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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
Peter Kim jumps in on the stripmalling of social media, but seems to suggest it is an inevitable sort of growing up, as opposed to an incursion by giant media companies.
Peter Kim, Must be the money
Social media is finally coming to a critical inflection point and make no mistake – it’s all about the money.
When I started blogging five years ago – early, but by no means among the earliest – the prevailing inclination among bloggers was to share and connect on an individual basis. Bloggers shared their content and built each other up by linking to each other in posts, creating blogrolls containing links to friend lists, even commented on blogs of individuals who worked for industry competitors. Corporations had presence through individuals; Bob Lutz at GM and Randy Baseler at Boeing were like the Columbus and Magellan of corporate social media.
Between 2005 – 2008, consumer adoption of social media shot up at a rapid pace. According to Forrester Social Technographics data, US online adults active in social media increased rapidly from just under 50% to 75%. Naturally, brands began to follow consumers into the medium. Early adopters were not happy. Debates between “purists” and “corporatists” began to emerge. What they didn’t realize is what Mark Cuban had called out years earlier – the social internet is a long tail ghetto where no content creator wants to be stuck.
In 2008, I left Forrester to start Dachis Group, because early on Jeff, Kate, Ellen, and I saw the potential for companies to go far beyond what had been imagined possible using social media to date – the thinking eventually crystallized as social business design. We knew that there was money to be made in “social media marketing” and “Enterprise 2.0″ – and we weren’t alone.
I’ve been observing these trends emerge as social business evolves:
- The nature of “social” has become much less social over the past three years. It’s now increasingly private and profit driven. The bloggers I followed in the early days write blog posts much less frequently today, if at all. However, they’re still writing and thinking about the industry – they’re just doing it behind the firewall and delivering value to paying customers. […] Enjoy them while they last.
- Companies are cashing out, performing their final tricks off of Cuban’s hypothetical vert ramp. From following the brand monitoring space, we’ve seen Cymfony, Umbria, Techrigy, and Scout Labs sell off. You’re probably more familiar with TechCrunch’s recent sale to AOL or Six Apart sold to VideoEgg. From what I hear on some of the tech deals, the companies may not be shaking the glitter off their clothes as much as pawning off whatever usable parts they’ve got left after crashing and burning.
- Free social media sites are moving to monetize. Ning moved early and very direct. As any MBA could see, penetration pricing strategy, duh. Free doesn’t last forever, but its spectre does sell books. Dick Costolo is Twitter’s new CEO and he has one mission – to make money. […]
- Executives are migrating to small, socially-oriented businesses. This time around it’s not limited to traditional-to-dot-com; the similarity is from public to private. Talent is leaving Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft and heading to Twitter, Zynga, and Facebook.
Social business is businesses aspiring to apply what has been learned about social cognition on the open web, which is simply a new domain for business innovation, taking advantage of opportunities.
But what AOL and media firms are doing is something altogether different: they are scooping up social media mills — like TechCrunch — as a means of countering their faltering authority and relevance on line.
We have created the web to happen to ourselves: to shape a new culture and build a better, more resilient world. And we need better media tools than we have at present, to make that a reality.
Arrington and company are no dopes: they are selling out at a local maximum. The market for old school blogging networks is already past its high watermark. That form of not-particularly-social media, which looks perfectly mainstream to media giants at this point, is going to be challenged a next generation of really-social-media. Fixtures like Techmeme and upstarts like TweetMeme are mining the streams of tens of thousands, mining and curating.
TechCrunch had become less of a destination, and simply the number one source of tech posts in an increasingly fragmented world, once that seems to be ripe for the picking. I wonder when Techmeme gets acquired?
But conflating that with Twitter’s deciding that business is business is an over simplification.
Six Apart’s acquisition by an advertising company, however, comes as no surprise to anyone who had observed their fall from the forefront of blogging platforms.
Unlike Kim, I think these are a collection of relatively independent threads: yes, they are all aspects of the great transition going on, the social revolution, but I wouldn’t connect the dots between AOL buying TechCrunch, Dick Costolo becoming Twitter CEO, and The sidelining of Six Apart, and expect a picture of the future to emerge. These are just eddies in the wave.
The social revolution has at least ten more years to run. The most recent acquisitions of AOL and the history of Six Apart will fall into the shadows of time faster that we can imagine, and the influence that Techcrunch had in the ’00s will be a footnote in Wikipedia.
We are confronted with a period of social media sprawl, where large media corporations are buying up all the intersections and off ramp properties out at the periphery of town where the highway goes by.
I wrote about this in May 2009:
Using an analogy from city planning and architecture, we need a rethinking of the basics: something like the New Urbanism movement, that tried to reclaim shared urban space in a way that matches human needs, and moved away from gigantic and dehumanizing cityscapes of the mid and late twentieth century, where garbage trucks seemed more at home than a teenage girl walking a dog.
So, we need a New Spatialism movement, to rethink web media and reclaim the social space that is supposed to be central to so-called social media. Some web media may just remain what it is, like an industrial district at the edge of town. But at least some parts of web media should be reconceptualized, and reconstructed to get back to human scale. Just as New Urbanism is about organizing streets, sidewalks, and plazas to support the growth of social capital, New Spatialism would help us channel interactions on line to increase sociality, and thereby increase the growth of social capital.
New Spatialism is based on the idea that our primary motivations for being online are extra-market drivers: we are not online for money, principally. We have created the web to happen to ourselves: to shape a new culture and build a better, more resilient world. And we need better media tools than we have at present, to make that a reality.