Wednesday, April 01, 2009

We-think: perking us up at the close

Most people are fumbling around in the fog of social networking - thinking they're making progress without being able to measure this. Very few businesses can be sure of their business model in 5-10 years time (I'm pleased to say he thinks we can bet on Glastonbury's model being the same in 10 years' time. A nice opp for me to post my UKSGlastonbury picture - who'da thunk it).


Newspapers are haemorrhaging revenues and facing the disruption of the web - everyone is looking for new business models. But even what we might class as the key players in the social web (Facebook, Twitter) don't really have strategic business models.

Where should we look for answers? Consumer culture, organisation, business models and ethnic/social values - and the changes all are undergoing. Not so long ago, the web was classed as a passing fad - and some (Andrew Keen et al) still rail against it. A "growing clamour of voices" is starting to see the potential but also the downsides (of malware etc - the web ain't entirely a friendly place). Scary stories about mash-ups in Moscow designed to enable more successful harrassment (of .. ethnic groups?).

Consumer culture
Look at people, and what they want to do. Young scientists are a sign of what research needs to become - open access databases, electronic lab notebooks, open source software - "new collaborative models of interdisciplinary research". Then there's Charlie's 9-year-old son. During one hour of what we would have had to spend watching Songs of Praise, Charlie's son can learn animation on a Sunday night. He likes online social experiences and activities including drawing, photography and Garage Band. He weaves successfully (obliviously) between old and new media. Talk -- do -- sit -- listen -- enjoy: this new culture paradigm requires different offers and business models from our media.

Time was, big boulders on the media beach were BBC, FT - bringing out new boulders such as Channel 4, News International was a major mission. Now, media is owned by the users and made up of thousands of "pebbles that threaten to swamp the boulders". "From now on, all new businesses will have to be in the pebble space ... creating and connecting pebbles." There will be "boulder businesses" but they'll be even bigger than before; "in between will be lots of people trying to connect pebbles and boulders". The British Library is a boulder trying to operate in the pebble world; Twitter is a pebble trying to work out its business model.

Business models
We are all trying to find new ways to make money out of information and media. "The language we have inherited from industrial era media disable us from working out what these might be." The notion of media and mediator is old-fashioned; the boundaries are blurred. Charlie hopes for "mutual media" - created by people contributing to media in shared ownership. It's not just publishing, broadcasting (enjoy); it's about enjoy -- talk -- do. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are commercial media businesses in the making; Mumsnet, Wikipedia and the Student Room are social media businesses; the BBC will become a public media business - the British Library faces this same challenge. At the core of all these mutual media businesses is the need to make money while allowing users to generate and share beyond your control. The media businesses of the future will have large communities and small companies, and will require a completely different set of skills.

Alongside this will be "a huge contest about values". It's remarkable that we still refer to the internet as a single thing. It's a "ramshackle organisation" with roots in a "hippie culture" and not in corporations or governments - "which is why they find it so hard to deal with". The internet has a different way of thinking. This is starting to become apparent - challenges to Facebook's privacy policies or Google's dominance.

Roadmap for survival
Organisations used to be about doing for people and, in the process, to people - schools, banks, newspapers. The web is about 'with' - working with, learning with, talking with. "The logic of with" is the key to engaging with users to create a roadmap for navigating the social fog.



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