Monday, May 7, 2007

Don't Make Me Talk About Web 2.0

First of all, I hate this "Web 2.0" frenzy. I hate it so much, that I wasn't even thrilled for being recognized as not blogging about it. But a few of you have asked about it and like it or not, it's 'news' so I'll get off my high horse and talk about it. (Rant is more like it.) And after I do this rant, I'll continue to talk about the so-called parts of Web 2.0, but I'll pretty much be banishing the phrase "Web 2.0".

Why do I hate it? Because it's based on a love of technology, not based on people.

I say this because social networking isn't really anything new. People have been contacting each other, sharing links and photos and doing all the same things before on the Internet via email, forums, news groups, websites etc.

This Web 2.0 hoopla is just a new way of doing the same old thing, which isn't bad ~ but so many rave about the marvels of it all when this technology for the most part hasn't taken into account human need and therefore misses the mark. It's provided us a new tool which may improve the way thing are done, but this bit of ease doesn't seem to be worth all the chatter. I say this because no one has really been able to monetize "Web 2.0" ~ and if you can't sell the tool, how much does the market need or want it?

From the point of the human consumer, the lack of interest in buying the tool speaks to the lack of fundamental understanding of the market it's supposed to serve.

(I know I may sound like I'm backtracking on my love of blogging, but I'm not. Blogging is one tool which offers something new ~ the ability to publish and converse in real time ~ and this is a case of a tool being useable. It's monetary value is still undecided. But we can prove blogging has value in that many folks pay for such things as the actual software and hosting, as well as the dollars spent in advertising. However, remarkable as blogging is, I do not consider blogging to be part of this "Web 2.0" talk. Blogs are, as I've said before, really a variation on website publishing, and as it lacks the embedded functionality of Web 2.0's biggest baby, Social Networking, I'm removing it from this conversation.)

Now I'd like to focus on Web 2.0's number one baby, Social Networking.

Many of you will point to this tool's profitability to say that is has value. I will in return point to the fact that there have only been two ways to monetize such sites: paid advertising and the sales of such sites.

The first is nothing new ~ paid spots on websites have been around for a long time and their merits/effectiveness are another conversation alltogether. For now, let's just say that applying the old advertisement to the new technology isn't a vote for the technology but just more realestate for advertising.

The second, sales of social networking sites, have proven to be for large sums of money. But if I were on the board of directors for a company who proposed to buy such a site I would ask, "Why should we buy this? What purpose does it serve?"

If the response is that "we'd get millions of eyeballs" I'd say there are two problems with that reply.

One, unless we are in the real estate or advertising sales business we should pass. For with such a purchase what we are in effect doing is buying the land the billboards are on and nothing more.

Two, let's scrutinize those "millions of eyeballs."

How many of these members are active? We hear the number of members bandied about, but we all know that not all members are active members. I myself have joined and then stopped playing there when I got bored (more on that in a moment). I'm still one of the masses, included in the count, but neither my body mass nor my eyeballs appear there any more.

Of those still active, how many are looking at and/or clicking on the ads? (I say 'and/or' because when it comes to the value of advertising many argue that being seen is as much the point as are the clicks. A whole other debate.) While we may not consider The Whore to be typical (subject to debate, I know) we can at least be assured that she is human and I will tell you that she is part of the skeptical, cynical consumer crowd. I don't like to be bombarded with ads and do not wait for them to load. I am the first to click on the 'skip this ad' option, and once familiar with where the ads are posted, I avoid looking there. All of these behaviors are easy to do and I daresay being done by "the millions of eyeballs."

So, if on the board of directors being presented with such a million dollar opportunity, I'd pass.

If the person(s) suggesting a buy-out of a social network had other ideas for such a purchase, I'd listen. But so far there are only two ways to make money off these sites, advertising and the sales of the site itself. You may think they are grand ways to make money, but keep in mind that members will not pay for memberships to these sites. So why buy one? What's the point of them as real entities?

But I know you all want to know about how to use them. You want to get the most of these millions of eyeballs looking at you. I'll go on and on about that next time. But remember, I won't be calling it Web 2.0.

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