Mar 04

Is Twitter Mainstream Yet? No (and That’s Okay).

From all reports, social media is going nowhere but up in every age demographic and geographic place. Twitter gets mentioned on CNN from time to time. Even FoxNews makes its usual mockery of it. With all this traditional press, is Twitter going mainstream?

There is no mainstream media anymore. And that is okay.

Due to the low barriers of entry the internet introduces, anyone can be “media”. There are many channels that can be used to introduce media and like Twitter, they can be created quickly and for little expense. This results in segmented media or niche media, a concept Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson calls “the long tail”.

Put it in perspective: Figures are not exact, but back in the day, up to 109 million people purchased Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. 24.56 million people in the U.S. alone watched American Idol just last Wednesday. 95 million people watched this last SuperBowl. Twitter has just under 6 million users despite being 100% free and unlike the SuperBowl, international. It’s not mainstream. That is okay.

Why is that okay? Because unlike other traditional mainstream sources, there is no overhead associated with it. The SuperBowl ad GoDaddy put out cost them at least $3 million. The Twitter contests I run for NameCheap, a rival registrar, cost around $15000. I can’t reach 95 million people, but I don’t have to because my costs are 200 times less. I am appealing to a niche, and since Twitter seems to be full of people who are at their computers a lot and therefore buy a lot of domains, it’s a much more targeted approach than the machine gun approach of a SuperBowl ad.

When printing presses were rare, the only book people could get their hands on was the Bible. It was “the mainstream” of the time. As printing presses were created en masse, people could increasingly print information that was more specialized to a local area or subject. We now have a medium (the internet) that allows people to create all sorts of different types of content in all sorts of forms. The overhead is lower, so more people publish in more ways and in different subjects. The diversity of media is amazing these days. In this way, the internet is destroying what we formerly knew of mainstream. When you tell someone that Twitter is now “mainstream”, please bare in mind the common perception of what mainstream actually is and the numbers associated with it (Michael Jackson, Super Bowl, Coca Cola, etc.).

Not everyone is going to like Twitter. Some people like videos. Some people like LiveJournal. My sister has a whole community on Flickr. Go to the DMV for ten minutes, look around, and tell me you are excited for Twitter to go mainstream. Media is segmented, will be segmented, and that is okay.

  • JayCruz

    Maybe its not “mainstream” as of now, but the recent plugs in TED, Charlie Rose, The Daily Show, and the NyTimes is going to add a little more than 6 million.

    JayCruzs last blog post..Some Interruptions Make Us Happy

  • Elia Morling

    Greer, good observation that:
    “Some people like videos. Some people like LiveJournal. My sister has a whole community on Flickr.”

    But I propose that the conclusion “Media is segmented, will be segmented” should be “Media is tribalized”, especially when listing online media related to passions.

    People are gathering in tribes around passions, the concept of segmentation misses this valuable point.

  • Michelle


    That is a very good way to put it. Thank you for adding your insights on my blog.

  • josh

    couldn’t agree more. in fact, i would add that twitter has a learning curve that may prevent it from ever becoming mainstream.

    until you figure out how to find people to follow that you are interested in and start having conversations, it is easy to dismiss as just a bunch of noise. (my two cents)

    thanks for the post!

    joshs last blog post..Jedi Marketing