In Depth

Spread the Word: New Media Rocks!

On a flight home to San Francisco from Austin last week, the woman sitting next to me asked if I thought a computer would be an appropriate gift for her nine-year-old nephew. I was an easy target for the question. I had my usual toys with me–Blackberry, video iPod, laptop, iPod for a child, GameBoy for another child.

Not knowing her nephew, I gave a broad reason why a laptop is a good gift: After most children have mastered handwriting, the majority of school assignments are done on computers.

Then she wanted to know more about my iPod, how it works, how you get one, what you can buy in the iTunes store. “Does it have both country and rock songs?” she wanted to know. I gave her a basic explanation of the iPod hardware and the iTunes software.

Then I said, almost sheepishly, “I like technology.”

In my house we have five computers, four iPods, two working cell phones with cameras (not to mention the vast collection of cell phones my husband has amassed but doesn’t use), an Apple TV, a digital video recorder, a Tivo, cable service, a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox and a Gameboy.

When the plane landed, I said “goodbye.” I certainly don’t know if she will buy either a computer for her nephew or an iPod for herself. But as I was walking off the plane, something clicked. I love new media for me, but I also believe new media enthusiasts should spread the gospel.

Look, I’m not equating new media usage with world peace, but I do believe that enthusiasts have the opportunity to be stewards of new media, online video, Apple TV, podcasting, and so on.

Because early adopters are not just the first stage in the adoption of a product; they’re instrumental in pushing that product into the all-important mainstream. “The Early Adopter has the eyes and ears of the subsequent adoption segments and the power to influence what becomes a success in the marketplace,” writes Bill Tancer in his book “Click,” due from Hyperion in September.

The power to influence what becomes a success.

Consider our habits, after all. For starters, about 15 percent of households are enthusiasts for new technology, according to research firm Marquest Media & Entertainment. These so-called “SuperTrons” usually watch their TV on a time-shifted basis, are 14 times more likely to have the capability to watch Web video on the TV set, are six times more likely to have a mobile phone that can play video, and are 10 times more likely to subscribe to such a service on their mobile phones.

That is a lot of power and a lot of potential influence. So remember what Spiderman’s uncle Ben told him: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Don’t keep new media to yourself. Go forth and spread the good word. Show your dad how to use an iPod, introduce your brother to streaming video on Hulu, teach your best friend how to make a video from her cell phone.

And when all this good stuff becomes mainstream, we can all make more money!

(See, I’m not that altruistic or corny. I’m still a mercenary at heart.)