Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been saying a phrase on Twitter that has been confusing a few folk.
Destroy your audience.
Every time I said it nobody understood.
Nobody liked it, nobody commented.
I even made a video about it.
Still, tumbleweed. Talking about destroying your audience on a platform where you’re surrounded by people who are obsessed with words like ‘audience-building’ and ‘audience-first’ isn’t an easy pill for them to swallow.
But still, I continue talking about destroying your audience. Today, I’ll attempt to write all my thoughts down in one place on what I think about destroying your audience right now.
I think I’ll probably keep adding to this list.
The idea of even having an audience
The simple idea that you or I have an audience of any kind is plain ridiculous. When you really sit down and think about it, one human being adored by several thousand other humans is just weird. It’s unnatural. It’s not a coincidence that most celebrities end up having mental breakdowns or aren’t very well adjusted individuals.
It isn’t normal for humans to have an audience. It shouldn’t be something that we actively pursue. Serving our audience is something that a royal family might have said in the medieval times about their loyal subjects, but it isn’t something we should be thinking about when we’re writing a few tweets on Twitter, writing emails or making videos.
But alas, we do. Most of us are trying to build our own group of loyal subjects, trying to pander to their needs and desires. Most of us are in this game purely so that we can build some semblance of an audience.
Most of us make things online only because we think we want to build an audience. And that makes me sad.
1. Destroy the idea
The first step of my Destroy Your Audience manifesto is to destroy the idea that you need an audience, want an audience, or will pursue any kind of audience-building tactics whatsoever.
Creating art purely because you want to add a few notches to your likes, subscribers or ego is never the right reason.
I’ve been making all kinds of stuff this last year. Podcasts, doodles, tweets, newsletters, blog posts, ebooks, videos. Not a single one of them was ever made to serve any kind of audience. It was made because I wanted to make it in the moment.
2. It’s for me
I think you can tell when somebody is making something to get the maximum audience exposure possible. Its personality is removed, its essence is gone.
The best example I can think of is the 30 minute edited podcast vs the 2 hour conversation podcast.
The 30 minute edited podcast has been purely optimised to give maximum value to the audience. All ‘erms’ and ‘ahs’ have been stripped out. All off-topic conversations are gone. All tangents are removed. It’s pure learning and nothing else.
The 2 hour conversation podcast is a real conversation between two humans. There’s tangents. Each person says things that lead nowhere, but in between that there’s good advice and good points. You get to know each person properly.
Which one do you think more people would enjoy?
For me, it’s the second one.
The reason it’s the second one is because that’s the kind of podcast I make, and I make it for me. I don’t make it for any kind of audience. I make it for selfish reasons: to have a good conversation with somebody.
Ironically, that results in a better podcast and a better product. By not making it for anybody but me I make it for other people. But I don’t make it for anybody.
3. Create challenging things
I strongly believe we shouldn’t pander to audiences. I strongly believe we shouldn’t pander to anybody with the things we create. I think we should create things that challenge people’s opinions.
If we’re going to create any kind of ‘audience’, we should create one that will rise to the level of our work. It shouldn’t be the other way around. It shouldn’t be that we lower ourselves to the level of others.
We should create nuanced things. We should create complicated things that aren’t easy to unpick. No short clips, no sound-bites.
This is what I mean when I say destroy your audience. Destroy the idea. Create for you. Create challenging things.
I’m still working through some of these ideas and this is something I’m going to keep revisiting. I know I’m past trying to build an audience, and I know it isn’t a healthy way of approaching this stuff.
Anyway. Enjoy your day.
Yes, this. Somehow I am not surprised you got tumbleweed. I think you hit too close to an uncomfortable target. People don’t want to be reminded. Most people.
If we build nuanced and complicated things, then we might end up with a well-built ship that sails solo. And sometimes, if we happen to be in the right spot, another ship comes along and we’ll exchange news before moving on. Thankfully we now have technology and can sustain connections if we so wish.
Now and then I embark on some intensive experimental projects to see if I can “connect”. I learned how to create NFTs. I tested all kinds of new apps like Clubhouse and Buy Me a Coffee. No one has ever bought me a coffee or purchased one of my NFTs. Tumbleweed. Most recently I experimented with Instagram reels and that was the tipping point for me. An un-human feeling crept up and nudged me, and it was the sign that this experiment was over. I want to remain human. I have written about these things in my Substack if anyone wants to read.
You are correct or at least onto something: any time I/we build something specifically for an audience it doesn’t feel natural. It clearly is a product instead of, as you say, communication. Good quality communication.