What kind of world will Web 2.0 bring?

Monday, April 17th, 2006

A very interesting post by Steve Rubel entitled Thomas L. Friedman Says “Uploading” Contributing to Flat Earth got me thinking about the kind of world that technologies such as Web 2.0 are enabling. Rubel’s post gives me a renewed sense of optimism that some of the early hopes of the information revolution are now finally coming to fruition.

Here, then, are just a few comments on Rubel’s post. 

First it’s great that Americans are starting to see that they’re citizens of communities that physically exist outside of their national borders. Isn’t that what the Internet is all about? We in other lands like to think that we can also make a contribution to the development of ideas. 

Second that Web 2.0 phenomena, such as blogging and Wikipedia, are being thought about in a wider context. Something profound is happening in terms of content generation and consumption and the really exciting questions are “what does it all mean and where will this take us?”. Perhaps this is a situation where McLuhan’s “medium is the message” catch cry can help us understand the meaning of what’s happening.

Third, the concept of uploading begs the question “what is the driver underpinning this activity?” Why are people generating content? Is it for novelty value, self-indulgence, prestige, the hope of commercial gain, or is there a more deeper need being met (at least for some people) – the need to reach out to other people – or dare I say it, the quest for fulfilment?

You don’t need to be somebody to be a great blogger!

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

Jeffrey Treem made some tongue-in-cheek comments about “being a nobody” in the blogosphere after he saw an editorial deminishing a blogger who was called a “nobody”.

In the Blogosphere is that you don’t need to be somebody in order to be heard. The power of an idea in a blog can be just as compelling as the identity of the blogger.

The Social Computing/ Social Media revolution is hearalding a shift in power, with the power moving from large corporations to the individual. Another way of looking at it is that the power is shifting from the somebodies to the nobodies.

Mind you not all the power is going to shift, but certainly enough to make things interesting. And more than enough for there to be a meaningful shift in how consumers choose and use media.

Long live the nobodies I say!

Can you really write a manifesto for the blogosphere?

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

I was intrigued to read a number of suggested manifestos for the blogosphere posted on Jaffe Juice.

My dictionary gives the following definition of manifesto:

 

/manuh’festoh/ noun, plural manifestos, manifestoes

a public declaration, as of a sovereign or government, or of any person or body of persons taking important action, making known intentions, objects, motives, etc.; a proclamation. 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for manifestos, and yes, I know these guys are approaching blogging from a marketing perspective. However, I wonder whether by trying to create a manifesto, and in effect setting an agenda, that they’re actually missing the point of what blogging is about. 

There are so many reasons why people blog, and I’m not sure that a manifesto can capture the spirit or essence of all these reasons, or even a significant number of them.

Blogging works because it’s authentic. When you’re reading a blog you’re having a direct relationship (or so it seems) with the author of the blog. Sure there’s a level of mediation, as there is with all media, but it’s a much more personal experience. In fact, it reminds me of the same personal experience that you can have when listening to a good radio announcer.

I fear that trying to tie blogging to a manifesto, or to an agenda, will start to erode that all important authenticity. I don’t think that anyone wants to see the blogosphere turn into just another corporate tool for reaching stakeholders. 

In any case, the blogosphere is too unruly to be pinned down by a manifesto, no matter how well meaning its writers.

Making money from podcasts

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

While there are many podcasts being produced, and there is a growing audience (whether on a computer or on a MP3 player), it’s not clear what the economic driver is.

I expect that many podcasters are driven by the hope that one day they may make some money. I know a couple of podcasters who operate exactly on this basis. I do seem to recall that many dot.com companies had a similar strategy during the dot.com boom… and we all know what happened to them.

Given the difficulty of selling content on the Internet (there’s so much good stuff that’s free), that leaves only only advertising or sponsorship as a revenue stream. A post by Marilynn Mobley got me thinking about how podcasters might try to obtain support.

Marilynn suggests that “maybe now is a great time for your company to think about how you can reach out to consumers who own MP3 players and iPods”. Marilyn provided some examples of companies who had sponsored podcasts as a means to reach out to a targeted segment of customers.

If this is what the PR industry is saying to business, and if you’re podcaster, the first question to ask yourself is “who is my audience” and who (from a business perpective) also wants to reach this audience.

Don’t fall into the trap of saying “all business” should be interested. Podcasting is still a very niche medium, and you need to take a niche approach when identifying companies to work with.

I would argue that selling advertising in a podcast is still a very difficult sell, given the poor metrics and relative newness of the medium (don’t forget commercial radio is 80 years old).

Instead of offering a 30 second spot, a better approach is to offer a sponsorship package where you can build a total perceived value that far exceeds the cost of creating that value. For example you can talk about the value of providing real content to consumers/customers or you can talk about the value that sponsorship brings in terms of competitive positioning.

There’s also a lot of things you can include in the sponsorship package itself — though what you can offer will depend on your editorial charter.

The point is in order to make your podcast economically self-sufficient, it’s necessary to take an innovative approach to making your podcast interesting to marketers.

Will the power of advertising make MySpace dull?

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

According to Online Media Daily, NewsCorp is looking to “broaden the advertising pool for MySpace to attract more brand advertisers”. As part of the initiative the company is putting more resources into deleting risque and offensive content, and has so far removed more than 200,000 profiles it deemed questionable.

One of the reasons why MySpace is cool and attracts so many 18-to-34-year-old users is because some of its user generated content is risque and offensive. On the other hand, its this content that makes the big companies reluctant to use MySpace as an advertising vehicle.

Sounds like a catch 22 to me. I wonder at what point will censorship make MySpace dull, in which case it won’t be of interest to the advertisers.

I would suggest NewsCorp has some thinking to do about what it is that makes MySpace cool. After all, if you want to visit a dull version of MySpace, just go over to Friendster.