Ries doesn't speak of "failure," but of "learning." Maybe you built a product and then tested it, assuming customers would respond a certain way. If customers responded differently, you didn't fail; you learned more about what customers don't want, and now you can apply those lessons in the next iteration. If "The Lean Startup" stands for anything, it's "validated learning," which happens by "running frequent experiments that allow entrepreneurs to test each element of their vision."
If I understand what you’re saying, it’s a subset of the idea of building an audience first vs. a product/service-oriented approach. The former requires more transparency or let’s say personality with an emphasis on the “person” writing the blog vs. delivering a product/service on its own merits (if that’s what you mean by “straight forward”). That personality is then used to build an MVA or minimum viable audience, but that’s the crux of the matter really. Figuring out the formula, then building on it. And that’s the most difficult part of all — the Snake Tail model is one way to solve that problem.