Today on twitter, one guy I follow was being negative about another guy I follow. Nerdfight? Not really. It did get me thinking about UNSUBSCRIBING people.

In the old days (yesterday), if you didn’t like something written in the newspaper/magazine or said on the TV or radio, you would write a letter to the editor or call the offending media outlet and give them a piece of your mind. 99% of the world shook their fist at the sky and 1% actually did something.

Which made you feel better. You told them. You showed them. More importantly, you believe that someone listened (even if it was the poor volunteer or intern answering the phone).

The big threat, the “nuclear option” so to speak, is to boycott or unsubscribe. To stop paying for your daily paper because you hate their stance on a subject. Cease watching channel 7 because they have a stance or story or show or personality that REALLY ticks you off. Individually, users who take the unsubscribe route are less value. When a lot of users threaten or even take the step of unsubscribing (a lot of business models are based on users being too busy or lazy to take action – health club memberships, gift cards, etc.) then things get dicey. Action is taken, people are sent to rehab 🙂 and hopefully there will be another hollywood starlet controversy to push this off the front of the user’s brain.

But how does that work today? Users have less loyalty to their media sources, they pay for less of them (I havent purchased a newspaper in years), they are more discerning and more willing to try new things/new voices. More and more, individual voices are getting the same real estate on users’ brains. Users are making up their own minds, defining their own media-mix, choosing their sources based on their beliefs (and the recommendations of their friends/acquaintances). They are picking and choosing and remixing their information – on their terms.

So what happens now, when your media mix doesn’t just include stories or columns or media outlets but ideas, memes, attitudes, conversations, feeds and most importantly, PEOPLE. These days you can:

    Subscribe to a concept or keyword.
    You can follow all of the links someone else thinks are cool.
    You can listen to someone else’s stream of attention via twitter or jaiku.
    You can listen to their mix on muxtape
    You can syndicate your own ideas, thoughts, insane ramblings and inane observations to anyone who will listen.

Its on my terms. I follow Bob or Jane by choice. I had to actively go and find them (or the service I am on added them from my address book or facebook profile, etc.), I had to subscribe to them via RSS, or twitter or dopplr, email newsletter or any of 100 other services, I had to give my attention to that/those sources.

So if I don’t like what you have to say, if I don’t like your stance on a topic, if I don’t dig your attitude or think you are an elitist or you just aren’t doing it for me anymore I can ALWAYS UNSUBSCRIBE YOU. The barriers to exit (calling to unsubscribe from a newspaper, actually going to the store to use the gift card, etc.) are at their lowest point ever. I drop your feed, unfriend you, refuse to accept future invites, stop you from entering my attention stream, etc.

Now I don’t have to listen (and never did). I can unsubscribe from a voice, from a PERSON.

Unfollow is a powerful option for the user and a powerful challenge to the one sharing ideas (company or person). A source/feed/person has to earn my attention (through friendship, quality of their ideas, etc.). Then they need to keep earning it every single day.

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