Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Three Marketing Lessons found in Wired Chris Anderson's Declaration: "The Web is Dead" article

Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired, recently co-write an article declaring the "Web is Dead".

Anderson's basic premise is that as the World Wide Web has grown astronomically, the explosion of content has planted the seeds for the rise of a semi-closed Internet experience based on convenience and manageability. Anderson captures this dynamic,
Blame human nature. As much as we intellectually appreciate openness, at the end of the day we favor the easiest path. We’ll pay for convenience and reliability, which is why iTunes can sell songs for 99 cents despite the fact that they are out there, somewhere, in some form, for free. When you are young, you have more time than money, and LimeWire is worth the hassle. As you get older, you have more money than time. The iTunes toll is a small price to pay for the simplicity of just getting what you want. The more Facebook becomes part of your life, the more locked in you become. Artificial scarcity is the natural goal of the profit-seeking.
Anderson's article emphasizes media consumption. Through this lens, his article captures larger digital trends, which de-value the wild openness seen in the World Wide Web. In contrast, the rise of Apple and Google's Apps-markets and Facebook's emergence as the Web's dominant social entry-point signal a marked move away from open-ness to convenience and what some have called "walled silos".

However, the accompanying discussion amongst Federated Media's John Battelle, O'Reilly Media's Tim O’Reilly and Anderson highlights the gaps and omissions in Anderson's piece. For example, O'Reilly moves the conversation beyond a consumer's media consumption and focuses on how the changing digital landscape impacts the business enterprise,
But the evidence is strong that instead, we’re going to have a multi-player platform, one in which openness and interoperability are required for all the pieces to work together....

It seems to me that one of the alternative futures we can choose is a future of cooperating internet subsystems that aren’t owned by any one provider, a system in which an application might use Facebook Connect and Open Graph Protocol for user authentication, user photos, and status updates, but Google or Bing maps for location services, Google or Nuance for speech recognition, Paypal or Amazon for payment services, Amazon or Google or Microsoft or VMware or Rackspace for server hosting and computation, and any one of a thousand other developers for features not yet conceived.

This is a future of horizontal integration, not vertical integration….The Internet Operating System may end up looking more like a Linux distribution than a Microsoft or Apple PC or phone operating system. VMware might perhaps provide a cloud computing “kernel” while Facebook provides a social UI layer, Google or Bing provide alternate search subsystems, Android and iPhone and Nokia and the next generation of Windows Mobile provide mobile phone front-ends, and so on.
Later, John Battelle joins the conversation utters the most simple, yet important re-joinder to Anderson's unilateral declaration, "Engagement is what matters. Inventory is irrelevant."

So the key question becomes where, how and through what tools will companies engage consumers online? And this raises a larger, inverse question: what will motivate users to go online and engage content?

Anderson captures the powerful, visible trend behind the rise of smart phones, the accompanying Apps-markets and the rise of Walled Gardens like Facebook, all of which provide more elegant and compelling tools through which users engage content online. But again, his view-point is media-centric.

For marketeers, what lessons can be learned? While Anderson highlights some obvious digital trends, behind the curtain, some important lessons can be drawn.

ONE: THE PRESENT LANDSCAPE IS MESSY so choose professionals
As Anderson highlights a changed online experience, O'Reilly captures the complicated, rotating, fast-changing pieces that any entrepenuer must choose from. By extension, for marketeers, the pieces and tools have NEVER BEEN MORE NUMEROUS from which to craft an online marketing plan. So resist the urge to save money on that low-cost freelancer, and instead, seriously consider paying more for professionals whose experience will pay dividends in deciphering this fast-changing environment.


Before considering your spends, define your goals. In such a fast-changing landscape, do DUE DILIGENCE. One of the best resources in my opinion is found on Jeremiah Owyang's blog and in particular, check out his research slides to help define your own goals.

The present is complicated. There have never been more technologies and marketing decisions from which to choose. Don't worry about the future. New trends will always emerge, but wait for them to come in from the margins. That's where your business should always be.



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