Last week I wrote about the new “2.0″ version of content as just an aggregator, (their words, not mine). What I find most interesting about this is that Mr. Semel says the company doesn’t have a point of view. Now, as companies look at how they contribute to the value chain, shouldn’t they have a point of view? Admittedly, I’m taking the comments out of context, but smart marketers need to have a point of view. As I stated at the time, “aggregators need to offer value or suffer disintermediation.” Media derives from the Latin root for “middle.” The Web enables consumers to get to companies directly and (ideally) easily. The Web enables consumers to get to consumers directly and (relatively) easily. The only point in being the medium, being the man in the middle, is if you add something to the mix. Yahoo, other companies seeking to aggregate, and those marketing folks who need to sell them really ought to consider what their point of view is. Stand for something. Or get out of the way.
The 20th Century died last week. Decades, epochs, and eras never end just because the calendar claims they do. What ends eras is society waking up to a changed world and collectively saying, “Hey, there’s something different going on here.” The Sixties didn’t start until the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan; up until then, the 50′s were still chugging along nicely. The Seventies didn’t push the 60′s aside until Watergate forced the nation to wake up, that a spirit of peace and love were replaced by war and paranoia. From a business standpoint, the 90′s didn’t start until the dot-com boom got underway around ’94.
Usually, it takes a pretty hefty shove to move the old era aside in favor of the new. It often lingers for a time, eking out a strange half-life existence, neither as relevant as it was, nor as irrelevant as it will become. When a Houston jury found Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling guilty of defrauding the public this past week, the last remnants of the last decade and century finally passed away.
What does this have to do with my usual topics of the impacts of Internet technology, marketing, and how those two come together in Society 2.0? Simple. The environment in which Enron thrived no longer exists. The Web started us down this path. But the Web was a monologue, easily co-opted. Now, blogging and podcasting create a dialogue, an open forum, where ideas flourish (ideally), or wither, as each audience participates in the discussion. It’s not that companies cannot attempt acts such as Sony’s CD fiasco, it’s that a community of users and consumers can expose them and force changed behavior. Ironically, Sony’s actions to prevent its music from illegal copying have resulted in it making its music available as MP3 downloads, with no copy-protection at all. Even companies that get it, such as O’Reilly, make mistakes and (more or less) admit them.
Marketers and the businesses they work for need to recognize that the game has changed. If you expect customers to love your brand and to act as “big mouths,” they’re going to expect some things from you, too. Scratch that. They’re going to demand things from you.
The lesson is clear. Genuflect, pay your final respects to the last century, and then get on with the rest of your life in our Web 2.0, consumer-driven world. Everyone’s been talking about Web 2.0. I think what we’ve discovered is that it’s powered by Consumer 2.0.
Read this. Seriously. I wish I had written it.
This reads vaguely like my post about the distribution/aggregation/creation issue, though better thought out and a deeper exploration of what networks look like in the future. And while I agree that a lot of questions remain unanswered, I don’t find this particularly worrying right now. In fact, it all seems vaguely familiar. Anyone remember the “deep-linking” lawsuits of years gone by?
Right now, we don’t know what the model is going to look like. But unlike the past, we have been down these paths before and I think we’ve learned a bit about how to work together towards models that make the most sense. Partnership is definitely cheaper than litigation. Case in point: I got to Jeff’s intelligent and well-considered post from a link on Anne 2.0, one of the brightest voices out there. Anne is both a content provider, an aggregator, and a distributor. I go to Anne’s site pretty much every day because she serves all three of these roles wonderfully. She provides value by:
- Putting together links to other’s content that I may not otherwise have found; i.e., aggregation and/or distribution
- Providing context and analysis around the items that she links to, interpreting it with insight and style; i.e., aggregation and/or creation
- Writing some deeply thoughtful pieces on technology, family, work, and life, (I’d call it “Lifestyle 2.0,” but I can hear the groans already); i.e., content creation
My point here is simple: Anne is a network. She deserves some share of the goods from Jeff, just like Jeff deserves his share, too. But where Jeff stands to win is that I found his site interesting enough to add to my reader, so I’ll be back. Anne’s vig (whatever it may be) serves as commission or a finder’s fee. If Jeff manages to win my loyalty separately, I’ll go back to him pretty regularly, too, which is where he’ll make his money. Advertisers need to recognize that each part of the network is entitled to their share, while aggregators need to offer value or suffer disintermediation (to bring back another fun concept from Web 1.0 days). Bottom line is that all boats stand to rise with the tide. Standing around worrying about who deserves the biggest share of the water ignores the fact that we all stand to win so long as we bring value to the mix.
The New York Times has an interesting piece about email spam yesterday and the efforts to combat it. I’m running into the same thing here on the blog with more comment spam than you can imagine. I get literally two spam comments for every one legitimate one. I’ve now had to ramp up my filters, so if you don’t see your comment at first, assume that the filter ate it. I check daily, so I’ll get to it by the end of each day. I think the search engines ignore these tricks, which makes me wonder how these folks benefit from the comment spam. Surely these folks don’t get results, right?
I’ve been quiet for a bit. Lots of travel again, but mostly because I haven’t had a lot to say. I’m actually working on a longer piece about how companies should think about a little silence from time to time in order to really appeal to their audience. More on that later. In the meantime, Josh Kopelman put together a piece over at Redeye VC that serves as a great introduction to the problems new companies face in finding an audience, even in today’s hyper-literate, hyper-connected world. Similar to my piece about how many companies are finding smaller niches, with a healthy dose of my comments about Web 2.0 lacking a killer app thrown in for good measure. Excellent thoughts. Josh just might make my regular reading list.