Thursday, December 27, 2007

What does Web 2.0 mean?

It was interesting to see my own reaction to Web 2.0 showing up in my web mentors' latest newsletters.

Essentially, the predictions are that search engines will be "replaced" by social bookmarking and other Web 2.0 "systems" isn't happening - instead, these bookmarkers have plug-ins which then piggy-back into the existing search engines and enable rankings and comments to show up within Google results (for instance). Google is ranking such "2.0" entries higher faster.

And you still won't be able to get anywhere (make any money by selling product, develop any following) unless you provide great content. All marketing is still through a mailing list - which is built from the result of targeting and mastering a particular niche (or three).

You provide usable content on a regular basis and thereby maintain a loyal following. But that's still a basic from the "Web 1.0" days, isn't it. And of course, it's also a basic to pre-Internet days of promoting The Beatles and any "viral" hit. As well as any long-tail niche (as Patsy Cline followers will tell you...).

If you really look at the Web 2.0 feature set, you see that we are more or less still implementing the "new" features which have been around since before the written word - the verbal tradition of story-telling.

Aren't all these audio and video files just snippets or longer versions of someone telling a story to you and I? Why do we pick up these, podcapture them, download them, view or listen to them? Because they can possibly contribute to our personal world view. And so our personal growth and survival. You can then tell where a person is on Maslow's hierchy by what they are listening to or watching.

Again, that is why I tell you to turn off your radio, TV, and newspapers and get your data from the Internet. So you can rapidly assemble data which allows you to evolve your own world view into a better one.

So, philosophy and marketing show themselves to be on the same side of the coin - both of them. Flip it and you're still looking through the other to the first one. (They are also both known by a third term: Education.)

One interesting thing about the Web 2.0 advance is that it is being adopted by the young - not so different from the continuing trends of the Internet. Some of the older, "grandfathered-in" types were fairly young when this thing started and have been able to keep up with most of the improvements (though only in our particular specialties, for the most part). The older a person is, the less likey they are to adopting the Internet and use it consistently.

Demographics of Internet usage is pretty hard to find. Finally an "old" tape from the O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference (2005) gave this as 25% of total Internet usage for the young (12 - 24 yrs old). A recent Pew Internet survey started tearing this down to what they were doing and finding that there is another 25% or so of these are "supercommunicators" who use almost no email, but tons of other ways to communicate.

So we are seeing niches of niches. However, one datum that comes up across all users is that as someone starts using the Internet, their usage increases.

But the key point - which drives this - is that the increasing Internet use is, yes, as a super-huge library, but also for social networking. We are still looking at basic human needs - talking to other people and learning.

If this trend continues, we'll have less of the structured e-mail-type communications and more the direct conversations happening.

Now, another odd thing is going on - since you can find out about anything and cross-compare anything, the quality of service comes up pretty quickly - or that service drops out from disuse. Fads are one thing, but the continuing services either have evolved or have a very substantial base. Amazon has done both. Google/Yahoo have done both. Extinct dot-com busts had no underlying service to begin with. Some conventional brick-and-mortar companies have evolved onto the Internet. Wal-Mart is an example of this.

Where Web 2.0 arrives at marketing is that you not only can see an image of the article, but also get a video which shows it in moving pictures with sound. This is useful for products which could persuade a person to buy something they would normally only buy in person. Even livestock marketers have started using this format - the early adopters, anyway.

The limit seems to be in bandwidth. More adopters are in U.S. cities with larger bandwidth, especially those in higher-income families who can afford it. These usually are more highly educated, which commands the higher incomes, naturally. Rural areas have infrastructure problems and so don't have access to decent bandwidth - and getting satellite broadband takes a chunk of budget. Usually, it's a tough choice between satellite broadband and satellite TV. Forget cable unless you live in town. Same with DSL.

But the possibilities with Web 2.0 are incredible. Look at it this way: in the ClueTrain Manifesto, they talk about marketing being a conversation - that it exists to build relationships (just like the old open farmers' markets which are still popular today); most successful sales pitches are built on telling a story; people seek entertainment not soley as a distraction, but as a way to absorb other stories that they can use to evaluate and improve their own lives with.

So the videos, audios, and animations of Web 2.0 bring us back to ourselves. We are developing a global community which can intercommunicate at will. (Recently, I was amazed to find that one of my sites was favored by residents of Zimbabwe, another by those in Colombia.) We can offer and trade for goods and services to anyone on this planet.

And that in itself is a way to bring more peace - as we know more about each other and deal with each other, we will have fewer reasons to argue over ideological dogmas. We can just get down to living the best life we can, and helping those we talk with to do the same.

What does Web 2.0 mean?

We are growing up.

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