Posts about networks

Network knowledge

I’m a bit late in blogging about and urging you to read David Weinberger’s new book, Too Big to Know. That’s because I couldn’t find my oft-underlined, much-dogeared galley, which I soaked in as soon as I got it.

David is an intellectual hero of mine. He is a coauthor of the seminal work of net culture, The Cluetrain Manifesto. His subsequent books, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined and Everything is Miscellaneous taught me to look at the world differently (yes, it’s partly his fault) and to understand the changing architecture of relationships, information, and now knowledge. He is generous with his thoughts. He challenges me (when I presented Public Parts at Harvard, where David moderated, he pushed me to consider what I was saying about the relationship of ethics and norms and he likely influenced me to consider that as a next project … his fault, again). He is open and curious. He does this with charm and unwarranted but sincere self-deprecation. All that comes across in his books.

Knowledge is an awfully big topic, the biggest. As he started this project, I heard David fret over that. But he succeeded in bringing new perspective even to this. The nut of it:

As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it. It’s not that the network is becoming a conscious super-brain. Rather, knowledge is becoming inextricable from — literally unthinkable witout — the network that enables it. Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms — that is, how to build networks that make us smarter, especially since, when done badly, networks can make us distressingly stupider.

I interpreted that through one of my favorite (and, sorry, oft-repeated) memes these days: the Gutenberg parenthesis. Among other things, it argues that before Gutenberg, knowledge was about preserving the wisdom of the ancients. In the Gutenberg parenthesis, knowledge sprung from contemporary authors, experts, and institutions. After the parenthesis, as I see Weinberger’s thesis, knowledge becomes province of the network. It isn’t resident only in single facts or artifacts (that is, books) but is a much more complex prism that can be seen from many angles and changes its appearance across them. Knowledge becomes less static, more living. David says it better:

Knowledge now lives not just in the skulls of individuals. Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network, and the network embraces businesses, governments, media, museums, curated collections, and minds in communication.

Knowledge until now was about creating and controlling scarcity. Up to now, says David, “[w]e’ve managed the fire hose by reducing the flow. We’ve done this through an elaborate system of editorial filters that have prevented most of what’s written from being published . . . Knowledge has been about reducing what we need to know.” But now, of course, information is abundant and only growing — multiplying — as we invent more ways to create and discover and capture and analyze and question. That’s what freaks the old — pardon my choice of word — sphincters of information, the controllers and owners of it. This conflict erupted when Gutenberg invented the printed book and scholars feared we’d end up with too many of them. It emerges again now that Berners-Lee has invented the web.

David grapples with the history of our perception of facts, then wrestles with the idea that we “are losing knowledge’s body: a comprehensible, masterable collection of ideas and works that together reflect the truth about the world. . . . We’ll still have facts. We’ll still have experts. We’ll still have academic journals. We’ll have everything except knowledge as a body. That is, we’ll have everything except what we’ve thought of as knowledge.”

Knowledge, he says, “has been an accident of paper.” We convinced ourselves that a set and knowable worldview was possible because the media into which we put our information created that comforting expectation. Same goes for news: “All the news that’s fit to print” is the greatest conceit imaginable: that everything that matters happens to fit in what we can afford to produce. We know so much better now.

These are profoundly disruptive ideas about ideas. It helps that they come from someone who presents them via doubt rather than dogma. David is, like me, essentially an optimist, but he sees the choices we have and the dangers that present themselves if we chose the wrong paths.

At the end, he examines the characteristics of the net and its knowledge: abundance (“The new abundance makes the old abundance look like scarcity”); links (“Links are subverting not just knowledge as a system of stopping points but also the credentialing mechanism that supported that system”); no need to get permission (“Let anyone publish whatever they want … and the Knowledge Club loses its value”); publicness (somebody ought to write a book about that); and the unresolved nature of questions (“The old enlightenment ideal was far more plausible when what we saw of the nattering world came through filters that hid the vast, disagreeable bulk of disagreement”). “What we have in common,” he concludes, “is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree.”

So the idea that things will settle down and opinions will coalesce around shared facts once we get through this maelstrom of change is a fantasy born of experience but blown apart by the network. So will the future sound like the Fox-News-and-comment-snark present? It needn’t if we adapt our norms to a new reality and if, as David says, we build our networks well. That means building them around new opportunities, for example: “The solution to the information overload problem is to create more information: metadata.” We don’t need more filters, more gatekeepers, more mediators. We need smarter, bigger brains digging through more and better information. Don’t recreate old models. Disrupt them.

David concludes: “We thought that knowledge was scarce, when in fact it was just our shelves that were small. Our new knowledge is not even a set of works. It is an infrastructure of connection.”

Chew on those wires for a while.

The collaboration economy

Two events of recent days underscore for me how old-media executives are not comprehending the collaboration economy: how it adds value, how it creates efficiency, how it operates under new currencies.

Add this to the other blind spots these old media powers have about the new economic reality: the imperatives of the link economy, the need and benefit of giving up control, the advantages of creating open platforms over closed systems, the value of networks, the post-scarcity economy and the art of exploiting abundance, the need to be searchable to be found, the deflation innovation brings, the value of free, the triumph of process over product…. This is what I wrote in my book about. Trying to get media to understand it is why I wrote it.

Behind each of these new laws of the new age is a set of consequences that result if you don’t at least try to understand them and continue to operate under the expired rules of the industrial economy. We online folk tend to operate under entirely new assumptions and think that our legacy colleagues see the same world we do. But they don’t. That hit me square between the eyes – once again – this week at a Paley Center debate over paid content between Steven Brill and NPR chief Vivian Schiller.

“I don’t know of any worthwhile content that’s free,” Brill said at the start of his remarks. He said it as a truism, as if we’d all assume the same. But I think most of you reading this would think that false. You may not value this very blog, but it’s free. The web is filled with free wonders. There’s plenty of wonderful content that’s free, more every day.

Later, Brill suggested we imagine going into the New York Public Library and instead of seeing many books, we see millions of pages, loose and flying about. What would we do? His stated assumption is that we would recognized the need for professional editors and journalists to make sense of it all. My response to his question was, “Go to Google.” Not for the first time, he sneered at me. But others around the table agreed that Google brings together our editing through our links and clicks; we will make order of that pile of pages, given the means to do so. Our assumption is that we value those actions and opinions, even if they are free – perhaps all the moreso because they are free.

That afternoon, I finally read AP CEO Tom Curley’s remarks in Hong Kong – before his duet with Rupert Murdoch at the Forbidden City – in which he equated control with value. That is the distilled essence of the old media model.

Listen to Curley: “The value of that content has been undervalued. It’s now at the lowest level, I think in history…. But the reality is that all of us know that our content is valuable…. We deserve to be paid, and now it becomes a matter of trying to figure out how to do that…. It’s time for us to get control of our content, and so we shall do that.”

Curley is saying that it’s up to him – not us, not the market – to set value. That is possible only if one controls distribution. That is why he wants control – or wants it back. He asserts value as a matter of entitlement, emotions, and ego over economics. But in this open economy, there is unlimited competition and value is created in many places, measured in many currencies.

Curley says that “we intend to participate in that stream, in that revenue stream.” But what about the content stream? He needs to participate in what Marissa Mayer calls the hyperpersonal news stream. He has to break out of the idea of sites and portals and go to where the people are. Yet Curley said he’d prevent his customers from redistributing his content through emails or “re-syndication” – from the stream, in short.

Here’s the nub of it: Curley says, as has been quoted often already, that “there is an oversupply, at least in the short term, of us.” That is true only if you see the world in the old, owned, controlled, closed, centralized, professionalized, scarcity economy – only if you think you can own news and access to it and thus its price. In the post-scarcity economy, he can’t bear new competitors; he call them the oversupply.

But in the collaborative economy, it’s another matter. All those “extra” people add new value and efficiency – if you see the opportunity in it and enable them to. They’re us. That’s how Google sees us, capturing our links and clicks to discover the value of those million – no, trillion – flying pages. That’s how Wikipedia and Craigslist created their value, dealing in trust and membership as a new currency. That’s how I want next-generation news organizations to look at us, as the people who will create news while the news orgs add value to it: vetting, correcting, organizing, training, promoting, selling. The news orgs and their journalists then become so much more efficient because they work collaboratively with the public. That’s how they become sustainable and profitable again. But this happens only if you trust and value the others and understand the economics of collaboration.

Curley talks, at last, about wanting to link to journalism at its source, which is important, since the AP has long cut the link to original journalism by rewriting it, by turning it into a commodity. But Curley talks about his news registry doing this among his closed circuit of members and big old companies – not the unlimited number of witnesses and citizens who will create news now. He talks about creating “our own self-referring network” (after talking nonsense about Google referring to itself nine times out of ten when Google links out to news far more than the AP ever does). He still sees a closed, controlled world where he sets the value. He, like Brill, does not respect the links and clicks and creation of people outside their walls, paid or otherwise because he can’t control it and he thinks that control is what still gives him value; the truth in the new economy is exactly the opposite: You gain value by giving up control. They do not see the value in collaboration and collaboration as a key to the creation of value and the recognition of efficiency of the new news economy.

30 days of WWGD? – Networks

Today’s snippet reprises Tom Evslin’s great lesson about the economics of networks:

* * *

In 2005, I joined a roundtable held by the venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures in New York to talk about peer production and the creation of open networks and platforms. Counterintuitive lessons swirled around the room as entrepreneurs, investors, and academics analyzed the success of companies built this way. Across the table sat Tom Evslin, the unsung hero of the web who made the internet explode when, as head of AT&T Worldnet, he set pricing for unlimited internet access at a flat $19.95 per month, turning off the ticking clock on internet usage, lowering the cost for users, and addicting us all to the web.

Evslin gave a confounding lesson on networks. Explosive web companies—Skype, eBay, craigslist, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and Google itself—don’t charge users as much as the market will bear. They charge as little as they can bear. That is how they maximize growth and value for everyone in the network. Evslin used an ad network to illustrate the value of building scale in this manner. An ad network that extracts the minimum commission it can afford out of ad sales for member sites will grow larger because more sites will join this network than its greedier competitors. Ad networks need a critical mass of audience before they can sell to top-tier advertisers, which pay higher rates. So charging less commission to grow larger can yield more ad sales at better prices.

It gets even more head-scratching: Evslin argued that if the company that runs the network is too profitable, it will attract competitors that will undercut it and steal market share. “If you’re doing well but running at or close to breakeven,” he explained later on his blog at TomEvslin?.com, “you’ve made it impossible for anybody to undercut you without running at a deficit.” To sum up Evslin’s law of networks: Extract the minimum value from the network so it will grow to maximum size and value—enabling its members to charge more—while keeping costs and margins low to block competitors.

That’s not how many old networks operate. Cable companies wrap their wires around us to squeeze maximum fees out. Ditto for phone companies, newspapers, and retailers. Charging what the market would bear made perfect sense for them. But now they face competition from next-generation networks. Skype—which at the end of 2007 had 276 million accounts in 28 languages—exploded as a free service before it added paid features that drastically undercut old phone companies. Its founders pulled value out of the business when eBay bought it. eBay itself had created a new retail marketplace by extracting little from each sale. Once eBay thought it was alone at the top, though, it started raising fees—but that allowed online retail competitors Amazon and Etsy to steal away merchants.

Evslin’s poster child for network growth is craigslist. It foregoes revenue for most listings in most markets—charging just for job listings and for real estate ads in a few cities—and that made it the marketplace for most listings. “If Craig now attempted to maximize revenue by charging for a substantially higher percentage of ads, a door would be cracked open for competition,” Evslin said. “There is no chance at current rates for a competitor to steal Craig’s listings (and readers) by charging less.” This is the economy in which Google operates. It had no revenue model for its first few years until it happened into advertising. “Bank users, not money,” was Google vice president Marissa Mayer’s advice on building new products and networks. She said in a 2006 talk at Stanford that Google doesn’t worry about business models as it rolls out products. “We worry a lot about whether or not we have users.” That is because on the web, “money follows consumers.”

At the New York roundtable, an entrepreneur quoted legendary Israeli investor Yossi Vardi, who said that when he launched the pioneering instant-messaging service ICQ (later bought by AOL), he cared only about growing. “Revenue was a distraction,” he decreed. This doctrine of growth over revenue was mangled in the web 1.0 bubble, when new companies spent too much of investors’ money on marketing so they’d look big, only to collapse when money ran out and users vanished. Today’s web 2.0 method for growth is to forgo paying for marketing and instead create something so great that users distribute it—it goes viral. Once it’s big, then it can find the revenue. That money may not come directly from users in the form of fees or subscriptions but may come from advertising, ticket sales, merchandise sales, or from the value that is created from what the network learns—data than can be sold. I discuss such side doors for revenue later in the book.

Network economics may be confounding, but networks themselves are simple. They are just connections. You already operate in many networks. Go find the biggest whiteboard you can and draw your networks from various perspectives: First draw your company with all its relationships: customers, suppliers, marketers, regulators, competitors. Now draw a network from your customers’ perspective and see where you fit in. Next draw your personal network inside and outside your company and industry. Draw your own company not as a boxy organizational chart but as a network with its many connections. In each, note where value is exchanged and captured (when you sell, you get revenue; when you talk with customers, you gain knowledge; when you meet counterparts, you make connections). Now examine how these networks can grow, how you can make more connections in each, how each connection can be more valuable for everyone. No longer see yourself as a box with one line up and a few lines down. Instead, put yourself in a cloud of connections that lights up each time a link is made, so the entire cloud keeps getting bigger, denser, and brighter—and more valuable. Then your world starts to look like Google’s.

How to build a network

I was talking with a media exec who started a blog ad network — bless him — but who I thought was taking too high a share of the revenue: at least half. That’s a natural reflex, perfectly understandable: Get what you can. Other networks do that. But the problem for me is that by taking too much, he excluded me from the network — I’m sticking with BlogAds, which takes only 20 percent — and the problem for him, then, is that this slows the growth of his network and a smaller network is a less valuable network. He understands this will because he’s a smart media guy. He wants a large network.

I was actually just trying to channel the network wisdom of Yochai Benkler, author of The Wealth of Networks, and Tom Evslin, who had talked about how to grow networks at a Union Square roundtable about collaborative production more than a year ago. I wasn’t sure I was getting it right, so I went to Evslin’s blog and asked him for a reprise, which he has just provided, brilliantly. I’ll summarize:

The first counterintuitive lesson: Companies that build large networks on the web don’t charge users what the market would bear; they charge as little as they could bear. That is how they maximize growth and value for everyone in the network on top of the platforms they provide.

In his blog post, Evslin takes this a step farther, pointing out that if you run a network that depends on scale, such as an ad network, then the more pages you have to sell, the bigger and better advertisers you can attract and the more you can charge. So if you take a smaller commission for each ad in the network, more sites will join it with more pages, which can now be sold at a higher value.

It gets even more head-scratching: Evslin argues that if you are too profitable, then you will attract competitors who will undercut you and steal market share. “If you’re doing well but running at or close to breakeven,” he explained, “you’ve made it impossible for anybody to undercut you without running at a deficit, which is hard to get funding for.”

So, to sum up: Take the minimum value out of the network to make it grow to maximum size to enable its members to charge more for their value while keeping costs and margins low to block competitors.

That’s not how old networks operate. Cable companies wrap their wires around you and squeeze maximum fees out of you. Ditto phone companies, newspapers, and retailers. But they all face competition from next-generation networks.

craigslist is the Evslin poster child. It foregoes revenue for most listings in most markets—charging just for job ads and for real estate in a few markets—and that turned it into the critical-mass marketplace for most listings. “If Craig now attempted to maximize revenue by charging for a substantially higher percentage of ads, a door would be cracked open for competition,” Evslin writes. “There is no chance at current rates for a competitor to steal Craig’s listings (and readers) by charging less.”

I’m writing about the network model in the book and this will also be a key topic of discussion in our event at CUNY on new business models for news; that’s why I’m talking about it.

Rise of the network, fall of the portal

Mark today in the history of media. In today’s NY Times, we hear an ad guy praising networks over portals (and by portal, we don’t just mean Yahoo, we mean any closed media property, including TV networks and newspaper sites). Networks used to have cooties; they were supposed to be nothing but aftermarkets for unsold inventory — or so the big media properties wanted us and media planners to believe. But networks are quickly becoming more targeted, more efficient, and more economical. From the Times:

Some of the ad dollars that in the past had been spent at portals are being spread around instead. Ad networks, which fan out ads to thousands of sites, are adding targeting and are signing up reputable sites, making them more attractive for advertisers.

“There was a time when we would go out and buy inventory on the portals,” said Quentin George, global head of digital media and strategic innovation at Universal McCann, which plans media for clients like L’Oreal and Sony. “Portals make it easier for us to buy and place media on behalf of our clients. But as time continues and as analytics capabilities increase, you find that your media dollars can work better elsewhere across a range of different sites.”

Michael Hayes, senior vice president and managing director for Initiative Interactive, which handles digital spending for clients like Home Depot and Bayer, said that advertisers might be turning away from broad buys and looking for more targeted campaigns on smaller sites.

“This is hurting the portals,” he said. “There are more options.”

This is why I say that the Glam model — whether that includes Glam itself or not only time will tell — is a key business model for the future of media. Welcome to the post-scarcity post-media economy.

@Facebook @Shark: jump?

I have been the greatest fan and booster of Facebook but I have to wonder whether they are leapfrogging the shark by cutting off Google Friend Connect — not because it is evil but because it is closed, limiting, wrong, and not in their own self-interest, a key and possibly fatal strategic mistake.

The essential question for Facebook is this: Do you want to be a closed site or an open platform? Do you want to be a closed social network or enable the open social network the internet already is? Clearly, it is better to be the platform. But Facebook is being strangely blind to that.

At the same time, I’ve become less addicted to Facebook because there isn’t enough there. That could be because I hang with old farts, who’ve cooled on the fad. But it’s more likely because Twitter has become a more meaningful platform for keeping in touch with friends (though that, too, could change). Though Facebook still has more functionality enabling me to organize those friends, Twitter is better at distinguishing acquaintances (the followers) from friends (the followed). That is, whereas on Facebook, I have — I’m sorry to say — 1,030 ignored friend requests, on Twitter, I have 1,765 followers. Twitter has learned from Facebook’s mistakes. So has Google.

Facebook should have asked — pardon the plug for the book — WWGD? If they had thought like Google, they would have tried to figure out how to use what they had built — an organizing system for friendship — and turn that into a platform we can use — and control — anywhere on the internet.

Google has quite cleverly done that as they explain on their code blog. They used Facebook’s API by all appearances legitimately. They give us control of how we use our data (and our friends are our data). They also kluged it a bit so they don’t retain data (which also means that other sites can really manipulate it, losing some potential functionality but keeping Google on the safe site of the line).

People find the relationships they’ve built on social networks really valuable, and they want the option of bringing those friends with them elsewhere on the web. Google Friend Connect is designed to keep users fully in control of their information at all times. Users choose what social networks to link to their Friend Connect account. (They can just as easily unlink them.) We never handle passwords from other sites, we never store social graph data from other sites, and we never pass users’ social network IDs to Friend Connected sites or applications.

Google is only doing what Facebook should have done: open up to be more useful across the entire internet. Now Google is giving Facebook the opportunity to do that — the dare to do that — and Facebook is chickening out. Big mistake.

I wrote back in 2006 that the internet is the social network. The winner will be he who brings that — to use Mark Zuckerberg’s own words and credo — elegant organization.

But the truly valuable network, the network of networks, the unbreakable bubble of bubbles, will be the one that manages to bring people together wherever we are, not just on MySpace (read: RupertsSpace), not just in Flickr or Del.icio.us, and not even just in the blogosphere, but everywhere. The internet doesn’t need more social networks. The internet is the social network. We have our identities, interests, reputations, relationships, information, and lives here, and we’re adding more every day. The network enabler that manages to help us tie these together to find not just connections or email addresses or information or songs but people — friends, colleagues, teachers, students, partners, lovers — across this open world, that will be the owner of the biggest network of them all: The Google of people.

I’m no mathematician or scientist, so I have to express this in words, but here’s the way I calculate the value of networks:

The Law of Open Networks: The more open a network is, the more control there is at the edges, the more the edges value the network, the more the network is worth.

The business lessons from this: Any choke point of control, via ownership, decreases the value of the network. Enablers increase the value of the network. The network will abhor and find ways around choke points. The network will value enablers and that is the point at which value may be extracted from the network. The value in networks in the open future is not in ownership and control but in enabling others to control.

Facebook put a chokehold around our data about our friends. Huge mistake. As Steve Gillmor said in his excellent Techcrunch analysis:

Facebook finally has a real problem to deal with – an exceptionally rational and well-thought-out strategy by Google that puts the leading social media cloud in the path of a wave of angry users. The only thing Facebook has going for it is that said users don’t yet know they’re angry.

Umair Haque has been purposefully over-the-top calling Facebook’s act “evil” (a few Twitter folks said his language gets in the way). But when you dig down, Umair, as is his habit, finds a brilliant and new law at work here:

What’s really going on here? There’s a massive tectonic shift rocking the economic landscape. All these players are discovering that the boardroom’s first and most important task is simply to try always and everywhere do less evil. In the dismal language of economics: as interaction explodes, the costs of evil are starting to outweigh the benefits.

Let’s repeat that and dub it Haque’s Law: As interaction explodes, the costs of evil are starting to outweigh the benefits.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what Google is really talking about when it promises not to be evil. It is not a campaign pledge (“Yes, we cannot be evil!”) or a geeky Bible lesson about good and bad (open unto others as they would open unto you) but a cold, calculated business rule:

When the people can talk with, about, and around you, screwing them is no longer a valid business strategy.

Be warned, cable companies, airlines, insurance companies, real estate agents, ad agencies, and governments: choke points are evil and evil is bad business.

This is — sorry for the second plug — at the heart of my book. Interaction turns control over to the public and that fundamentally changes business and society. Oh, I know, that drives various curmudgeons, cynics, and polemicists nutty but I do believe it is true. Google has found (not created but exploited) a new economy and only a fool would not try to learn from that and follow its lead if at all possible.

And I can’t believe that Mark Zuckerberg is a fool. I’ve said in the past that he makes mistakes, but he makes mistakes well — listening, learning, and changing quickly. Well, he’d better change quickly on this one. And the lesson here is no different at all from the lessons he learned with the botched announcements of Facebook’s news feed and ad program: It’s about control. We want control of our data.

But there’s a bigger lesson here: It’s about being a platform instead of a service (or portal). Last year, I disagreed with friend Scott Heiferman when he said that Facebook was the new AOL — and, indeed, Scott quickly disagreed with himself. But Zuckerberg may be proving him right after all. If he tries to build his business by attracting us to his garden and then fencing us in, if he doesn’t give us control and let us use Facebook and our identity there as a platform for our lives, then he is turning it into the next AOL when it could be the next Google. And that would be tragic. Tragic.

This is the critical moment in Facebook’s history. This is the moment when they realize that they have to give control to us and to the internet and become a platform. If they do, I’m likely to use my Facebook identity as my key identity only because it is tied to my social network; that is precisely what makes it more valuable than others. I don’t think that Twitter will be that but it may be the best second choice and it is tied to more dynamic information from my friends. Whether friend or follower, I want to link with people online. Who will help me? Who will stop me? He who helps, wins.

: More from Fred Wilson, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble.

: LATER: The irony of Google, of course, is that it’s open when it’s fighting closed systems (advertising, media, Facebook) but its instinct is closed. They wouldn’t even let the NY Times give them harmless publicity for their Lego logo. Don’t need it, they say. Would rather hide in a dark room.

: LATEST: This is why I don’t bet against Zuckerberg. Already, he says he wants to meet with Google and work it out. Smart.

DLD: The network model

I heard vindication for my advocacy of the network model of media online in today’s DLD panel on ad exchanges (aka networks) with Samir Arora of Glam, Christoph Schuh of Burda, Magid Abraham of Comscore, and others. Randy Rothenberg was moderator.

One of the most controversial posts I’ve ever written — politics and Dell aside — was about Glam and its network model of media, arguing that in the connected internet, this will be a major factor. Some agree. Some disagree. The ones who disagree are generally from big, old media and it seems they find the network model threatening. They sell their premium on being brands and destinations and they fear — but shouldn’t, I say — this opening up of their space. See my spat with the Times’ Martin Nissenholtz at the Online Publishers’ Association in which I argued media should be asking “what would Google do?” — WWGD? — and thinking distributed while Martin argued this his brand is worth our trip to it. Those folks argued with me that only they could sell quality because they owned their content; Glam owns little of its. One wonders, then, why the Times is now selling Freakonomics.

In today’s discussion, networks are critical to the future, Comscore argued, because without them, even the biggest online brands don’t reach that much of the audience that much of the time. The top four sites, the search monsters, have only 5% share of page views on the internet and 7% share of their users’ page views. So networks extend them. That is why AOL, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have been buying big ad networks.

But Glam is different. It is a content and ad network that curates blogs and sites for women and sells ads and shares revenue on them. Some say that because it isn’t produced by big media, its quality is low. But I heard today that Arora insists on no automated, Googly ads; they only deal with agencies. Networks online are often remnant space filled with dancing monkees. So he wanted to avoid that. When he took over Glam, he asked, “What would it take for advertisers to act on the internet as they act in traditional print?” He also asked: “What is the definition of media going forward?” His next frontier, he says, is to define prime time and prime placement on sites.

OK, so that’s his pitch. That’s just one network. My problem is that there aren’t more of them and that big, old media don’t sell them. Oh, they get involved in networks like Tacoda. But they don’t curate and enable and encourage outside distributed networks. That’s what I want to be a part of.

A nest of lawyers

Kevin O’Keefe is inspired by Glam and ScienceBlogs to work on a network of law blogs. Good idea.