John Battelle On Conversational Media

Ian Lurie

John Battelle has a three-parter on his blog about ‘Conversational Media’.

He comes at Conversation Marketing from a different angle, talking about Packaged Goods Media versus Conversational Media:

Packaged Goods Media provides you with a one-way, broadcast medium. You print/film/edit and then send it out. Then cross your fingers. John points out that this kind of media is handled by the giants: Fox, AOL, etc..

Conversational Media, he says, is driven by “social media” or “consumer content”.

From there on I have to differ a bit:

Conversational Media Is More

I may have gotten confused, having read these articles with my 7 year old fighting an upstairs light saber combat against foes of unknown number and disposition. So if I’m mischaracterizing I apologize.

There’s a huge space between PGM and CM as John describes it. I think that space is filled by a broader definition of Conversational Media: All media that permits execution of Conversation Marketing, as I defined it originally, and more recently.

In that definition, a site that doesn’t allow community-generated content can still offer conversational assets. Conversational media doesn’t have to invite direct participation by the audience or community.

Conversation Marketing, Conversational Media, and any other definition of true two-direction marketing is not limited to content generated or even directly supported by the audience. It just has to observe and respond to that audience. By doing that, even in subtle ways, you create a community of devoted, dedicated readers, watchers, and listeners. You can talk to people without talking at them, and I think that fits ‘conversational media’, too.

Reading his list of Attributes of Conversational Media, I think the definition will expand on its own. By the way, that list is worth a read even if you ignore the rest of his excellent article – if you read nothing else on his blog, read it here.

Why Does It Matter?
The breadth of the definition of “Conversational Media” could have a profound effect on how marketers at large and small companies form their strategies:

First, many large companies are terrified of blogging. That’s not a good thing. But that shouldn’t rule out a focus on treating marketing as a conversation, either.

Second, many large media outlets like Fox and AOL are struggling with the concept of media that allows interaction with the audience. But with subtle adjustments, they can succeed even as marketing and media continue to evolve. They don’t have to revolutionize their models – just shift steadily towards more iterative, measurable tactics.

Third, and most important, relatively small outlets like Boing Boing (relatively, when compared to AOL) can add less community-driven media to their sites without sullying their brand. A monthly magazine based on the blog? A TV show? Bring it on…

My article on accumulation marketing, where I first talked about broadcast versus conversation marketing:
Select, Don’t Accumulate

All three posts on John’s blog:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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