Posts about distributed

Smartest media quote of the year

“We can’t expect consumers to come to us. It’s arrogant for any media company to assume that.”

Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, said that in today’s Wall Street Journal explaining CBS’ smarter-than-most strategy for a distributed media economy.

This is the way all media executives should be thinking: Go to the people, don’t make the people come to you. That’s expensive for you and inconvenient for them and it’s just not going to happen — or, it’s no way to build a media business model anymore. Says the Journal:

A year ago, CBS Corp. announced the creation of Innertube, an entertainment channel on CBS.com designed to make the company a player in online video. It streams video of sporting events, news reports and reruns of shows such as the hit comedy “How I Met Your Mother.”

CBS’s new chief Internet strategist now jokes that the Web address for Innertube should be “CBS.com/nobodycomeshere.”

CBS, after a year of experimenting with various Web initiatives, says that forcing consumers to come to one site — its own — to view video hasn’t worked. Instead, the company plans to pursue a drastically revised strategy that involves syndicating its entertainment, news and sports video to as much of the Web as possible. It represents a stark departure for the TV industry. . . .

Starting this week, an expanded menu of CBS’s video content will be available for free to consumers on as many as 10 different Web sites ranging from Time Warner Inc.’s AOL to Joost Inc., a buzzy online video service that is just rolling out. The company calls its new venture the CBS Interactive Audience Network.

Importantly, they’re also going through services that let us embed and distribute their stuff. That’s the greatest win of all. Why not encourage your audience to recommend and distribute your good stuff. It’s free marketing. It’s the endorsement that matters most. It’s only wise. But media has always been about control, about selling scarcity. So it’s damned hard for these guys to shift their mental map of the world and realize that they are not at center, we are. What they defined as inside is outside. This requires them to turn their world inside out. CBS is doing that.

Meanwhile, see the Stuart Elliott column in today’s Times all about networks trying harder to keep viewers in, how to keep them from changing the channel or TiVoing. What they should be asking is how they can take their stuff out. Think distributed.

Note also that NBC is shifting an inch by airing one of the Law & Orders on USA first, then on NBC. That says that NBC isn’t the center of the universe. But this doesn’t go quite far enough. Why not air it online first? If you don’t, NBC, Dick Wolf will someday. That’s what the studios of the future are doing now.

Yahoof!

Yahoo announced disappointing ad revenue growth for automotive and financial services today, kicking its stock in the groin.

This comes as Yahoo also announces a big and expensive marketing push: Dunkin’ Donuts for all.

I’ll say it again: Yahoo is the last old-media company. It is dependent on the same dynamics — good and bad — as other media companies: the high value but difficulties of direct sales to agencies; the cost of acquiring users; the vulnerability to larger market trends; the high cost of owning content.

Google, on the other hand, just rides atop the waves, wherever they go. So far, at least, it does not tie itself to the old models of owning (or licensing) content or getting value only out of bringing people to its site.

The successful media companies of the new age will be the ones that enable media wherever it wants to be.

The problem with portals

The problem with portals is that they aren’t portals at all. The windows are nailed shut. They’re traps. They want to lure you in and then not let you leave. I said this in my Monday Guardian column (which I’ll put up then):

When Yahoo was young, cofounder Jerry Yang told me that his site’s job was to get you in and out as quickly as possible. That certainly changed. Now Yahoo licenses and creates content and services to keep you in front of its ads as long as possible; it is known for collecting and not sharing traffic. I say that Yahoo is the last old-media company – still trying to get viewers to come to it – but it is successful because it is unencumbered by presses, towers, talent contracts, and other media legacies.

Sure enough, Gawker just left its Yahoo deal. Didn’t generate much traffic. Says Nick Denton:

The bald truth is that the deal, which we announced in November, garnered way more attention than we expected, but less traffic. A few new readers probably discovered Gawker, or one of the other four sites that we syndicated to Yahoo. I doubt many of them stayed. Yahoo has a mass audience; Gawker appeals to a peculiarly coastal, geeky and freaky demographic. And these people are more likely to come to our sites through word of mouth, or blog links, or search engine results, or Digg, not because of a traditional content syndication deal.

I go on to say in the Guardian column:

Contrast this with Google, which does still try to get you in and out quickly. It makes a fortune by putting targeted ads on many of the sites it sends you to. Thus its potential is unlimited, for the more content there is, the more Google has to organize, the more we need Google to find what we want, the more its ads can appear everywhere, and the more it earns. Yet Google still satisfies both traditional roles of the old networks in the content industry: It takes in money by aggregating audiences for advertisers, while it also pays out money to support content creators. Google is network 2.0.

The problem with trying to fix the world

I’ve been thinking about the suit against Craigslist and why so many forms of regulation just won’t work in a new world of control at the edges. The Times reported:

If the lawsuit, filed by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, succeeds, Craigslist will be forced to follow the same rules newspapers do in their classified advertising listings, screening each ad to make sure no antidiscrimination laws are violated. That means ads like the ones the lawyers’ group said it spotted on Craigslist in a six-month investigation would be banned.

But here’s the problem: When we had a small number of centralized repositories of ads — gatekeepers — it was easy to impose this kind of regulation. It is possible, though expensive and ineffective and inefficient, to do so with online gatekeepers.

But it is impossible to clamp down on such speech the distributed world, where I can post an ad on my blog and it can be found via Edgeio or Oodle or Google. Then who are you going to sue? The search engines for finding it? The enablers for providing the functionality to me? Or me for exercising free, albeit inappropriate, speech? The control is at the edges and it’s much harder to regulate the edges.

(Full dislosure: Craig Newmark is a personal investor in the news startup I’m working on.)

Edgeio and the distributed world

I got a preview of Michael Arrington’s Edgeio — the classified system for the distributed future — and I think it is more important than it looks.

Edgeio as it stands is pretty simple: You tag a post on your blog “listing” and Edgeio will spot it and add it to its data base. You add more tags (e.g., “for rent” and “vacation”) and your post/ad will appear in the appropriate categories. Edgeio will allow you to come in and claim your blog to be able to get direct communication from respondents and, eventually, to upgrade your ad via typography and graphics and preference (I hope I got that right). This is just a start but it is a proof of concept of a new world. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this. Arrington has.

I’ve been writing for a long time that the future of classified advertising — and more of media — is distributed. That is, you won’t need to go to a centralized marketplace — the newspaper or even Craigslist or Monster — to let the world know you want to sell or buy or find something. Instead, you’ll be able to put your listing up anywhere with proper tags and then specialized search engines, like Edgeio and Oodle, will find them so buyer and seller can find each other in a distributed marketplace with far less friction and far more control at the edges.

Note well that Arrington is also setting the early standards for tagging ads so they can be found. I believe that he also needs to concentrate on putting data within ads, not just on top of them (e.g., “languages spoken = German, C++”) so more effective searches and matches can take place. Google Base may do this, but for it to be effective, the tags need to be open. What we’re really headed for is microformats and a structure in which people swarm around tags with efficiency so they and their stuff can be found. It works in Flickr and Del.icio.us and will certainly work in marketplaces where money matters.

As friction is taken out of the marketplace — as newspapers, Realtors, car dealers, eBay, and others who have controlled our information are undercut by free and open standards — there is a need to add value back into transactions. Craig Donato of Oodle — the other Craig, the one who will cause more change in the newspaper industry than the first one — is eloquent on this, pointing out that the marketplace still wants such things as anonymity to enable transactions and authority to vet ads and promotion to market them. Edgeio and Oodle — not to mention Indeed and Simply Hired and even eBay and many other comers — will try to add back some of these functions. I argued the other day that we will also need some physical-world functions, like concierges to handle house tours for far less than real-estate agents charge (cue defense wailing by Realtors here.)

: OK, but this is bigger than classifieds. It’s bigger in two ways:

: First, this is really about control. Realtors and multiple-listing services act as if they own our for-sale listings. But the truth is, that’s our information; it’s data we create and we own that we lend to these agents if they perform a service for us (or because they hold a monopoly on that service today).

I was talking about this with Seth Goldstein of AttentionTrust and Rootmarkets the other day: We own not just our attention data — what we look at, what we do, the things that Seth works in — but also have an even greater proprietary interest in the transactions we create. This holds if we are a prospect to buy a house and if we are selling a house.

The natural state of the marketplace should be that we control that information at the edges — buyer and seller — and that others join in that transaction only when and if they add value, such as the functions I listed just above. This will make for less friction and a more efficient marketplace.

It will also make for a lot of unemployed middlemen. The newspapers and Realtors that charged us too much for too little for too long will be knocked aside at the first opportunity.

: Second, this is also about content … and about people. Everything Edgeio does for classified ads, it — or someone — could do for, say, local restaurant reviews. Rather than relying on one restaurant critic for a paper to tell us what’s good and rather than trying to get all the diners out there to come to a centralized marketplace of reviews (see the late Abuzz et al), we should be able to write our reviews on our blogs, under our identities, and have them found with all the other reviews. That can occur thanks to tagging. This is what I hoped (incorrectly) that Dinnerbuzz would do, though I explained my wishes here.

It’s about people because identity matters: We want to know who is reviewing the restaurant or selling the house or seeeking the job. Verified identity and trust, I believe, will be the next huge frontier of business online. More on that later.

And it’s about people because such means of tagging and searching as Edgeio enables will also help people find each other. I wrote about this long ago, inspired by David Galbraith’s one-line-bio tag. See also Consumating.org, where people tag themselves.

See, this tagging thing is about more than bookmarks and coolness. They help reorganize the world and its relationships.

That’s why I say that Edgeio is a big deal, because it begins to enable this new world.

: A few of my posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here….

: [DISCLOSURE: Michael Arrington and I are each aiding a startup. I gave him my two-cents about Edgeio. He once gave me a Techcrunch T-shirt. We link to each other. He held a spot for me at the lunch table at Web 2.0 And aren’t these disclosure statements getting a bit ridiculous?]

: SPEAKING OF TECHCRUNCH: I see that Arrington will critique presentations by 10 companies at Supernova.

: LATER: Note good comments, including one from none other than Craig Newmark.