Netflix Passes the ’Grandmother Test’ …

… or in this case, the mom test. My mother just signed up for Netflix, which was a telling sign for me that the company has been able to break through to more of a mainstream audience.

Though, Netflix doesn’t necessarily fall within our main coverage areas (local media, search and advertising), the “grandmother test” is an important phenomenon that affects some of the emerging forms of online media that have local advertising implications, such as social networking, online video and mobile local search.

It’s interesting to note when companies come up with entirely new ways of doing things online. Netflix is a good example. Larger historical examples that have been able to break through to mainstream audiences include eBay, Netscape (browser) and MySpace. Other innovative technologies that conversely haven’t stood up to the grandmother test include RSS (although My Yahoo! has done a good job gaining traction via branding without ever mentioning the term RSS).

The trick of course is to appeal to the non-tech savvy consumers (i.e., my mom) that make up the majority of consumers. A “silicon valley effect”  the mind-set that everyone outside a company’s walls is as interested in using sophisticated online tools as the company itself  often exists when developing and rolling out online products.

Anyone devising new business models for local search should keep this in mind. Relatives can be a valuable sounding board. If Aunt Patti, Uncle Bob and cousin Clyde from Omaha can understand what you are talking about, you may be on to something.

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