Doc Searles published a thoughtful analysis of the future of the Internet. I agree with much of what he says. “The Media” (whatever that really is) likes to flagellate itself as a kind of “woe is me” over what the Internet means for media. I think that most commentators both anticipate a change more radical than actuality will bear out–but also on the other hand miss the biggest changes to come.
Despite what some write, content is still king. Try as I might, I still get almost no value from Facebook. I thought I’d connect with a bunch of scattered family. Most don’t post, and the others keep growing crops in some place called farmville. I don’t care about all those games designed to make people increase time on Facebook’s site. I lived through this same thing with AOL in the early 90s. In fact, Facebook is becoming the new AOL. We’ll see how long it prospers. Then there is Twitter. I get a little more value finding new information on Twitter.
The big problem is in both filtering out stuff I don’t care about and finding new stuff that is meaningful to me. We haven’t solved that, yet. Further to one of Doc’s points–we keep getting advertising pushed at us (hmm, well you might keep that coming, it pays my bills right now), but wouldn’t it be better if we could ask for information about things we are in the market for without worry about getting bombarded with all manner of crap coming at us?
Then I ran across this post from GigaOM about a problem facing newspapers. Prominent newspaper owners have been criticizing Google for stealing their profits. That’s not the problem. The problem is content. Newspapers have defaulted much of their journalism by repurposing New York Times and AP content. They don’t engage their readers at a local level.
Most newspaper (and magazine) Web sites are not built in a way that’s friendly to commenting. I’ve been hounding our Web people for years at Automation World. Our site is pretty good by magazine standards–but not what I see in my vision of things to come. We started a product blog called Automation Gear (I was hoping to model on Engadget), but we had to do it in the same content manager as the Web site and not in a blog-friendly tool such as WordPress or SquareSpace. So, the content is fine, but the presentation doesn’t match my ideal. That just means we have a long way to go.
Content is not going away. Reading is not going away. Print is not going away. What is happening is that there are more options. We really need for the end of the “walled garden” bookstores for digital reading to blossom. We need people to develop economical tools for magazines like ours to be able to publish a decent digital edition. The thing is–readers will have increasing options in the way they read, just as advertisers now have many options for reaching prospects. We’re still figuring all this out. And that’s cool. That’s where innovation occurs.