Beth Comstock, the President of NBC Universal Integrated Media, spoke at the American Magazine Conference on Monday, saying that we're in the "Golden Age" of media. She referenced the explosion of online video content, and anyone who's paying attention should come to the same conclusion... this is indeed an important time in the history of media.
But what struck me about her talk was something that Advertising Age mentioned in their coverage of her talk... the "40% Rule." According to Comstock, technologies can't be considered "mainstream" until 40% of houses adopt them. Using this litmus test, video games are considered "mainstream", but MP3 players are not, as her research has them only at a 34% reach. I hope this doesn't mean that Comstock is saying technologies that haven't reached "mainstream" levels aren't worth paying attention to... because something in the assertion that the iPod hasn't reached enough critical mass is absurd to me.
What's more, there's a larger discussion that this spawns. Namely, that businesses or technologies no longer need to reach ubiquity to be important. The Long Tail, anyone? I would argue that technologies are worth paying attention to long before they meet the standards of the "40% Rule", and that using it as a benchmark for importance can limit early opportunities to get involved and reap the benefits.
So what's the magic number? Simply stated, I don't think there is one. You have to look at more than just household reach. Who's being reached, even if it's only 5%... and how fast is it growing? Even if a technology plateaus at 5%, if those 5% are your most important target, dive in... don't wait for technologies to become "mainstream", you may just miss the boat.
Link via AdPulp.