The Me2 Revolution

[via Doc Searls] Richard Edelman writes:

The traditional approach to corporate communications envisages a controlled process of scripted messages delivered by the chief executive, first to investors, then to other opinion-formers, and only later to the mass audiences of employees and consumers. In the past five years, this pyramid-of influence model has been gradually supplanted by a peer-to-peer, horizontal discussion among multiple stakeholders. The employee is the new credible source for information about a company, giving insight from the front lines. The consumer has become a co-creator, demanding transparency on decisions from sourcing to new-product positioning.

Smart companies must reinvent their communications thinking, moving away from a sole reliance on top-down messages delivered through mass advertising. This is the Me2 Revolution. What is now required is a combination of outreach to traditional elites, including investors, regulators, and academics, plus the new elites, such as involved consumers, empowered employees, and non-governmental organizations.

Reforming the VC Industry

Dave Winer has some ideas: “Lets assume so. So lets start a new company, with Rick Segal as the CEO (if hell do it) called User Internet Capital Corp or something catchier. File all the right paper with the SEC, and do an IPO. You have to, because were going to be selling shares to the public right at the start. This thing will be public from day one. The purpose of the company will be to invest in promising young Internet companies, chosen by the users, nurture them through startup, get them liquid through acquisition or IPO and distribute dividends to the shareholders accordingly. Retain some cash for overhead and (I insist on this) a small percentage for pure technology research and development, so there will be new ideas to base the startups of 2009 and 2011 on.”

The Free Model

Fortune has an interesting discussion from Davos:

Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, John Chambers and Niklas Zennstrom are talking about the next phase in the tech revolution, and how they’re making it pay.

Zennstrom, who recently sold his Skype Internet phone service to Ebay for $2.6 billion, says that Skype has been in business for 3-1/2 years… and in that time has signed up 75 million users. I’m floored by the sheer scale of that, until Gates brings us back to earth. He jumps in and asks, How many of the 75 million are paying customers? Zennstrom doesn’t say (or mumbles it out in a way I can’t catch) but their exchange launches a terrific conversation about building free Web products that generate truly enormous user bases then monetize them.

The free model, observes Google’s Eric Schmidt, “generates a great deal of good will for your brand.” (FORTUNE is deploying the concept right now on this Web site.) To monetize it, or course, you either sell ads against the eyeballs (like Google and this Web site do) and/or get a subset of your free users to pay a fee for enhanced service. (Hotmail and Skype do it this way). Get enough folks to pay, say, $30 a month, says Gates, and pretty soon you start to have a business. You can have one group of employees servicing the free base and another group figuring out how to monetize them. “It’s neat,” he says .They all nod.

Mobile Web Search

Wap Review writes:

If Im looking for something: news, sports, product information weather, travel directions or whatever on my mobile device, I want to search the Mobile Web first. Why, because I know that any halfway decent purpose-built mobile page is going to be far more usable on the phone than the best transcoded desktop page. Searching the big web is a last-resort, a fallback if I cant find what I want on the Mobile Web. I dont use web search on my phone that much because I usually find what I need on the Mobile Web. Only Google has got it right, on their mobile search page they give you the choice of searching the Web or the Mobile Web from the same form with the same query. If one doesnt give you what you want you can try the other. Mobile Web Search that doesnt search the actual Mobile Web is less than half a solution to the mobile search problem.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Newspapers: More Comments

Writing in Business Week, Jon Fine made the following suggestions for local dailies:

STEAL FROM GOOGLE. Make your ads hyper-accountable. Identify the top advertisers in your local market and figure out what it would take to grab 100% of their ad budgets.

BIFURCATE. Offer a free news-digest daily aimed at your least committed readers. Then price up a more elite daily newspaper, so the old $1 ceiling becomes the new floor for single-copy prices.

REDEPLOY MERCILESSLY. Save pages and dollars: Put all stock and TV listings online. Rethink everything and ask hard questions.

INCREASE LOCAL COVERAGE. An old saw, but local is newspapers’ last unique attribute. It also provides the lens through which you view the larger world.

REDESIGN YOUR PREMIUM PRODUCT. Production values for other media are higher than they’ve ever beenA classier environment attracts richer advertisers.

USE YOUR READERS. Is there a sufficient subcultural pulse in your city to pull off a mini-myspace? Are locals writing hobbyist blogs that you can build about.coms around?

In a different context, there was a discussion recently about News 2.0. Om Malik wrote: Without the efforts of News 1.0 and Bloggers, News 2.0 doesnt mean anything. Its not News 2.0, but instead Repackaging News 2.0. We need to find a new descriptor. I do agree with Cashmore: they all look increasingly similar, which doesnt behold good tidings for the future.

Rich Skrenta of Topix.net wrote:

The quality of journalistic output today is, for the most part really really good. In fact it’s too good. The product costs a huge amount to bring to market, and what the Internet enables is an alternative product built for zero, and providing a different value proposition. Citizen journalism is going to be more Citizens and less Journalism.

We were told by a New York Times insider that the staff at the NYT hates their online forums, but they wouldn’t ever get rid of them because they’re so popular. I’m not surprised that professional writers wouldn’t be happy with the level of discourse in a typical forum, especially one involving hot issues. But you know what? That’s your public in the forums, like it or not. When your readers get riled up and want to rant online, that’s what it looks like.

The future of news isn’t going to be a new Watergatish nirvana of investigative journalism. It’s going to be BYOJ — bring your own journalism — on top of a much richer set of sources: everybody.

An interesting comment from Peoria Pundit: Within 10 or 20 years actual printed newspapers will exist mainly to serve the shrinking number of news consumers who do not or cannot get their news on the Internet. The advertising problem is self correcting; businesses that insist on advertising only in newspaperswith their shrinking circulation figureswill have their lunches eaten by companies that advertise on the Internet.

So, even as newspapers in the US face tough challenges, newspapers in India are a booming business.

Tomorrow: The Indian Context

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