The Prospector's Path

by debra scherer

Having worked in publishing and fashion for many years at Italian and French Vogue, I have seen influential industries shift a few times, but always find their way around using their ability to embody the next wave. This is how great media and great products are made. That is, until now. Now the next wave is a killer. Now is, in many ways, a terrible time to launch something new. 

When we first launched the Culture Crush we started taking what we were learning about the world, and about ourselves, and trying to form a solid set of ideas to help steer the ship. I always say we are like prospectors, meaning, we don't look to trends to find stories.

This might sound counterintuitive, because instead of defining a target audience, or particular demographic, we follow our instincts, and search out ideas that begin personal and end up being universal. Our mission statement doesn't include a description of the audience before the fact.

As existing demographics, which were mapped out by the advertising industry, started to shift, it felt like new media was more focused on them than ever, due to the usual trend chasing and the obsession with Millennials. The whole, “let's figure out what they want and then give it to them” plan can be the path to mediocrity when you are striving to have an original voice and a strong point of view. And those two things are more important than ever. Between the socialization of media and the available everywhere at anytime conundrum, a unique and strong point of view is really all you have. Otherwise you risk being just another headline flying by on someone's feed. 

At The Culture Crush, our approach to growth is focused on very slowly growing influence, rather than chasing that high of pure audience numbers. When the goal is to create viral content, gather influencers, and chase celebrities, where does that leave your audience? It leaves them as nothing more than the statistics they represent, like the number of hamburgers served on the McDonalds sign.

We have picked a different path, the prospectors path. And that audience is an interesting one, because it crosses cultural and generational boundaries in a way that traditional demographics don’t describe.

The truth is, it's all one industry now. Whether you are in fashion, art, tech, business; thanks to the great digitization, we all work for the entertainment industry, like it or not. And it's digital. 

So is technology to blame for everything? One thing is for sure, tech is in some way a part of everything. The problem is that while it has infected every industry, its dark side has also infected every industry. We have all heard the term tech bubble, but the bubble isn't financial, it's cultural. So many aspects of tech, its childish aesthetics, its racism, sexism, and belief in its ability to make beauty or connect everybody so that the world is a delightful and wonderful place, have had disastrous societal and cultural results.

Their ability to replicate has drowned out and coopted so many sublime concepts that we all took for granted. We have said goodbye to simple yet profound things, like the concept of Friend, Like, Fashion, Fake, and in this moment, even the word News. In fact, I believe journalists need to admit defeat on that one and abandon that word, because now, it too, has no meaning. The glimmer of hope is that if we are now ensconced in the tech culture bubble, that also gives us the ability to burst it for them. (or for us!!)

So after our long year of prospecting, we discovered so many simple truths about people, about life, about culture. There are tribes and communities forming all around us, all searching for something real to hang onto. They might not be the masses, but they are the ones who have that counterculture impulse, that ability to create something free, something clunky, something smeared, something new, something true. They defy demographics and might not show up on page one of your Google search. They don’t pick an audience, the audience picks them. I think what we do at the Culture Crush is connect these concepts, these groups, and figure out what's universal, what moves us about them. 

As we continue to publish our stories on paper, on podcasts, in videos and everywhere else we can, we too will be looking for ways to keep going, but not at the expense of our values. We will continue our fight for being in the world, for pulling stories out of the world that give to our culture, that create, that don’t chase. We will keep watching these shifts and be nimble enough to find our way in the landscape, to try in our own way to embody that next wave.