If you’re at Web2.0 Expo, please come to the session I’m running Friday at noon. It will be the first time I talk about my book, What Would Google Do?, in public. I’ll run through the rules and lessons I intuited from Google and then I’ll invite Steve Adler, editor of BusinessWeek, and John Byrne, editor of the online version, on stage to see how they are doing against these laws — what they’re doing now, what we think they could do next, and what the audience suggests they should try. I hope it will be a fun session.
Posts about web20
(This is a restored post; comments lost).
I’ve been having fun playing with Wordle. This is a visualization of Buzzmachine as of yesterday, when I had a fair amount about NPR and radio. One answer to my API question below is that I’d like to see a Wordle visualization of every day’s Times or Guardian as another way to see hot topics and another path to them.
Here’s a Wordle of NYTimes.com and below that is one for Guardian.co.uk. Note that they are necessarily unsatisfying because they are just the home pages; I’d find it more interesting to look at the corpus of content today with weighting for the prioritization given that content by editors or readers. Anyway, you still get to see the top topics in each place and publication:
Top topics: Barack (very big), withdrawl, slowdown, Dow, prices, scrimping.
Top topics: Washington (very big), church/Episcopal/African (on the denomination’s meeting and schism), Madeleine/Murat (on a big libel settlement).
Trebor Scholz is teaching a course entitled ‘Web 2.0: What went wrong?’ I’m not sure what went wrong. But the reading list is interesting (disclosure: I’m honored to be on it).
Another 2.0 panel in the world but a high-powered one: Bill Gates, YouTube’s Chat Hurley, Flickr’s Caterina Fake, Nike’s Mark Parker, EU Commiossioner of Information Society and Media Viviane Reding, Forbes’ Dennis Kneale, and moderator Peter Schwartz. Liveblogging in the style of David Weinberger (mix of quotes and paraphrasing). [A note from a half-hour in the future: In many ways, you’ll find this panel retreading thanks to the moderator’s wow-n-shucks elementary questioning; still, there are stars here.]
Hurley: Web 2.o is definitely a buzzword and it’s overused but the movement is just beginning and the movement is about tapping the power of people.
Fake: What we’re seeing is a return to the roots of the web. The web started with people communicating but in the early days we all had to be expert users. The web was distracted by web 1.0 commerce. Now the tools are easier. What the internet has alwas excelled at is connecting people to each other.
Gates: People always want some demarcation where this stopped and another began. Every year we just move to more of a digital environment and we take away the old methods. Once video gets on the internet the ability to see just the news you want, the ads are personalized, the education is interactive, it becomes very different from broadcast. The tools for people to do this are key here. We want every teacher and every student to have those tools. We need micropayments, better tools, 3D (why? he’s asked: “it turns out the world is in 3D”). I see nothing but an explosion in all this. If there’s any one thing that holds this back at all even in a smal way we need a digital rights model… causing people with content to hesitate to dive in completely, but he’s not saying that is going to stand in the way. He says we’re going to look at TV as it is today “and think it is a joke.”
Parker: It’s enabling a fundamental shift in power… to engage, to connect, to create, and do it on a scale we’ve never seen before. And that’s going to have so much ripple effect in ways we don’t even know.
Reding: Government hands off the internet, that is the first principle. Having said that, there are problems that need to be resolved. We need networls to be symmetrical and we need them to be open. She agrees that having a system of digital rights is going to be crucial for people to create and utilize content. We have all the rules in place for the old media. The new rules must lift the barriers on IPR. RIghts now are linked to national territory and we have to license for a virtual space, very soon. Many rightsholders for content, you cannot go global (because of the complication).
Kneale: At Forbes, the unofficial slogan is business good, government bad. But he challenges Reding on the European effort to create a search engine v. Google. [He’s the challenger. The problem with that format is that we end up with two moderators. I want to hear more from the stars.]
Reding: The Europeans did not try to build something to compete with Google. That would be foolish. They were working on a multilingual search engine to give more people access.
Hurley: It’s changing the world because it’s giving everyone a voice… We’re not filtering what is entertaining, we created a platform for the people to say what’s entertaining to them.
Gates: Where was there a bust? He says everything about the internet grew and the net investment in the industry just continues to grow. But there is a little manic over here to the side valuing the things. The empowerment, the fun, the community, and this commercial thing of matching buyers and sellers as new revenue stream.
Schwartz to Hurley: Why are you worth $1.65 billion? [See what I mean about his questioning?}
Schwartz to Fake: Why aren’t you going to go the way of Ofoto?
Fake: It sounds very utopian.. everybody has a voice and all that stuff. But what’s very significant about these services is that they are organizing all this information for you in much the way that search did. You have a social network on Flickr and you will only see, if you want, the photos of the people you are interested in. We are getting almost two million photos uploaded a day and you don’t want to see all that. It’s the social interaction on these sites to discover the best content, to make the best content, to make it rise to the top.
Gates: This is taking all the power of the markets that exist and making them digital and more efficient. He uses Engadget as an example of a product that would not have been supportable in print.
Hurley: We’re creating a new marketing opportunity for the networks… We’re just concentrating on delivering short clips that promote long-form programming that you see on TV…. Working with Google, we’re going to be able to present very targeted advertising that just wasn’t available through traditional means.
Reding: (Asked whether Europe is as creative; where is the European YouTube or Flickr): She ignores that question and asks about individual rights: ‘the long tail of infamy… and what about privacy’? I hope that these problems can be solved by the community itself and so that it will not be built up into a major problem so politicians will have to join in.
Gates: If we call the next thing Web 3.0 that shows a lack of creativity in buzzwords. He talks about 3d and speech and we overthrow textbooks on paper and tv as a broadcast media and make buyers and sellers more and more efficient then we have to have some demarcation where we say wow.
I ask how this will fundamentally change society in a few years.
Gates: These are tools of empowerment and so in a sense these are not changing society…. Now whether or not that can let society do really new things. Can it revolutionize education as you get digital curriculum that is more engaging for students more based on their level? Can you get peoople who see a poor person 3000 miles away and they’re willing to give them a loan and they see their story and know they can connect. Do we weaken national boundaries and distance and lower them. Do we take complex topics and use the internet to let something like the craziiness of the budget or aid or the tax code not put people off. There is incredible promise in the two areas that are on the top of my list — education and health care — but that is ahead of us.
Reding: I am fascinated as a politician and worried at the same time. These are tools of transparency that will bring transparency to societys that are not transparent. We’ve really got a tool for democracy and a danger for nondemocratic states. So I think, yes, it is a step forward. But on the other hand, I am worried about the rights of the individual, not the society, but the individual also needs to be protected.
Question from the floor on net neutrality.
Reding: Europe is for net neutrality.
Gates: He says he and Craig Mundy came up with the term network neutrality to describe what the telecoms are up to. He also sees that places that are regulated are not building high bandwidth so we need a balance. Network neutrality really defines what fair behavior is if you’re the infrastructure owner. Gates explains to the Forbes guy that this is about monopoloy (and duopoly) structure.
Gates is asked what form digital rights will take: technical, legal, etc. The moderator has Hurley answer. He describes, as he did yesterday (on the video below) waht YouTube is working on. Gates says it’s solvable to make your content work across devices can be done. Making it work across manufacturers (“call it the iTunes problem”) is tricky but can be done. The moderator says he’s buying more music because of iTunes. Gates: “You are the one person who is buying more music.”
Reding: They issued a study yesterday that says in the next five years there will be a 400 percent increase in content on the internet but that is if we get the IPR problems solved. [I’d say it’s bigger than that in any case!]
Fake: The reason YouTube grew faster than Revver is that they were not being paid to make video. The web has been founded on a culture of generosity and the motivations of people are very distinct from when people want to earn something. [I’d argue that one often follows the other but not always; it’s about choice.]
There’s a giant pin stalking the land of Web 2.0 and the people are fleeing in fear of the prick.
But little do they know, what they’re really afraid of is not being a fucked company but instead a faked company, that is a company that is not grappling with the realities of business — value, customer base, efficiency, marketshare — because they are enveloped in some false and protective bubble of hype, VC money, or — in the case of the big, old companies — monopoly. The same fear is stalking not just the new kids but also the old guys.
Go take a read of Dead2.0, a good and skeptical blog that lacks the supreme snarkiness of other efforts and also does not try to paint the whole world in contrarian colors. Pessimism isn’t his (or her) unified theory of the universe. No, the blog merely tries to rationally find the irrational. And that makes it all the more ominous.
Dead2.0 is, of course, reminiscent of FuckedCompany.com. I hadn’t been there in ages, since the last Bubble 1.0 company faded into schwag nostalgia. But I see it’s still in business, though now it also reports on big, old f’d companies like Delphi, Delta, and Dell. (It is now officially bad feng shui to start a company name with the letters d-e-l).
Now see John Battelle, Paul Kedrosky, and Fred Wilson ruminating over whether there is a VC bubble. Kedrosky leaves the TechCrunch bash — as I did after a PaidContent bash — fretting that the equilibrium is off. Too many companies are getting funded — Battelle says there are 200 video search companies with bucks in banks — and not enough are failing, which means that business success — audience, revenue, growth — is not concentrating sufficiently to anoint winners (or, I’ll add, in the cases of, MySpace and YouTube it is perhaps concentrating too quickly). Wilson says fret not, for the bad companies will die. But because they are cheaper to start, it will take longer. And because they are cheaper to start, I’ll argue, more bad companies can get funding. And because the VCs have to fund more companies to invest all the money they’re handed, they as a group are now going to be less picky and more stretched and less able to watch over the companies in their portfolios — but, for a while yet, they’ll be less worried because each investment is less of a big deal. In this case, less could be more trouble. Small is the new big headache.
Now venture over to Steve Rubel’s Micropersuasion, where he got much deserved linkage for worrying that too many 2.0 media efforts are being supported by the ad spending of fellow (unprofitable but VC-backed) web 2.0 companies. That kind of rob-Peter-to-pay-Peter spending is, indeed, what inflated the last bubble and Steve wonders whether it is happening again. Valleywag assessed the risk to a few 2.0 media empires. This is why Scott Karp argues that we’d better start getting our act together and figure out how to provide the metrics that real advertisers with real money demand. Amen. This is also why I’ve been arguing — whistling in the wind of a leaking bubble, perhaps — that we need an open ad marketplace with both the metrics and the means to sell and accept real advertising.
But, again, this isn’t just about the new kids. Now see Kit Seelye’s comprehensive tearjerker about the late Knight Ridder in today’s Times. It’s hard for me to get up much sympathy for either the company or its bete noir, investor Bruce Sherman, who caused the company’s sale, or its purchasers — none of whom, I think, is really tackling the fundamental change that is called for today. Getaloada this: Seelye explains why Sherman invested in papers in the first place and it’s a case of the blind buying the blind:
Mr. Ridder said Mr. Sherman was optimistically buying newspaper stocks after the Internet bubble burst because he was driven by the belief that “the Internet is not going to be as big a factor for the industry, so we’ll go with newspapers.”
After all this, Sherman’s investments are no better off and so he tells his investors: “In some regards, it would be easier for us to abandon the investment theme than to continue to argue the point.” Oh, nevermind.
Some of the owners and employees try to blame all this on the public marketplace. But that’s crap. All the marketplace wants is rational business. And private owners can be rogues, too. See the Santa Barbara News Press, where the rich owner is now trying to get $500,000 out of the former editor for daring to stand up on principle. See also rich man Mark Cuban and how he’s trying to redefine journalism. No, those hoping to find knights on shining gold piles are just looking for a means to put off for a little longer — perhaps until their retirement — the inevitable pressure of the market.
They all keep trying to get sap out of dead trees. Well, not all. In response to the Economist’s cover on the (upcoming) death of (some) newspapers, Guardian Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger said: “The supply chain of newspapers is utterly Victorian and very expensive.” The point is to get past the past.
The simple truth is that newspapers in the U.S. have been living in their own bubble — the bubble of a monopoly — for the last 50 years, since TV killed off their print competition. Now they have to deal with the marketplace and they simply don’t know how to do it. And 2.0 media companies have to learn to deal with the marketplace, too. That’s what this is all about: economics, pure and simple. The new companies face the same business necessities as the old ones:
1. Value: You have to provide value or, obviously, you’re worthless. And today in news and media, value is redefined. Value no longer includes delivering the commodity news everyone already told me. But value does now include listening to me and helping me create media alongside you. And value always equates to credibility.
2. Customers: In most media, you will still have two customer bases: the people and the advertisers. You have to serve a public large enough to serve to advertisers and you have to give advertisers a competitive return on investment and the means means to measure and prove that you did. Only now, you have more competitors — unless you chose to turn them into partners in a network — and some of those competitors are working for free.
3. Efficiency: There is no rule of journalism that says newsrooms and newspapers should operate as they always have. As I’ve said often, they must shed inefficiencies and resources put to commodities and ego and must find their true value. Return to No. 1.
There is no 1.0 or 2.0. There’s just a vast marketplace with endless opportunities and challenges and no end of new tools and realities. It’s not a new world. It’s the same world but it just keeps changing, faster now than ever. While you have money in the bank account — whether from VCs, or from ad budgets paid for by VCs, or from monopoly power, or from benevolent rich owners — you can avoid the pressure of the marketplace and run a business that would not stand on its own. That’s what bubbles are about — not irrational exuberance but irrational business.
So if we stop looking at this as if it were the border between two worlds but instead one world operating under change, then we would find the ways for old to work with new, big with small, professional with amateur. That may mean new companies acting as the laboratories and development arms for old ones. It may mean big media companies expanding by reaching out to the small. That may mean journalists working with their public to expand the reach of news. That is what our new, networked world demands.
: AND: Ross Mayfield’s post.