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Create Micro Hysteria

Seth Godin is a marketer and his insights range from the startlingly good to the blindingly obvious. This post though seemed to capture an idea that's rattled around my brain for a couple years. There's at least some portion of active webcomics creators that want to "succeed" and define that as some combination of readers, income, and attention. In a niche medium like webcomics by definition, successfully creating that perfect storm of success is something like what Godin calls "micro hysteria". It doesn't last forever, but achieving it at all tends to vault its creators into greater awareness (at least amongst the webcomics community).

In webcomics I can think of some things that seem like examples - the emergence of Eric Burn's blog Websnark in late 20052004; Adrian Ramos' then new webcomic Count Your Sheep; Dead Mouse's Ballad; - all things that seemed to suddenly be what everyone (okay - not everyone, but a significant number) was talking about for at least awhile.

For the record, Websnark

Eric Burns's picture

For the record, Websnark started in mid-2004, not late 2005. ;)

Senior Moment...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Thanks for the correction.


Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

In some sales training

Scott Story's picture

In some sales training courses, they teach you that the customer has to see the logo four times before it hits the familiarity trigger and the customer buys it. Online, I would venture to suggest it is closer to 10 times, the tenth being the selling point.


I think the micro hysteria model works well for webcomics, because in the early days all the popular webcomics belonged to niche groups. I imagine that is still largely true, that the most popular webcomics have ready made demographic niches to appeal to.

Tipping Point

almamater's picture

The idea of micro hysteria reminds me a little of the recent bestseller The Tipping Point, given the focus on reaching a few of the most involved people rather than spreading a message to a larger and less involved group.

I'd agree with Howard that enthusiasm is a big part of what might make "micro hysteria" work. Additionally, I'd guess that it's easier to spread the word effectively with limited resources when you're trying to reach a smaller group; people might dismiss something that they only hear about once, but hearing about it from multiple sources in a small community might pique their curiosity.



Micro Hysteria = "Act Locally"

Howard Tayler's picture

This principle has been around for a long time. When I ran a record production company a decade or so ago we focused not on the national market but on "owning" our niche in the local market. But we obviously didn't invent the principle -- we applied it from research that predated us by another decade or two.

It might help to think of it as a game of Risk (a metaphor that works for me because the Tayler Corporation has been plotting to take over the world since 1998). You can't win the game by capturing scattered territories across the globe -- you have to consolidate, and create a power base on one or two continents.

With micro hysteria or "acting locally" you build a concentrated audience within a geographic or otherwise easily defined niche. People in that contained "area" bolster each others' enthusiasm to the point that it reinforces your position, and allows you to approach audiences outside the niche with a powerful message - "people love this stuff. Look!"

Schlock Mercenary