Laugh and the Web laughs with you, cry and you cry alone

April 16, 2010

When blogs were first created, the call was to “Join the conversation!”  Robert Scoble and others said this often, and sincerely meant it.  And millions upon millions of people tried to do just that.  But it didn’t work.  As of two years ago, there were 200 million abandoned blogs on the Web.  Think about that.  Two hundred million people has something they wanted to say, but wound up being disappointed.  I think that’s quite sad.

Why doesn’t blogging work for most people? 

Here are the Top Ten Failures of Blogging that I see:

1)      There are little to no effective channels.  Most of the time, you are speaking to a brick wall.

2)      There is little to no control of exposure.  Everything you say is public for the whole world to see, forevermore.  You can’t say “This if for widows only” or “This is for Marine Moms only.”

3)      Anonymity of readers.  No self-censoring, no consequences. 

4)      Hateful people get off on being hateful, and they will take the time to harass for fun, while good people have other things to do than make comments on blogs.

5)      You don’t know who your readers are.  There are already about 100 people reading this blog, but I know who only a handful of you are.  I have no idea why you others are here, what sex or age you are, what occupation you have.  Nothing.  That can be disconcerting and can lead the blogger to make poor content decisions, because the #1 “Know your audience!” rule can’t be followed.

6)      Competition for attention leads to forced controversy between bloggers and other negative energy that soon grows tiresome.

7)      To grow an audience, you need to mostly stick to one subject, like being a “tech blogger” or a “mommy blogger” or “a social media expert.”

8)      Blogs are set up to be like soap boxes; they are not conducive to true conversation.

9)      Blogs require consistent upkeep; you need to make multiple posts every week to build and keep an audience.

10)  Readers must understand RSS, which is not mainstream friendly, or else go from blog to blog to blog to try to keep up.  Tiresome. 

Micro-blogging isn’t much better.  In fact, it brings new problems.

The Hive is different.  If you close your eyes, it’s hard (if not impossible) to imagine your place inside the blogosphere, but the Hive is easy to see in your mind.  You are at the center.  Always.  Relevant, protected, safe channels connect to you, and information almost effortlessly flows in TO you and out FROM you.

There is but one Hive.  But there are also infinite hives.  Your 3D “Biker Babe” hive will look different from your 3D “Nurse” hive.  And my “Mom” hive will look different from your “Mom” hive.

The Hive will buzz with true conversation and sharing.  Without the extraneous noise.  Without the SPAM.  And, most especially, without the trolls.  

So if you want to cry inside the Hive, you can feel free.  Somebody else will be there with you.

The Dissolving Hearst Sand Castle vs. the Melting Zuckerberg

April 27, 2009

 

sandcastle2Old media is in trouble, there’s no doubt about it.  Newspapers are closing, magazines are getting thinner and thinner, even local television news stations are in decline. 

iceberg3But what about new media?  Are YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al., in any better shape?

Not that I can see.

According to a recent AdAge article, Credit Suisse has reported YouTube’s estimated 2009 losses “at nearly half a billion dollars – thanks to ever-escalating bandwidth costs and nowhere near enough advertising support to pay the bills,” leaving the author to conclude that Google (owner of YouTube) can’t afford more Susan Boyles!

Regarding Twitter, is their exponential growth celebratory or has it metastasized?  How will tweets survive when escalating costs on zero revenue is unsustainable over time?

And what about Mark Zuckerberg’s melting valuation?  Facebook has experimented with several business models, and yet there is still no sustainable revenue and no IPO in sight.  

Which is worse: the shifting sands of failure eroding Old Media or the overheated success melting New Media?

Seems to me that all media must transform, that nothing is inevitable at this point, and that time is running out.  For both sides.

What this Cartoon can Teach the FriendFeed Team.

April 7, 2009

argylesweater10

I’ve been involved in the cartoon world more or less since 1995.  As I’ve stated before, I think lessons learned there can often translate into the tech world.

This gag is from a comic feature called Argyle Sweater, which was recently picked up for syndication by Universal Press.  Not to dismiss the creator Scott Hilburn and his work, but the comic panel is an obvious derivative of Gary Larson’s The Far Side.  (Btw, the gag shown here clearly needs editing…this was created before the UPS contract.)

Here’s the thing about comic strips and panels: you must be first at captivating the public with a winning concept or you’ll always be an also-ran, a “poor man’s Bugs Bunny,” a “no-hoper”– EVEN IF YOUR PRODUCT IS BETTER!

Another good example of this is Scott Adam’s Dilbert.  After Dilbert became a blockbuster in 1996, many a comic feature about cubicle-dwelling tech guys made it to the ponder piles of syndicates and newspapers, but none of them was ever picked up, even the one or two that were better than Dilbert has become.

The only reason Argyle Sweater in now able to be syndicated at all is because it’s been over 14 years since The Far Side ended, so there is a new generation of readers.  And even at that, Argyle can never hope to come close to the success of its predecessor.

The point here is obvious.  FriendFeed isn’t going to come close to Twitter’s success, even though it’s a better product.  Lot’s of people have been saying that Michael Arrington is arrogant (what else is new?! J ) for writing FriendFeed is in Danger of Becoming the Coolest App No One Uses, but Arrington is right. 

Robert Scoble good-naturedly jabbed Arrington for saying that “no one is using FriendFeed,” but that misses the point that no matter how many people use FriendFeed at this point, the window is closed.  It’s too late.  FF and Twitter could have competed head to head if this new UI had been released a year ago, but Twitter has sense become a blockbuster.  It’s Dilbert.  It’s The Far Side. 

Twitter is the product that has won the public’s imagination.  It’s too late for FriendFeed.

And for all those who say “But FriendFeed isn’t a competitor!  FriendFeed is different!”  Yeah right.  Just the way Argyle Sweater is different.  Just the way all those cloned Calvin and Hobbes strips submitted to my online cartoon syndicate were different.  “But it’s a bear, not a tiger!” 

SIGH  I have known cartoonists who have wasted YEARS arguing that their comic is different.

Use FriendFeed and enjoy it!   I do.  And read Argyle Sweater if you like it.  (I don’t, sorry.)  But let’s not delude ourselves.  The only way FriendFeed has a shot is to do something spectacularly bold and different, such as using the technology to become something else entirely.  My advice to the FriendFeed team (yeah, right…as if they’d listen, but what the hey): Take your skills and start over with a new product in a daring way.  That could work, and there are still original ideas to develop, just like there are original cartoon concepts.  It’s just harder now. 

This new UI, as good as it is, isn’t going to cut it.  And I hate to see talented people waste their time.  Start fresh.  Go back to the drawing board.  Take your tremendous skills and try again.  Don’t be yet another frustrated creator stubbornly stuck on a no-win concept.

Silicon Valley, not President Obama, has the Power to Save the World from Depression

March 21, 2009

 

Everybody agrees that the economic meltdown was caused by a crisis of trust.  Once disbelief entered the system, tight knit economic networks swiftly frayed into “every man for himself” loose threads.  The Emperor Economy has no clothes. 

So who can weave together a new economic fabric?  No, not Washinton D.C.  Silicon Valley.  And you.

During the United States Presidential Election, the Obama team successfully used the slogan “Change We Can Believe In.”  The media lasered in on the word “change” because that meant “not Republicans” but it’s my belief that average public hearts were most responding to the “believe in” aspect.  Human beings are intrinsically wired not to like change, but it’s an inherent need to believe in the people, ideas and institutions that surround us.

A growing number of American citizens are already becoming leery or downright fearful of President Obama’s sweeping list of changes.  While talking “bottom up solutions” during the campaign, he’s working to impose more and more top-down mandates.  That’s no surprise.  The Federal Government was designed to be the top of a power hierarchy.  Obama must work within that top-down system.

The problem is that no matter what the Obama administration desires, no matter what actions they take, trust — that one essential element that can turn around the economy – will not be injected back into the economy by government.  They simply don’t have the power or means to do it.  The bailouts and stimulus bill haven’t helped because they haven’t restored trust.  Many argue they’ve done just the opposite by highlighting abuse and excess and have made matters worse.

Recession lingers and depression threatens because of deep mistrust that is turning into despair.   Now that it’s lost, how can the public be expected to rebuild faith in people we don’t know, institutions we can’t reach, and extraordinarily complex systems we don’t fathom?  There is only one way.  Trust must come, as Obama rightfully stated in the campaign, from the bottom up.  It must start by believing in the people and the commerce around you.

My regular readers will be tired of hearing this from me again, but understanding this is so vital to economic recovery (and the avoidance of grave world conflict sparked by global depression) that I can’t say it enough.  For the two hundred thousand years that modern humans have lived on this Earth, social networks were economic networks.  Everybody depended on family, friends and trading partners for their livelihoods.  It was people they knew, they spoke with, they trusted, who kept them alive.

Today, especially online, social networking is mostly about conversation, education and entertainment, not about making a living.  For most of us, our ability to earn or lose money is dependent on things so far removed from us that we have very little control over it.  Mysterious things that happen in far-off places affect us more than the people and things we can touch.

This needs to change.  Luckily, everything is already in place to make that change.   We just need to tweak and build on what already exists.  We just need to turn online social networks into simultaneous economic networks, as they are naturally meant to become.  Social networking grows up, if you will.

I’ve written here and here about what Silicon Valley can do and how.  Basically, we need to create a true digitized economy based on heart to heart connection.  This means taking responsibility for letting friends, family and followers know which products and services are worth supporting and being compensated for that endorsement. 

This, in turn, means taking power away from corporations so that successful advertising distribution is dependent more on having goodwill than having deep pockets.  By holding companies accountable, having the power to affect their ability to find customers, gross atrocities will at least diminish if not end.

It also means creating a market for ALL digital goods.   Every creative person no matter what their skills and passions needs to have a seat at the table, not just musicians and application developers.

Journalism must also have a seat at the table.  Professional journalists who work for publications as well as compensated independent bloggers must be included.

The final thing that’s required is to allow people who produce non-digital goods and services to have access to the market.  If I have one pizza shop in Petaluma, I should have as much opportunity to reach potential customers in my area as Pizza Hut does.

By creating one-on-one bonds between buyers and sellers, we can rebuild trust, get buying and selling going strong again, and rebuild the economy.  Moreover, we can strengthen the social/economic fabric so that devastating economic unraveling never happens again.

But Silicon Valley must step up.  The tech world needs to stop wasting its time on having no business models, no outward look, and no clear and focused ambition.  It’s time for the Valley to cross over into the mainsteam instead of waiting for the mainstream to come to them.  It’s time to show some leadership.

The world needs Silicon Valley to create some change we can believe in.

Reinventing Capitalism

March 18, 2009

Today I ran across an excellent essay by a fellow named Howard Bloom, called Reinventing Capitalism: Putting Soul in the Machine.  His argument is that we should “re-vision” our western capitalistic civilization – to see it for all its greatness and promise, not just its faults.

I especially like this particular line:  “We can reveal a central secret of the Western system—we’re not mere digits in a numbers game; we’re feeling people woven in emotional exchange.”

“Woven in an emotional exchange.”  That’s the basis for my plan, “Dawn’s Plan” that takes the fabric of social networking – which is now limited to informational exchange – and weaves in the exchange of commerce.   In this way, people can make a living doing what they love to do, what they are meant to do.

Bloom argues that capitalism has a beating heart.  I couldn’t agree more.  Capitalism allows people to express their talents and passions in a very personal, tangible way that compensates them materially.  Capitalism is an artist’s tool.  And also the proven tool of philanthropists.   That it has too often been the instrument of greedy robber barons doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the best tool in the economic chest.

My own strong belief is that the key to “reinventing capitalism” so as to make it more egalitarian is to allow everybody access to wealth creation, no matter what your talents and passions are.  This demands taking advertising distribution control away from advertisers and giving it to the public, as well as a few other steps that I have talked about in this blog many times.

The Internet is what can reinvent capitalism, if my plan is adopted.

How Silicon Valley can Re-grow the Economy from the Bottom Up

February 28, 2009

Details:

1)     Create an Open Ad Network, similar to Adsense but for any multimedia, for use on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, as well as blog sites like WordPress.

2)     While anybody can upload an ad and say how much they are willing to pay for its run, only users will have the power to distribute the ads.  IOW, users get to pick and choose the products and services they wish to endorse for their own social graph and casual readers.

3)     Ads are very dynamic, mostly limited-time offers and invitations by companies previously approved (Users will input their “150” – the number of brands we are each loyal to on average, which serve 80% of our everyday needs) .  Once the goal of the advertiser is met (such as 10,000 coupons saved or printed), the ad is automatically replaced by another in the queue.

4)     Of course, there will be room to introduce new products and services, too, for those companies seeking brand awareness.  This will spawn limited offers to targeted influencers such as “Can we send you our new coffee maker to try at home?”

5)     As users’ friends, family and followers engage with the ads, the user makes money.

6)     Smaller businesses that can’t afford to pay cash can offer users discounts.  For example, $.25 per engagement towards meals at my local restaurant (so if 20 of your local friends check out the ad of the new restaurant you recommend, you get $5 off your next meal there).  Also, if a startup cannot afford to pay, the user can override the “place best paying ads first” function and distribute the ads for little to nothing, to give deserving companies a boost and help make sure they stick around.

7)     Earned money can be spent at participating LOCAL businesses via cell phone exchange, so that users are encouraged to spend the money locally, to shore up their own communities.  If spent this way, the money is not taxable for the user (but would be subject to tax for the businesses) and the business picks up the bank transaction fees.  So even if you earned $1,000 a month or more via this system, you wouldn’t get taxed on it and you wouldn’t increase the tax rate of your primary income. (Of course, the government will have to sign off on this, but given the state of our economy, if there were a groundswell of support for this, it shouldn’t be a problem.)

8 )     The alternative is to withdraw cash once a month, which will be reported to the IRS and bank transaction fees will be charged.

Advantages:

1)     Individuals will earn and spend extra money, stimulating the economy, especially their local communities.

2)     Since people will be recommending products and services they know and enjoy, then trust, confidence and demand will all increase.

3)     Advertisers will finally benefit from an online advertising method that actually works for demand creation (as opposed to Search’s demand fulfillment).

4)     Because companies themselves cannot distribute the ads, goodwill and not just money is required for any and all ad runs.  This will make businesses more accountable to customers and society at large.

5)     Crappy ads will not be distributed.  Demand for higher quality ads will increase and professional copywriters, photographers, videographers, and so on will be put back to work.

6)     Everybody has the same, level playing field so that small companies without huge advertising budgets can still access the marketplace and compete effectively with big companies.

7)     Being able to access the market will make entrepreneurism skyrocket, creating income, tax revenue and jobs.

As I’ve written before, we should create a for-profit consortium to make this a reality.  The sooner the better.

When are Tweets Worth Paying for? And how much money would YOU make?

February 28, 2009

Dawn’s Plan is about making money from your social media activity, whether or not you have a blog.  And with some of this money, you could pay for content to enhance your own offerings (like running a comic strip on your feed) or just for your own enjoyment (like downloading songs or utility apps).

So nobody would have to put in money via a credit card or Paypal or whatever.   The system itself would allow you to earn money and spend money for digital content.  It would be its own economy.  The “digital economy” that people have long anticipated but that has never materialized in any meaningful way, except for Apple and a few others.

Most people would make money via advertising.  That is, they would choose ads that they would like to run on appropriate pages they create.   And as their friends, family and followers engage with the ads, they would earn money.

And then some people would also make more money via other digital content they create, like for cartoons, apps, songs, poems, stories and so on.

But what about somebody like Karl Rove, who is now on Twitter?  Somehow I can’t picture him picking out ads to run next to his tweets.  And maybe you wouldn’t want to do that either.

If songs and apps are worth paying for (and iTunes prove they are), then under what conditions would somebody’s stream (like a FriendFeed or Twitter feed) be worth paying for?

Personally, I’d be willing to pay up to $.25 cents a month for the following feeds (again, out of the money I’m earning via the system, so it’s not coming out of my job’s pocket).

1.      Someone who collects the best information there is about X subject on an ongoing basis.

2.      An interesting inside look into a job or position I’m interested in.  So if my goal in life is to become a cameraman in Hollywood, then I would pay a cameraman in Hollywood to tweet what he does during the day.

3.      Instructional knowledge, like a blacksmith who can tweet (along with photos and maybe videos) how he makes knives.

4.      Vicarious support for something I’m going through, like a woman could chronicle her weight loss progress and feed me tips and motivation.

5.      The “first look” at art and entertainment by some favorite creators – like cartoonists, photographers, animators, etc. – with personal commentary, behind the scenes photos, etc.

6.      Collections for charity – like celebrities Twittering their lives and giving the proceeds to save dolphins, or whatever.

 

If you had 5,000 followers and earned 80% of the $.25 each month, that’s $12,000 a year in earnings.  Not bad.

How would that compare to making money off of advertising?  Again, let’s say you have 5,000 followers. If you put out 3 posts a day (long, short, whatever) with three very targeted “offers and invitations” attached, and the average “engagement rate” to each one pays you $.05 (a conservative estimate) , and 2% of your readers engages with just one of the ads per post (since these ads would be relevant to their lives and most likely entertaining) , that would earn you $5,475 in one year.

Of course, when it comes to advertising, the things you write about and the people you attract would impact your earnings.  Some people won’t pay attention to that and just naturally talk to their friends, family and co-workers, come what may.  Others will see this as a business opportunity and put more thought into it.

The one thing that everybody will have to stick to if they want to be successful, is to only promote the products and services that they actually use and are willing to legitimately endorse.  We each have an average of 150 brands we are loyal to that satisfy 80% of our daily needs.  So most of the ads would be offers and invitations regarding these, as well as our favorite places to dine locally, etc.

So is this crass commercialism that will destroy our enjoyment of social media?  Yeah, some people will think so, but I don’t.  I believe most people will see this as a service.  The truth of the matter is, if our purchasing is guided by people we trust , then we won’t waste so much of our money.   And if we are in control of ad distribution, then advertisers will have to be more accountable to their customers.  Money won’t be enough to distribute ads.  Companies will also need goodwill.  And good ads!  No more sitting through poor, irritating commercials.

Besides, each person can override the “display the highest paying ad” system (similar to AdSense) and decide to distribute an ad no matter what the owner can afford.  This ensures that small companies will have as much access to the market as giant corporations.  Very cool.

My plan gives control of advertising to users, and also lets users own and control their social graph and be compensated for its use.  If that’s “commercial,” then good.  For two hundred thousand years social networks were also economic networks, and they should rightfully be so again.  If everybody participates on an equal playing field, then there is nothing crass about it. 

Personally, I think Facebook and others who throw ads in our faces that are irrelevant and intrusive (and on our own pages that we’ve created!) so that they can become billionaires is what’s crass.

We need a true, functioning digital economy so that people around the globe can earn money with little environmental impact, even those in poor countries with few natural resources.  My plan allows the world to “drill, drill, drill” human talent, an infinite resource.  It also ensures we can regrow the economy from the bottom up by injecting trust and confidence back into consumerism. 

Would you rather work in a factory or create your own works?  Would you rather buy something that will sit on a table collecting dust until its sent to a landfill someday, or would you rather buy something that entertains, enlightens and/instructs?

During this recession that could potentially move into a prolonged depression, do you want to help the individuals and companies you care about survive?

If you think keeping the status quo is worth destroying all these benefits, then I hope you’ll make your case in the comments.

Follow People? Follow Topics? Why not Both at the Same Time?

February 26, 2009

There’s been growing controversy lately about following people on Twitter – debate on why, who, when, how many, etcLouis Gray suggests that it’s topics, not people, that we really want to follow.   I think it’s both.  

How do we know people in the real world?  It’s by the roles that we play: Mom, churchgoer, PTA member, etc.; but it’s also by the interests we have:  blacksmithing, motorcycles, photography, and so on.

What social networks need to do, IMO, is break people down by their “hats” like Marine Mom, Movie Lover, Social Media Watcher, CEO, and so on.  Then instead of following a whole person, you can pick and choose which of their hats you want to follow and then designate which hat you are wearing as you do so.

1) Take Robert Scoble as an example.  Robert and I don’t agree on politics and we’ve clashed because of it.  I’d like to follow Robert’s “tech evangelist” hat, but I don’t want to follow his political hat.  Robert could slice himself down into the different persons he is:  Father, Silicon Valley Resident, Videographer, Photographer, whatever, and then I could pick and choose which Roberts I want to follow.  This takes out all the noise and offensive stuff I don’t want.

2) So instead of tagging every post to make it searchable, the writer simply has to state which hat she’s writing under. 

3) The system could easily keep track of the urls that people are exchanging and aggregate the pieces talked about most often by hat so that popular stuff is never missed.  There could also be a digg-like ranking.  This “group push method” decreases the need to follow so many individual people.

4) Since I would tell the system which hat I’m wearing as I follow somebody’s else’s hat, that person will know what it is I am expecting or wanting from him.  For example, right now Robert is just Scobleizer.    He doesn’t know why different people are following him.  But if people signed up for his feed under their hats, he could get a much better sense of who his readers are.  Maybe some are CEOs, some are IT guys, some are geek-curious…  The first tenet of writing is to know who your audience is.  A breakdown of hats by percentage is a heck of a lot more meaningful than the current blind lists of strange faces we now get.

5) With Twitter (or whatever social network it is) getting thin sliced into varied hats, it would be very easy to find people you want to talk to.  For example, I’m a dog lover.  I could read the dog lover feed which would blast every dog lover’s post, but from that I could select individuals I wish to follow, in order to get it down to a manageable size, customized just for me.  The way I would design this is to have a +1 and -1 ranking, so that when I see something I like, I give it a +1 and when I see something I don’t like, I give it a -1.  The system itself would keep track of who I like best and I would automatically start following those people I respond well to, with the others falling off.  Of course, I could also choose outright to follow certain people and block others.  (Wouldn’t it be interesting if everybody’s Twitter or FriendFeed posts were blind and you started sorting people by +1’s and -1’s according to what they write?  Do you think you’d end up following the same people you are following now?)

6) At some point, hats could be subcategorized so that I could still be “dog lover” but also “boxer owner” as a subcategory.  And hats could be cross-checked.  So if I choose to have a “Hillsboro, OR resident” hat,  too, another boxer owner in the area could easily find me and we could make a play date at the dog park.

7) With this system, there is no pressure to follow particular people.  I myself think it would be better if people could choose to make it blind or not.  Personally, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business who I follow and who is following me.

8 ) Of course, all this thin slicing sets the table for very targeted ads (even local ads!!) so a strong monetization plan is readymade.  Of course, as I’ve written about many times on this blog, I think that advertising should be turned over to users, so that you pick and choose which ads to promote (if any), and you get compensated.   This way, you don’t have to keep a blog to make money from all your interaction.

9) Besides hats, social networks should be divided by space, too – Intimate, Private, Social, Public – but that’s another story.

I don’t think Twitter is a fad, but I do believe all this following-orgy is.  That’s why I designed my own ideal social network a different way.  But with this horrible economy, I won’t get funding, and I’d still like to see this implemented.  So maybe somebody else will go for it.  If Twitter did, I’d start using it.  As it is now, it’s worthless to me.  More pain than gain.

At the risk of being a broken record, let me say once again that all of these problems (and more!) could be avoided if technology wasn’t the only thing that VCs and CEOs cared about when designing sites and applications.  It’s SOCIAL media, after all.  Bring in the social scientists and others who understand vital issues besides coding, and the Web will be a much better, more efficient and more peaceful place.  Not to mention a whole lot healthier financially, too.

Offered: Online Payment Plan for Print

February 25, 2009

Michael Learmonth has written an article for AdAge called Wanted: Online Payment Plan for Print, subtitled: As Everyone Weighs in on How to Save the Business, the Question Is Whether Consumers Will Cough up for Content They Can Get for Free.

I’ve spent years monitoring this problem and just about as long incubating on it, and while my plan – that is “Dawn’s Plan” – may not be perfect, I believe it is the best hope for saving journalism.

The key to solving the “how to pay for journalism in a digital age” dilemma is to understand the Square Triangle and adapt it to the Web, as I’ve introduced here.

Journalism has been supported by advertising for at least a few hundred years and there is no need to deviate from that success now.  The key is to implement an advertising system that actually works.  As Mr. Learmonth reports, banner ads certainly are not it.  CPM is a total waste, and CPC generates massive fraud.

Here is an outline of how my plan works to monetize journalism via effective advertising:

1) First, we create a substitute for email (I call it Swig) that is based on the same technologies as Twitter and Friendfeed.  The space is divided as we naturally divide and manage our offline space: Intimate, Private, Social and Public.  Newspaper and magazine stories will be part of the public feeds, as will advertising. 

2) Users of Swig will be able to “thin slice” themselves into their roles and interests or “hats.”  So you will participate in social and public discussions (and even some private conversations) based on whichever one of your hats you choose to currently wear.  Not only does this allow members to easily find information they will be interested in (and allows the system to aggregate all the best information related to that hat), but it also creates space for very targeted ads.  An elegant low-tech user-empowered alternative to all the nefarious data mining that currently drives ads.

3) Key to making this work is to acknowledge that the above ad inventory (i.e., the space for ads that is generated when you converse online) rightfully belongs to the person writing the content.  Users will therefore get to choose which ads are allowed on their pages, if any; in other words, you will promote only those goods and services you wish to support and only where you want them to be.  As your social graph (i.e., your friends, family and followers) engages with these ads (which can be different types of multimedia, depending on the ad’s goal), then you will earn money.

4) Now this is where journalism comes in.  Professional media will get “first engagement rights.”  Remember, you make money when your friends, co-workers, etc. engage with the ads you have chosen for your pages.  But how are you exposed to the ads in the first place?  The ads will be fed to you attached to news articles related to the hat you are wearing as you surf information.  When you yourself engage with these ads, you don’t make the generated money, the media outlet does.  Not only that, but if you choose to “swig” one of these ads [that is, take it and put it on your appropriate page(s)], then when your social graph in turn engages with these ads, the media outlet will continue to earn a cut.  And as your friends swig ad copies off of yours to expose to their own social graphs, you and the media outlet will both take a cut of generated income.  So newspapers and magazines will be paid by readers’ attentions who aren’t necessarily their own readers! 

5) This system requires that newspapers and magazines break up their feeds into the same hats that Swig users create.  Sports Nut, Movie Buff, Dog Lover, Political Junkie, Business Owner, Catholic, Biker,….  The reality is, professional journalists and everyday folks write about the same things.  Media hats and user hats will not be in conflict but will naturally conflate.

6) Okay, so where do the ads that are on your news article feeds come from?  From the existing ad departments of newspapers and magazines.  These departments are underutilized assets that should be leveraged.  Facebook is hiring tons of ad people.  That’s crazy, to my mind.  They should stick to technology instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and their own corporate culture.  There are already boots on the ground in every community in almost every country around the world.  This system makes local advertising as feasible and effective as national advertising, which will put billions of dollars into the hands of newspapers, magazines and Swig users.  For the first time, demand generation advertising will work online.  (Search is about demand fulfillment and does nothing to create demand.)  Creating brand awareness and increasing consumer demand worldwide will help save the global economy as well as journalism.

Will this work?  One indication that it will is the fact that there are over 200 million abandoned blogs on the Web.  That’s a lot of people wanting to “join the conversation” but who found it too demanding, too troll-filled, or too lonely with nobody commenting back.  Why be stuck to a rigid format that demands you focus on one or two subjects if your desire is to build up a big enough audience to earn money?  Why can’t you earn money from one post here about this subject, or another post there about that subject?

What Dawn’s Plan essentially does is make individual users the center of their own online universe.  Information will orbit you, rather than you having to go to multiple websites.  And your every contribution, no matter how much you participate, can be potentially monetized.

Newspapers and magazines need to be able to orbit users where we are and where we’re talking, instead of having only destination sites.  If they thin slice their feeds the way Swig users will thin slice themselves, then the attached advertising will be targeted and appreciated as a service rather than an irrelevant affront. 

This system elevates readers as co-publishers who have a financial stake, too.  If newspapers and magazines are willing to allow that, then they can continue to make money in this digital age.  Yes, they will have to share it, but they will still get a lion’s share. 

If newspapers refuse to do this, it’s doubtful that they will survive.  Without effective online advertising, it’s very unlikely that existing newspapers will make it.   And until and unless consumers themselves get control of ad distribution, online advertising will remain broken.

Of course, some users will make a lot of money and others will make little, but having advertising recommendation-based means everybody should have a lot more confidence in their spending (which will again help the economy!).  Furthermore, you will undoubtedly be exposed to special offers and invitations, so even if you don’t earn a lot of money, you can potential save a lot of money.

With some of the earnings, users will be able to buy digital content from artists, photographers, app developers, musicians and so on, which will make their pages more alluring and help them make more money off advertising.  It’s the same way newspaper syndication works, just on a micro level.

The Square Triangle will succeed if only it’s implemented.  And it won’t be that difficult to execute.  There is no required technology that doesn’t exist right now.  It’s simply a matter of partnering technology with anthropology and merging all stake holders in a symbiotic fashion.

If you want more details, look here.  You can also read my other posts, as they are all pretty much related to my plan in one way or another.

The Internet’s Destiny: Five Truths

February 23, 2009

I’m honored that yesterday, Louis Gray – an extremely prolific and well respected social media observer and commentator – named Dawn’s Plan as one of his “five new blogs to watch.”  Since I’m getting new readers here because of it (Thank you, Louis), I thought I’d state my basic beliefs that inform everything I write about here.

 1) Business Models must be Distributive

The Digital Age is inherently about undoing the most egregious economic imbalances created by the Industrial Age, not creating more of them.  There is little difference between getting obscenely rich off the backs of others and getting obscenely rich off the brains and hearts of others. 

To his credit, Mark Zuckerberg recognized the value of each person’s social graph.  To his failure, he has yet to acknowledge that your social graph belongs to you and you should be compensated for its use.

Zuckerberg is a billionaire on paper while the Facebook membership that makes the network valuable earns nothing.  I predict Zuckerberg’s paper wealth will never be realized, because obscene concentration of wealth generated by exploiting others goes against what the Internet is naturally meant to be.

2) Advertising Distribution must be in the Hands of Users

Except for Search, Internet advertising doesn’t work.  It will never work when it is thrust upon us, because it is kneejerk to despise and easy to ignore.  Online advertising must be willingly accepted to be effective.  This demands taking ad distribution control away from advertisers and giving it to consumers.

Closed ad networks that pollute the Internet and do little to help the advertisers themselves will inevitably be replaced by open networks which offer ads that may be taken by users and placed on their own pages – if it is a product or service they wish to help promote.  This power shift will make corporations more accountable and will lead to higher quality ads and products.  Also, people will be less fearful of buying when they have recommendations from friends, family and coworkers. 

Placing ad distribution in the proper hands will thereby help our economy rebuild from the bottom up, as trust is injected back into the system and people start consuming again.  So by giving up power to distribute ads online, companies will gain.  At least the ones that are worthy will.   The others can die a quicker death and quit wasting resources that can be freed for better concerns.

3) Free must be replaced by Free plus Compensated

Free has been a collective disaster.  We obviously cannot move from an industrial economy to a digital economy (which we must do to survive) if there can be no transfer of digital goods and services for money.  That’s what an economy is.

4) Everybody must have a Place at the Digital Table, despite their Talents and Geography

Let’s face it, when it comes to making a living, the Internet has so far mostly benefitted left-brained people and has too often devastated right-brain people.  While geeks’ opportunities and incomes have exploded, creators like reporters, photographers, cartoonists and other writers and artists have lost their jobs and incomes.2008-05-01

Trade in digital goods and services holds the promise of allowing great numbers of people all over the world to make a living without raping the environment, but this can happen only if doors are opened to allow in all skills and talents, not just coding ability.

5) Google’s Domination is Unhealthy and Potentially Treacherous

Yeah, I don’t like Google.  Their hegemony rivals that of ancient Rome.  The good news is that Google is much more vulnerable than people think.  Their lion’s share of online ad revenue won’t last once the above four tenets are inevitably manifested.  The only unknown is exactly how long it will take.

If you want more details about any of these, I suggest you check out my archive.  You can also subscribe to my feed.

I hope you will stick around and give me your input.  I appreciate your comments and welcome discussion about how best to spur the Internet towards its natural destiny, for everybody’s benefit.