August 16, 2006

Over at Stowe Boyd's, I left a comment on interpreting Publishing 2.0 (and Jason Calacanis / Mike Arrington) in light of John Hagel.

Seems to me that, from [a Hagelian] perspective, what the media 2.0 people have done is succesfully unbundled their infrastructure management by delegating it to blogging software, but they still have to decide if they're primarily in product innovation or customer relationships.

If they're in product innovation, they have to find someone else to bring customers to them.

Or, are they really in the customer management business ie. owners of a fanatical audience, looking for any way to serve that audience? In this case, they probably don't need to be bought; finding, servicing and growing their own audience is core to them.

So I'd interpret Calacanis as basically a product innovation guy, going to AOL is his way to get his hands on a bigger audience and getting paid for his innovation. Once in AOL he keeps trying to develop new products, trusting he can sell them to AOL's existing users.

Arrington is a customer relations guy, adding things like a job-board allows him to serve his existing audience in more ways. In essense he's a taste-maker, and could be reselling products from anywhere. What matters is his understanding of what his readers want.

Getting bought by a large media 1.0 company wouldn't make much sense for TechCrunch. Its future is probably closer to Chris Pirillo's LockerGnome or even O'Reilly (the OG of media 2.0 customer relations plays)

AOL themselves, of course, are trying to do it all. If they eventually decide they're customer relations people I guess Calacanis will get bored and leave.


Ryan said...

I always like your stuff Phil. But aren't digg and reddit media 2.0? They seem about as bound to tech infrastructure as one can get. There is the whole world of Gawker , GigaOM etc -- the bloggers -- but I think those guys have to deal with infrastructure a lot more than they'd like (Denton has posted some serious complaints about MT scalability in the past)...

phil jones said...

Hi Ryan,

thanks for the comment. Agreed that digg and reddit are also Media 2.0.

I'm still playing around with that idea of Hagel's in my own mind.

Intuitively, it sounds plausible to me, but maybe breaking it down to its simplest formula : ie. companies do three things : infrastructure, customer relationships and product innovation, and inevitably must decide which to focus on, could be too simplistic.

Like any great insight, it can be expressed in a sentence or two, but you can't just parrot those couple of sentences and think you've really understood it. There'll be plenty of ways to get badly misled by taking them too literally.

So yeah, the aggregators and recombiners and algorithmic search and filtering engines are also part of the media 2.0 ecosystem, but seem to include a bit of everything. Their infrastructure is too specialist to be outsourced. At the same time, someone like Digg is all about its community. Taking the Digg technology and trying to apply it elsewhere has no guarantee of repeating Digg's success. (Any more than Slashcode turned other sites into Slashdot.) And certainly they're innovative.

And, in fact, doesn't OReilly in his web 2.0 explanation piece actually define a web 2.0 company as one where you can't unbundle the three things (community, infrastructure, innovation)?

Imagine trying to get Google to focus on one of the three and outsource the other two. Right now, that would destroy Google. (Although in a few years it might make more sense, and be clearer which kind of company they are.)

So Hagel, in the piece I linked, is not really thinking about Google or Yahoo or reddit etc. He's thinking about media who's "product" is "content" like Gawker. That seems to fit with what Boyd and Farber are talking about too. But certainly isn't the whole story.

It's probably an over-simplification to apply that Hagel piece to the whole media 2.0 ecosystem. And we really need Umair Haque to do justice to the complexity.

phil jones said...

Hmmm, re-reading the original post, maybe I didn't actually spell out what I was trying to say. Here's the executive summary.

To the question "should publishing 2.0 start-ups look to get bought out by media 1.0?" the answer is "It depends. Are you a product innovation guy? Then, yes, because the big co. will be bringing you their customers and customer relationship skillz. If you're already a customer relationship guy, then no, because you don't need the big co. to bring you innovative products."

Which is pretty much what Hagel already says here : "in the long tail world, ... [product development] ... tends to fragment as creative talent tends to seek out smaller and more hospitable organizational homes."

Product innovation stays small, customer relations can get large.