Spielberg Your Audience!

A few weeks ago, Microsoft purchased the developer community GitHub for $7.5 billion. It’s an astounding 30x multiple on annual recurring revenue. To put that into perspective, Microsoft paid 7x revenue for LinkedIn.

Much like the LinkedIn acquisition, this move shows how much strategic value Microsoft places on the ability to reach addressable audiences.

GitHub is a large web-based community of mostly software developers, who use the platform to store, version, collaborate, and share their code.

One of our technology clients is looking at a (much smaller) content marketing acquisition. As we talked about the GitHub acquisition, he wondered why Microsoft would go after a community where so many of the members were (and are) openly hostile to what Microsoft stands for: a corporate, monolithic, and famously proprietary software platform. “Won’t they lose the audience?” he asked.

“They’ll lose some,” I told him. And some developers have announced they’d move their loyalty elsewhere. “But that’s not who they’re after,” I said. “They’re going to Spielberg the audience.”

You see this happen in Hollywood all the time: A beloved, niche property gets developed into a mainstream idea. The audience for that book, comic, or television show has a passionate, almost religious, attachment to the story – and they’re enormously cynical about anyone coming in to translate it into something else.

Director Steven Spielberg is, of course, notorious for translating cult classic stories into mainstream blockbusters. His adaptations of Jaws and Jurassic Park rank among the most successful movies of all time. But his versions of the beloved Roald Dahl classic The BFG and, less recently, The Adventures of Tintin were met with derision from fans and yawns from moviegoers in general. Whenever Steven Spielberg is mentioned as the director who will translate a cult favorite to the screen – that story’s fanboys and fangirls roll their collective eyes about the story going “mainstream.”

And, of course, this is the purpose. When Spielberg translates Ready Player One into a feature film, he’s not only trying to please the 300,000 fans who loved the book. He’s trying to reach the 50 million people who haven’t read the book but will see the movie. This approach not only helps the movie, it also helps the book.

Microsoft’s using the same strategy with GitHub, and we can learn from it as content marketers. If Microsoft can build on GitHub’s success, and if they can take GitHub “mainstream” (two big ifs), then they’ll have a bona fide hit on their hands.

That’s the lesson we can take forward.

When you’re looking at developing a content marketing strategy, ask yourself if you can Spielberg a new audience. That approach opened my client’s eyes to possible acquisitions that might have been considered too niche before.

Those of us looking to broaden existing audiences might weigh losing a few diehards on the way to a more mainstream audience. We may decide it’s not worth it. But, we might also discover that if we do it well, we’ll be on our way to developing a Spielberg-sized blockbuster.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.