Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Web 2.0 going mainstream

A recent article in a US trade publication pointed to a Hitwise study showing that "Web 2.0 websites accounted for 12 percent of all US web activity for the week ended April 7".

The article quotes Bill Tancer, Hitwise general manager of global research, as saying, "It's the participatory aspect of Web 2.0 that is still in a very nascent stage. When online participation goes mainstream, we can expect an explosion of new content on the web."

But here's the rub. What exactly is web 2.0 and when does nascent become mainstream?

The debate over a definition has been going on for a while. In fact, I'd argue it has become more a debate about what the definition applies to. In other words, what is the user experience on engaging with a so-called web 2.0 site that encourages meaningful interaction?

As far as the other question goes, 12 percent strikes me as something more than nascent. Of course, this is only US traffic and so not representative of all markets. I'd like to see a similar study for Europe and Asia. I suspect the percentage would be lower at the moment, but the growth rate strong.

Networks and the News Corp approach

Rupert Murdoch is cleverly positioning News Corp to take advantage of the trend networking and social media ahead of the competition. Murdoch's dinner guest Jeff Jarvis has a bit of an insight into the recent News offsite in California, and he adds this point about the culture at News:
"The good and the bad of News Corp., I’ve long said, is that they fly by the seat of their pants: They make decisions quickly and decisively and some are brilliant and some are not but at least you can get a decision and move on. Now, of course, you can disagree with those decisions. But I would reassure the people at Dow Jones that this is not the News Corp. of fable. Murdoch is not an ogre. He’s a gracious and charming mogul. And the reason his people like working there is that he leaves them to operate more independently than I’ve seen in other companies — so long as they succeed, of course."
Having attended some Australian company conferences, and seen the Chairman in action, I couldn't agree more. The bottom line is always the bottom line for News. To succeed means to make money. And why not? It's a business, after all.

And that's one of the fascinating aspects of the current state of the media industry, one which Murdoch recognises. As he writes in the current issue of Forbes, "Companies that take advantage of this new meaning of network and adapt to the expectations of the networked consumer can look forward to a new golden age of media."

The issue, of course, is how do you deliver anything like the same margins in a digital publishing environment as was previously available in a print environment?

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