THE HISTORY of communications is pretty interesting. Dating back to historic times, humans attempted to communicate ideas through means such as cave paintings and petroglyphs (a form of carving on a rock), pictograms (drawings), ideograms (pictures or symbols), and early forms of writing. As the alphabet developed, writing became a more accepted way for people to communicate and make their ideas permanent. Since producing a document was no simple task in 2,400 BCE, writings were meant for small numbers of people—a town, a city, or perhaps a county, for example. In other words, communication was meant for a narrow audience. With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, huge numbers of books and documents could be produced, which enabled people to communicate ideas to a broader audience.

In the late 1800s and into the mid-1900s, inventors strived to produce devices that could reach vast numbers of people through means like radio and television. The goal was to create national networks that could reach the entire country simultaneously through a system that was coined “broadcasting.” The World Wide Web was created to provide a new broadcasting method for people and essentially connect the entire planet, not just a single nation. While the Internet surely has linked communications globally, it also has spawned another interesting feature: narrow casting.

Narrow casting is the return to communicating with small numbers of people instead of mass audiences. The idea is both simple and powerful—why bother casting your information out to a huge audience when only a certain percentage of them will really be interested in the message? Why not develop an audience of interested people and communicate with them? This way, you know your audience is receptive to what you have to say. Bloggers surely have discovered the power of narrow casting.

Since most optical offices don’t have the money to fund an effective marketing campaign, narrow casting is an excellent way to promote their businesses. Capturing e-mail addresses is a good start. With these, you can communicate with those who have visited your office. Creating a good Web site with useful information is an effective narrow casting strategy.

Social media has essentially moved people back toward narrow casting because in order to develop a social network, you have to find people who have some interest in common with you. That almost always means a small number of people. That also means that social media techniques are good narrow casting opportunities.

The next time you think about promoting your business, think about narrow casting opportunities.

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