Will They Use It In Peoria?


This is in reference to this blog post.

"Over the last several weeks, I've been on several phone pitches from west-coast companies that are looking to be the "flickr of XXXX" or "like del.icio.us but YYYY" or "the Digg killer." It got me thinking - how many people outside of the valley have ever heard of these companies? I asked a bunch of local (Philly-area) acquaintances and the answer came back loud and clear: none - nada - zip. People here have barely heard of Myspace and Craigslist - let alone any of the "hot" Web 2.0 companies."

Essentially, the post is about how there's approximately 50,000 people reading TechCrunch, and a lot of Silicon Valley just tries to make products to appeal to that crowd, with no thought whatsoever given to mainstream audiences.

This reminds me of this thing that Hollywood does when it considers a movie pitch, the famous "But does it play in Peoria?" Peoria, of course, being the quintessential Anytown USA of uneducated and unsophisticated hicks in flyover country that a movie has to appeal to in order to have a chance at mass-market appeal.

Having first been introduced more closely to this concept while Kimberly was at USC, I formulated my own test when evaluating the viability of some product or startup, which is basically, "But will they use it in Peoria?" Or is it just some fancy ajax-mobile-blogging-social-bookmarking-widget thing* that only a geek out here in Northern California would care about?

But what is the Peoria of Silicon Valley? Is it still Peoria, IL? Surprisingly, it's not. The Peoria of Silicon Valley is, ironically enough, Hollywood. Many of you probably aren't aware of this, but they're still using MacOS 9 down there and most of Hollywood people are still afraid of email. Even the rest of mainstream America has pretty much accepted email and "navigating my homepage to the Google." It's basically still 1997 down there - I know this because when Kimberly was attending USC (2002 - 2004), she'd go to classes and whenever information needed to be distributed, she'd suggest that they use email or something, and everyone would stare at her like some sort of freak and literally make frightened, uncertain sounds. Kimberly, the creative writing humanities major, was literally the biggest geek in her entire graduate program at USC film school because she used email. And this is amongst the younger people in The Industry (as they say down there) - you can't even imagine how technophobic and ignorant the older generation of executives and agents are.

Remember the movie "Hackers" from 1995? Have you noticed that depictions of computers and the internet in movies today still haven't become any more realistic? That's because Hollywood still doesn't know about the internet. I can understand how older Baby Boomers in mainstream America might not get it, but in Hollywood the young people don't get it. This is what we're dealing with here, folks. Think about it - you know what they love in Hollywood? MySpace. MySpace is still cool and new down there, the big way to connect with "the youth." They don't realize that the rest of the world has long moved on (they also pronounce it "my-SPACE").

Historically, Hollywood has played a role in leading the cultural development of the country, showcasing progressive ideals or just in defining what was cool. Many taboos were broken in film before they became accepted in American society, most notably on issues of race (e.g. black actors, interracial relationships). But now as technology is taking a leading role in culture, they've totally fallen behind. They just don't get it.

Hollywood is the Peoria of the internet.

Update from the future 2010: Apparently they have learned about Facebook now, as Kimberly reports that her USC classmates are "all joining Facebook."

* Geez, I think Facebook has all of those features...

Originally posted here on 2007 Jul 05, by Yishan Wong.