Minimum Viable Audience

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Illustration by Ayo Arogunmati

An independent show on YouTube ran for two years. Each week a new episode. And each week a better episode. A year into providing the audience free and quality content, it had aggregated on average 60,000 viewers per episode while quickly burning through cash to finance additional episodes. In August 2011, the producers launched a Kickstarter campaign. The hypothesis was that if half of their viewers gave one dollar, then they would raise $30 thousand to finance the production of the second season.

They raised $56,259 from 1,960 backers. An average of $28 per supporter or 3 percent of their viewing base. The show was The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl.

The concept of Design Thinking has been top of mind for me in formulating a strategy for my own creative ideas and business interests. Specifically thinking about these two questions - who is it for? and what is it for? This has led me to another interesting concept of identifying that your work can be categorized along this idea in which your work is – For you, Not you. This sums up to the understanding that all you need to be successful is the Minimum Viable Audience, according to Seth Godin.

Most creators trying to shift the culture often realize well after their hypothesis have failed that all you need to focus on is the Minimum Viable Audience. These are the early adopters that are at the head of the long tail distribution of consumerism. They seek the new and novel, not the standard and recognizable. As a creator, it is important to make quality things for people that care and will share your work with other who care. The intersection of quality and care is where you find your Minimum Viable Audience.

I don’t think there is a magic number to chase to be certain that you have a Minimum Viable Audience, however, the consistency of quality and understanding that your work should be categorized as For you, Not you will allow the right number to show up when you need them most to cause a cultural ratchet.