Huge hidden audiences

June 16, 2008

I was at knitting camp (yes, knitting camp) last month when I learned something staggering. I’d estimate the average age of the ladies to be near 50 years old; and almost all of them listened to podcasts all the time. There was a brisk trade in tips for how to find, download, and enjoy podcasts from all over the web, for those few who weren’t already hooked on the habit.

Now to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through an entire podcast; and I’d always sort of considered them an intermediate stage on the road from blogging to vlogging, like mesohippus or Neanderthal man. But then I realized that this is only true for people like me who spend all day long in front of the computer on fast internet connections. It turns out that for a lot of women it’s far more convenient to enjoy podcasts while they drive, wait around during appointments, do chores, cook, or practice time-consuming crafts. I also sort of suspect that listening is a skill more women have learned to enjoy 🙂 — a lot of them, it turned out, were devoted fans of NPR and recorded books.

Now I found these ladies to be affluent, sophisticated, life-affirming, eager to try new things, and technically capable if motivated. I imagine that women beyond the “children living at home” years control an awful lot of the wealth in this country, and have a disproportionate effect on many political and cultural organizations. The vast majority of my new comrades though told me that they found a lot of the web sort of… not very relevant to their interests. They didn’t watch videos, they didn’t read blogs, they didn’t social network except specifically on one knitting site, they weren’t interested in gossip or celebrity or mothering or beauty or any of the traditionally “female” categories on the web.

This is all by way of saying that if I — a middle-aged female — can ignore this huge and affluent audience, I’m kinda thinking you might too. Certainly your VC is unlikely to push you towards an audience that represents his mom or maybe his first wife 😉 — he’d rather pretend to be a 25 year old boy forever. What other huge audiences are lying just outside our field of collective vision while we huddle around San Francisco Bay sending witty 140-character quips to each other 20 times a day? Maybe we better get out there and find out sometime.