What people want

Should you build something inconsequential first to make meaning later?

I was at a newspaper and media conference with 20 of the top editors and business people in March this year, when one of the SVP’s of a large publisher expressed dismay at BuzzFeed. “They are trash” she said. “It is not even publishing or journalism, just plain nonsense with a bunch of silly animated gifs”.

She went on to share that the traffic on their own property had dropped 17% year on year, compared to the published metrics from ComScore that stated that BuzzFeed had grown 200% during the same period.

Yesterday, I read an article about one of the presidential candidates complaining that Donald Trump was “muddying” the presidential campaign for other Republicans by saying things that were divisive and catering to the racist crowd.

Regardless of whether BuzzFeed or Donald Trump are right or wrong, the key point that’s important is that they give people what they want. People might “need” serious journalism or a candidate that talks about economic, political, social and cultural “issues”, but the immigration problem is the one that touches the nerve.

That’s not to say that BuzzFeed cant do serious long form journalism or Donald Trump cant talk about any other issue at length.

In fact, going back to the things that are “serious”, most always they apparently start out being fairly silly.

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.”  Chris Dixon, 2010

One way to be dismissed and not be taken seriously by big large incumbents is for startups to do something fairly inconsequential (what people want) and build enough strength to then take on serious challenges (what people need).

2 thoughts on “Should you build something inconsequential first to make meaning later?”

  1. Very interesting post. Something I have been mulling over. Kim Kardashian might be one more example.

    Many founders are very idealistic, including me. And hence sometimes they solve a problem and ‘hope’ that people would like and use it because of course, it solves this problem!. But it seems many idealistic people miss that if people don’t ‘desire’ that solution, they would not use it.

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