yet another develops individually-wrapped oat bars for convenient carrying on-the-go. The oats aren’t necessarily purchased just because they’re oats. They’re now purchased by the customers based on the packaging or context. Oats are no longer what commands the flow of the currency. They’ve simply become a commodity.
Sorry, but that rabbit-trail had a purpose. Jump back to the idea of information as the product, not oats.
Information is now so widely available and easily accessible that we don’t choose to “ingest” it from a source based completely on the content of the information, but also by its context or “packaging”. It is now a commodity. If the information isn’t well-written, in a convenient medium and/or easy to acquire, you will have a difficult time growing the audience for it because someone else will be willing to take the time to present the same information better.
You can have all of the information in the world, but if you’re not able to communicate it in a convenient, enjoyable and customizable manner, you won’t have many people coming to you for that information.
Open Up the Buffet!
Now that the Internet has revolutionized information availability, the information no longer commands the currency. It’s become the commodity. The amount of people who actually come to you to learn now commands the currency.
Not only does the audience command the currency, but an audience is within the average person’s reach. With Twitter, blogs, Facebook, podcasts and the myriad online mediums, it’s become more possible than ever for a motivated individual to become known as an authority on a topic, or simply become known. We hear about people becoming famous just through things like Youtube all the time!
We’ve moved from the age of information as a currency to an age of audience as a currency. But, something can’t be a currency unless it has sufficient scarity. The discernment of the audience is what creates the scarity in the Audience Age. People have become aware of what good production and a quality aesthetic is.
When attention is paid to the delivery of your topic, it enhances the effectiveness or your message. For example, webpage layout, font choice and quality graphics make your blog communicate better. A good microphone, attractive background and a relaxed demeanor make your video message more impactful. These elements are the “packaging” for your information and the audience will demand a good experience from your content.
The famous TED Talks name is Technology, Education and Design for a very good reason.
To summarize, we’re no longer only in the Information Age because information has become the commodity. The Information Age has given way to the Audience Age and audience is the new currency. The scarcity required for the audience to be a currency comes from the discerning sense of the average person. Cut-rate quality and poor design are no longer viable options in the current age. Your audience knows the difference.