The Hunt: How New Stories Get to Us

This is the kind of post that should probably be read in a rocking chair on a front porch with old-timey music playing on a phonograph in the background. I feel like that’s what I’m doing as I write it. Anyway…

In a bygone world, if I wanted to find new music, books, movies, shows, products, or stories, I had to search. I walked down the aisles of bookstores and hoped for a cover or title to catch my eye. If I wanted new music, I had to sort through the bins and take the risk. If I was tired of watching the same old shows, I had to sort through channels and schedules.  Sometimes this search paid off and I found myself experiencing sounds and sights I didn’t expect. Other times, I was two seasons into Caroline in the City because it was on Thursday night and I didn’t understand what else I could do with that time. I played roulette with books and movie tickets, hoping I was putting my money on work that was worth it.  

There was an element of discovery. The thrill of the hunt.

But in this new world, it’s hard to tell who’s hunting and hunted.

Instead of searching through record bins, I submit to the suggested lists on Spotify. When I want to read, I rely on Amazon’s recommendations. Netflix barely even lets me get through the menu before it autoplays the shows it believes are in my best entertainment interest. It’s not just about pop culture either: This shift is also affecting the way we all find new goods and services. It’s about how companies are built and connections are made.

It’s like we’re all hiding in the woods and the algorithms are sniffing us out. Marketers and makers are pursuing us with their endless content. It’s no longer enough to advertise on a random billboard along the highway–they want to make their way into our hands and phones where all the attention is these days. (I know, I hear the rocking chair creaking.)

Here’s what this means for storytellers, story-sellers, and story-searchers:

–Companies and creators need to know exactly whose attention they want and where they have the best chance at capturing a crowd’s attention. When they develop a strong buyer persona, they stand a better chance at making a real connection with the people who not only fit an algorithm, but fit their story. We see this process play out often in our Story Dives: When a company or creator gives thought to their audience, it refines their work and renews their sense of purpose.

–Consumers still have the power to choose what gets their attention. Surrendering to the algorithms might land them in stories they love. They may also choose to stay curious and to push themselves outside of the recommendations. Everyone benefits from a life lived somewhere between comfortable and uncomfortable, the known and the unknown.

Whether we are searching for stories, or people to hear the stories we’re telling, this battle for attention gives us a chance to pay better attention to each other.