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Evolution of the Web
Jon Lebkowsky, 17 Dec 08

1484609462_013467b135.jpgThe Radical Tech blog at Fast Company features a set of expert predictions on the evolution of the web in 2009. Some of the predictions are no-brainers (more emphasis on user experience, standards for authentication and identity and data portability, you own your own data. Richard Yoo predicts the inevitable demise of Web 2.0 companies without a compelling value proposition or business model or application.

It may just be how I slice my Twitter feed, but I see a lot of talk about marketing these days. Thinking about that lately, I realize that much of the talk is produced by anxiety - traditional marketing is dead and people who don't get the sea change are sensing that they have to adapt or find other work. They're struggling with this - paradigm shifts are just hard. Tara Hunt is ever clueful about marketing in the evolving computer-mediated media ecology. She's quoted in the Radical Tech post as saying:

Customers are major players in the arena of marketing - I would argue more so than the marketing professionals themselves now - so it is important to realize that and shift the marketing program to be more about how you interact and empower those customers rather than how you control and spread the message.

I might've listed this as another no-brainer, but evidence suggests that it's still hard for the marketing mind to grasp. How do you cede control of the message? What analytics are meaningful and useful in this new world where every consumer is also, potentially, a producer?

I started to say this isn't just about business, but it might make more sense to say that on the web everything is business, and the currency is attention... so in a sense we're all thinking about marketing. We publish - or converse, since it's more useful to think of conversations than publications - because we want to cultivate attention for whatever - who we are or what we think or what we have to sell. This is true for for-profits, nonprofits, public entities, individuals - in a sense all are thinking about marketing strategy.

Charlene Li makes a great point:

The biggest innovation will be the opening of social networks so that they can exchange profiles, social relationships, and applications. As such, companies need to think about how they will "open" up their businesses. For example, rather than create your own community, could you leverage a community that already exists on MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn?

We think about this from a sales and marketing perspective - how do you find your customers or potential audience, or the community you want to join and serve? For businesses, though, the web is no longer just about sales and marketing, and this is a trend I didn't see acknowledged or addressed in the Fast Company piece.

All business is moving to the web - not just sales and marketing, but all business processes. Many businesses will drop expensive internal IT in favor of cloud solutions, and they'll focus more on cultivating internal value networks or knowledge networks. They'll start thinking more about how to assess the value of intangibles - knowledge transactions - and how to leverage and demonstrate that value. They'll use social technologies to find efficiencies and control costs, not just for sales. Those of us who do web consulting will be challenged to produce strategy and results for the whole business, not just sales and marketing.

And, of course, a bunch of us will be using social web technologies to change the world, and make it work for everybody, because that's the business that really matters.

Image: Jan 2005 Map of the Internet. Source:

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Jon, great, thoughtful post. As a user-centered designer and prime enabler of marketers, I know that the message "You're losing control of the message, deal with it" is hard for marketers to swallow.

And I think it's a bit overstated. I go with this kinder, gentler message: You will ALWAYS control what YOU say. But recognize that it's now (more than ever before) a conversation.

And these media are additive. It's not social media _instead_ of all the other marketing channels, it's social media _in addition to._ Radio didn't kill paper, TV didn't kill radio. It's another option, with new rules, specs and reach.


Posted by: Susan Price on 17 Dec 08

Could this be interpreted as suggesting that a new personality of marketeer is required?

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 17 Dec 08

In Portland, we are now able to identify what people live in what neighborhoods, that have (x) resources, and what interests they have. That means having successfully identified communities based on geospatial and value based identifiers.

Add in that it's sustainability focused, and we have a winner.

Bright Neighbor has augmented the Internet and leveraged LinkedIn and MySpace as this article suggests - and it works!

Advertisers are knocking on the door, but the company is not accepting advertising money at the moment because it just means people will consume more, and we need to consume less as a planet.

Marketers need to wake up and realize they ARE the problem, unless they are marketing something good for the people and the planet.

The ones who define "good" - are the community themselves.

Posted by: Randy White on 17 Dec 08

I love this site. I run Edenbee with a friend, its a social network site for people wanting to do their bit to save our souls from an environmental balls up and these articles are nuggets of gold. We learn so much about the internet as a company from these great pieces here and on all the cool sites that just work for the common good. And holly hooplas, there is sooooo much to learn with sooooo much need for common good!!!
Developing a product for the web in today's climate is quite a process of ducking and diving and ultimately being ready to jump the next curve, Tis always changing! I'm Irish you see.
Only buy using the web in the ways that these powerful commentaries describe can we begin to harness its true potential. I think the power of this thing is incredible and is the corner stone of a sustainable future.
We too are planning a larger network integration to help spread our good word. Facebook, linkedIn etc etc here we come as we develop further. Custom made giant communities all over the place. I fully agree with this.
I will also be contacting Bright Neighbor, looks like a great idea. I wanna live in Portland. Dublin, as charming as it is, sucks in comparison. But there is the Irish, now they are great crack, its a tricky one. I'll hold out for a little longer and bring a gaggle of Paddies with me if we sink into the domey death of Peakoil and Climate Change.
Is that ok with Portland?? Just a couple of hundred thousand or so. Do you have a good rehab center?! We will need to dry out. Its been some drunkin mess here since the English left. We are still getting over it, it got worse with the celtic tiger. Its hard when lovers split up after 800 years.

Happy Christmas one and all, may it be filled with love and kindness .... ;-)))

Posted by: Peter O'Brien on 18 Dec 08

Thanks for the great comments. Susan, I think that's absolutely right, though we are seeing a rather significant paradigm shift here - more so than with the drift from radio to television. They were both still broadcast, with a narrow set of channels. Speaking of marketing specifically, what worked in that context generally won't work well today, may not work at all tomorrow. Tony's thought about a "new personality of marketeer" is probably correct... new discipline with new thinking and new culture. And Randy has a great point - if we agree that the idea of "consumer" won't work in a sustainability economy, marketing as we know it doesn't fit.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 18 Dec 08

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