An overdue post on Fedora’s target audience

I’m overdue. I’m way past due.  I promised poelcat a while ago that I’d post my thoughts on Fedora’s target audience; since then, I’ve been sidetracked by a little thing called nature, who, in addition to bringing me the mother of all storms to arizona this week, also granted me a long, exciting, early spring break spent indoors with the kids! Part of it sans internet! (That’s french for, “I didn’t get a whole lot done this week besides shoveling,” folks.)

And so, without any more procrastinating further ado, here is Part One (of two parts) of my thoughts on the “Fedora’s Target Audience” topic.  (Okay. A slight bit of further ado:  As a member of Fedora’s marketing team, knowing who the Target Audience is is -reallllly important-.  It’s nice to know who we should be marketing to; do we focus on “the whole universe,” “anyone who has a pulse,” or do we drill down and target specific user types, niches for potential community members, etc?  These are the things that keep marketeers up at night. Well, that, and watching all of season 3 of battlestar galactica on Blu-Ray in one night.)

In my (very short) number of years in Marketing, I have generally seen products evolve in the one of the two following fashions:

(a) There is a product group, and one is expected to come up with a new product that fits within the domain of the product group.  For example, I was in the embedded group at a Very Big processor company, and strategic marketing was expected to find new niches to put processors in, or find niches where other processor architectures were used, and figure out how we could get a processor in there.  Along the way, we had to make sure that this was going to -make money-.

(b) There is a company, and some dude, 28 layers above where you are at, who -obviously- knows better than you, says, “We are missing a toy product for the 13-18 year old females market! Go make one!” … at which point, one would say, well, obviously we need to do something with a vampire theme, and goshdarnit, we really need to hire that guy from that Twilight movie to market the product.  To -make money.-

Fedora, as I pointed out to poelcat and mchua the other day on IRC, sits in a very unique position that differentiates it from a typical producer of software (applications or operating systems).  The two defining items are:

1) Fedora does not have to “make money.”

2)  Fedora does not have someone sitting at the top saying, “go make me a new toy…. you figure out the market, and how much we’ll make, but I know we need a toy to round out the portfolio.”

And so, in my opinion, poelcat, in his epic journey to define Fedora’s target market, is really facing a “chicken and the egg”-type situation.  And this is why:

Target audiences are generally defined by what the end goal is.   But, Fedora doesn’t necessarily have an “end goal” – because Fedora is not expected to “make money.”  Now, I suspect that Fedora is expected to product a quality product by Red Hat and its many other fabulous sponsors. Occasionally, end goals are defined by target audiences (see Vampires example above), but even then, there is someone, somewhere, saying, GO FORTH AND DO!

But there is no man behind the curtain at Fedora.  The transparent, community-oriented nature of Fedora obviously ensure that this happens. Fedora has a mission, and Values, and a fabulous community, butwe have no TARGET AUDIENCE specifically defined, and we have no GOALS, at least as far as a list of things we wanted to accomplish in the short term, or long term, to get us from point A, to point B… or even a vague definition of where we are right now (point A), and what Point B might be.  In essence, right now, Fedora’s goal is to “be the best that we can be,” in order to address a target audience that we are currently, I suspect, somewhat in the dark about the current state of, and completely undefined as to who we would like that audience to be in the future.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had ever written on my list of “yearly objectives” for work that I was going to “be all that I could be” (my apologies to the US Army marketing department) I would have been laughed at.  Being all that you can be is, in most circles, just expected; it is also completely unmeasurable.  How do you know when you’re the best that you can be? And what do you do then?

Goals are important.  Not only do they allow an individual or a group to say, “Look! We made it!” and get some sense of self-satisfaction from what they’re working on, knowing they accomplished something; they also offer a way to measure how we’re getting from point a to point b.

To me, the Target Audience question goes hand-in-hand with setting goals; and in fact, I might even argue that perhaps setting goals might be a better place to start, so that we might be able to define who the Target Audience is, who will, in turn, lead us to those goals.

5 comments

  1. I don’t quite see it as that abstract. Long term goal is “to fulfill our mission”, and the mission is currently defined as:

    “The Fedora Project’s mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community.”

    Now I think this mission isn’t concrete enough, but it certainly exists as a statement.

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