I remember the conversation well. I was sitting with an astute VC in Toronto sometime in ‘99. He was telling me his firm was not interested in ad-supported models. They would find transactional revenue or ownable technologies. The web was awash with ill fated ad supported concepts. The time was not right. This was Web 1.0 and advertising had become a bad word.
It took a few years but clearly the tide has turned. About a year ago we hit the tipping point. Consumers continued to weave the channel into their lives, from communication to transactions to community. Companies invested in lock-step. AdSense showed that we could tap the short and long tail with cost effective direct advertising. Broadband gave us rich, brand building opportunities. Innovation kicked in, capital followed. They called it Web 2.0. And the geeks and money men discovered bringing buyers and sellers together was actually a pretty sweet business. The media world was about to be turned on its head.
This transformation is really at the heart of Web 2.0 and probably describes the phenomenon better. I call it Media 2.0 (and probably others before me). Let’s take a look at Media 1.0 vs. Media 2.0 and try to get a better fix on how things are changing.
Media 1.0 was content centric. It’s an age old model. Find an affinity group and business opportunity to position a brand around. Create compelling content to serve the audience. As audience builds, advertisers follow â€“ a marketplace is created. The best publications become cultural cornerstones and community catalysts â€“ this is the dominant model… there are thousands examples from B2B verticals like AdAge, youth oriented broadcasters like MTV and lifestyle plays like Wired, Vanity Fair… Advertiser’s revenue offers primary revenue source, subscriptions secondary. Publishers fortify by expanding and protecting distribution. In the old days, they owned spectrum, channels on the dial and space on the shelves.
Successful Media 1.0 publishers protect the integrity of the franchise and content. They become trusted authorities, opinion leaders and taste makers. They build brands around visionary contributors. The brand becomes the platform.
Media 2.0 is like Media 1.0 in reverse. Media 2.0 is platform centric. It starts with a platform that enables community to create digital identity, connect and share. This is MySpace, Tagworld, Flickr, LinkedIn to name a few. From community a marketplace grows as tools like classifieds give the group the ability to buy and sell. Advertiser opportunities flow as audience grows; the smartest look to participate in the community with targeted affinity offerings. The community is strengthened but still vulnerable.
These businesses begin to fortify by enhancing the platform. Communication tools like email, IM and mobile extensions enhance to communities ability to connect. Search and aggregation tools place context above content. Inertia builds as users invest more time with an expanding range of tools. The value of the user profile (data) grows with participation. Plus scale is the game. The complexity of the platform makes entry more and more expensive.
Content is the next logical step. At first it is user generated but community managers look to differentiate with exclusive content offerings. Media2.0 starts to look more like a TV network. The brand becomes more and more important as lifestyle signifier and indicator of taste and affinity.
Successful Media 2.0 companies preserve the integrity of the community (Meg Whitman, head of the original commerce community EBay has understood this from the beginning). They build from the bottom up. The community becomes the taste maker. These firms manage environment not content. They create the best possible tools to empower and protect participants mixing product management, technical, and creative skill sets. They think users first, audience second.
This is MysSpace. MySpace is a platform. It started as a market leading tool set for managing the multimedia identity. Seeded by a group of hip networkers, it’s now fortifying by expanding its range of communication technologies (IM, email, wireless) and marketplace tools like classifieds. MySpace is on a aggressive acquisition spree to enhance platform functionality.
Watch for expanded content offerings. It seems Murdock has always liked to mix content and platform â€“ SkyTV and Soccer, DirectTV and NFL and as such MySpace is a natural extension of Fox content assets.
Where does this leave us? Here are a couple of thoughts.
- The next few years will see Media 1.0 companies slowly build Media 2.0 competencies. Watch for a continued wave of acquisitions in this area that enable content brands to build community and commerce around offerings. An ongoing web theme, product becomes service. Fashion pubs become front-ends for fashion marketplacesâ€¦ lifestyle pubs extend to user communities etc.
- Media 2.0 upstarts will look to new ways to differentiate as platforms are open-sourced and commoditized (blogging as extension of operating system, open and distributed commerce networks like Edgeio)—Content will become a more important part of the offering. A new group of boutique content producers will forge exclusive relationships with platforms much like the broadcast model. AOL looks great as a part of TimeWarner. Yahoo! continues down content path with mixed success. MySpace looks more like MTV. Expect lifestyle / vertical communities like Streakr to emerge quickly.
- Breakout content offerings (music, film) will command big contracts as they become key ways for Media 2.0 platforms to differentiate their brands and build the user base.
- Media 2.0 companies will look to partner with brands, beyond selling audience, to offer value to community members. Media 2.0 will provide valuable opportunities for user research. Less reach, more partnership / affiliation.