So a recent article over at multichannel describes an interview where a Newscorp executive mentions because of how much of the net’s traffic runs through MySpace, how it could potentially set up viable competitors to many Web2.0 companies.
‘€œIf you look at virtually any Web 2.0 application, whether its YouTube, whether it’€™s Flicker, whether it’€™s Photobucket or any of the next-generation Web applications, almost all of them are really driven off the back of MySpace,’€? Chernin said at the conference. ‘€œThere’€™s no reason why we can’€™t build a parallel business.’€?
This has created some waves throughout the blogosphere
- Mike Arrington expressed cool outrage
- Om Malik hoped he was misquoted.
- Nicholas Carr debated the commercial and otherwise open nature of the net.Â
- Mashable worried about how closed MySpace is getting towards widgets.
But I’m not sure if most people are just missing the point here.
Mr. Chernin may have offered us a glimpse of what marketing will be like in the future.
The net as it is right now is changing and evolving as it always has; a generation of internet users are now growing up used to instant messaging rather than email, bit torrent, and high speed.
Most critically, they are growing up with social networks.
In fact, if a recent cluster of articles over at BusinessWeek is any indication, the penetration of social networks is growing at an amazing pace at all levels and demographics. MySpace now boasts over 100 million profiles. Facebook has 7 million registered college students. LinkedIn has 6 million registered users in 130 different industries.
Now, imagine a future where the percentage of internet users who use social networks continues to climb; it blasts past the ‘tipping point’ or threshold of usage where so many people are using them — you’d be crazy not to join up just to continue communicating and keeping your own networks intact.
The entire ecosystem of internet would be divided into little fifedoms, or kingdoms — all with locked doors. While admittance is free, there would be rules governing your behaviour while inside. Sure, because the party’s inside — and many functional activities as well, you’d WANT to be there. But, if you’re a business … what then?
You can bet that the rulers of these kingdoms would be asking for a toll. Perhaps it would be high. So high that only huge corporations could afford to play. Or, perhaps close you off to their population altogether. Yes, while everyone continues on with their merriment inside, perhaps those rulers would want to create industries unto themselves and profit from fulfilling the demands of those merrymakers.
Ok, I’m belaboring a metaphor. So, before I flog that dead horse any further, I hope that you can appreciate where all of this is taking us.
1. The creation of discrete ‘populations’ of internet citizens: yes, of course you’ll be able to migrate to and from your favourite social networking site, but it’ll be alittle bit like instant messaging systems circa 2001. At the end of the day, you’ll be locked into where your friends are. The cost would be too high to migrate from system to system. You’ll spend your time within the system checking messages, blogging communicating in real time, playing games, reading the news, and so on.
2. The zealous guarding of access to those populations: the corporations who own these systems will guard access to them a frightening amount of zeal. Customer lists are money. Exclusive access to a population — even if they’re cynical, jaded, post-post-modern users — should still cause Scrooge McDuck-like dollar signs to flash in any marketers eyes.
3. Accessing those populations will be difficult, if not impossible. Or prohibitively expensive: Think Microsoft is bad — or brilliant — for monopolizing the desktop? By establish Windows as a standard, its like Bill Gates is collecting a toll for every PC that’s built (all linux users aside). The same thing will happen to social networks; they’ll be acting like gatekeepers, and the toll will be very, very high indeed. Google has already paid 900 million for privelege of serving ads on MySpace already.
Where does it leave smaller players? The startups? The small businesses? Well, its hard to say.
With LonelyGirl15’s outing, we can already see nascent attempts at marketing using tools within the Web2.0; marketers are already trying to harness social networks WITHIN the network — either by creating sock puppet personalities or even using scripts to automate the adding of “friends”. Coupled with broadcasting tools, these guerrilla tactics may be all that’s left if Social Networks auction off access to their populations of citizens to moneyed corporations.
Or, as Mr. Chernin has put it — they may not.
They may opt to create entire industries of their own, and cut off access completely; or perhaps, “offer” a blended package of advertising to their citizens, combining their own offerings (to their own social software applications) with those of other businesses who are happy with the scraps that are left to them.
Is it hype? Or Reality? The Internet has already evolved far beyond the freewheeling 90’s where small groups have organically organize themselves through forums, mailing lists and even blogging communities. Social Networks have arrived, are here to stay — and it remains to be seen the extent of how it will change the landscape of Internet users everywhere.
And what implications it may have for businesses who want access to those networks.
Dr. Tony Hung writes about blogging, web2.0 and social networks. He lives over at DeepJiveInterests.