Welcome..! (But why, exactly?)

Posted by Rob Walker on April 4, 2008
Posted Under: Buying In (the book),rw

Welcome Marketplace listeners!

That’s right, I had a commentary run on the widely broadcast public radio show Marketplace tonight. I’m pretty pleased about that (even though I haven’t actually listened to it yet; I only know it ran tonight because I just got email from a detractor about it), because I’m a longtime listener to the show.

Anyway, if you look at blogs often, and I’m sure you do, you’ve probably had occasion to encounter a “Welcome!” post, like this one. This occurs when a blog is, say, mentioned in The Times, or on some other superblog (BoingBoing), or the blog’s author has been on television. So the post will say something like: “Welcome New York Times readers!” and the premise is that there are a flood of newcomers showing up as a result of the outside attention, and they need to be greeted in some way.

This isn’t something I’d thought about a whole lot, since this particular site tends not to have to deal with a lot of attention from media outlets or superbloggers. But now that Murketing is — or might be — getting some outside attention, it’s made me wonder: What are those “Welcome!” posts really about? Do these new readers need a welcome? Is a welcome likely to rope them in as regulars?

Possibly. But I think the real function of the “Welcome!” post is status signaling, in the economics sense. That is, it’s meant to signal the importance of the blog by making public mention of the attention it has received from some authority or other.

Again I haven’t listened to the show yet, so the truth is I don’t even know if they mentioned this site. But I know what I said, and it was about the death of conspicuous consumption and the rise of “the invisible badge,” concepts more thoroughly explored in Buying In.

But still: Welcome new readers (if there are any), I think with this post you now have a very good sense of I how I look at the world.

And as for you regulars: Now you know that — or maybe I’ve just tricked you into believing — others are interested, too!

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Ah, but maybe the regulars are now feeling jealous of this new influx of trendy radio listeners who are getting special attention? Anyway, you know what they say about radio listeners don’t you? They wear funny trousers and smell of…er, sardines. In brine. Yeah, yeah…that’s what they say. Don’t sound so great now, do they?

Written By Josephine on April 4th, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

I heard it on my way home last night. I missed the intro and was thinking, “that sounds like a Rob Walker take on badge brands,” and of course it was. I guess that either says “Rob Walker has a distinctive take on the marketplace” or “Chip doesn’t get around much, does he?”

I don’t recall them mentioning the site, just the Consumed column. Timely, since a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking that as much cross-pollination as happens between NPR and the NYT, I’m surprised I haven’t heard you on NPR. Congrats.

Written By chipg on April 5th, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

Josephine: That’s a good analysis, I like it. Actually it would be kind of funny to have a post that said, “Welcome regular readers!” Maybe I should do that.

chipg: Yeah I don’t think they did mention the site, which ends up making the entire post kind of ridiculous, but I guess it’s a little late to withdraw it.

On the positive side: Thanks. I actually used to do NPR stuff all the time in the Slate days but not so much since Consumed started, and I’m really pleased to have done this and hope to do more. I think it’ s a good audience — even if Josephine is right and they do smell of sardines, though I don’t have any direct comment on that allegation.

Written By Rob Walker on April 5th, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

I heard it on the radio as well when I was driving! I also missed the intro and as I was listening, I thought, “this dude is right on. Nice commentary.” And then when they said it was you, I thought “of course!” Nice job : )

Written By Jackie Huba on April 5th, 2008 @ 8:44 pm

That’s what I love about how you blog, Rob. You’ve got this way of analyzing things that the rest of the world doesn’t even think about.

Written By Yael on April 7th, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

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