Monday, February 04, 2013

Do people need to be "converted" before they will get your "arguments"? In Web 3.0, it's getting that way


Back in the 1990s, particularly while I still lived in northern Virginia (before I moved to Minnesota in 1997), I was the editor for the newsletter for Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, which we called “The Quill”.  We did have a mailing list, which was substantial at the time, and we gave away free copies at various locations, particularly Lambda Rising bookstore in Washington (which no longer exists).
  
I remember a debate as to whether we needed a print newsletter at all.  Why not do it all with listservers, one person said.   We already knew where the circulation was (from the mailing list, which was a more valuable thing in those days). 
  
I argued for the print version because just to have an email newsletter would amount to “preaching to the choir”.
    
Of course, a lot of “newsletter” publications have become rather public with lists.  Back in the 1960s and 1970s. my father always enjoyed “The Kiplinger Washington Letter”.   And online marketing companies (like Fiercemarkets, link) used to rely heavily on email-list marketing before social media came along.
  
The idea of publishing to “friends’ lists” or “followers lists” and even restricting access to only these lists, has been around a long time.  Back in the 1990s, we had the “win arguments” vs. “win converts” debate, something that really went on in the Libertarian Party,  I even wrote an essay for the Minnesota Libertarian in 1998 on just that problem.
   
Instead, however, most major companies these days have made their “Facebook” sites vehicles for general public access, and the “Facebook” sites have become more important than their own domians in many cases.  (This has been particularly true of many small independent films, that can maintain comments and discussion threads going for a lone time with some films.)  It works particularly well for sports teams, too.  Because of  Facebook’s Timeline feature, companies know that they can get attention from almost any members who have “liked” or otherwise profiles them repeatedly.  That’s hard to achieve with Google’s “next blog”.   A big disadvantage, though, is a character limit for a posting (about 450 I think in Facebook, compared to 140 in Twitter). Another important point is that conventional sites and blogs offer statistics on visitors; the "Likeonomics" of today's social media doesn't. 
  
So in practice, social media have become a tremendous vehicle for publishing ("micro") news  to “everyone”, not just “converts” (that is “friends” and “followers”), which is one reason why many conventional blogs and information web sites have less traffic (from curious “surfers”) than they did say four years ago.  This development (along with “do not track”) could have tremendous implications for sustainability of  web-based business models, for service providers and news groups alike.  Ten to fifteen years ago, “real world” social networking based on “passive” Web 1.0 websites actually worked pretty well, for people with low costs and good logistics for getting around in person.  That may not be so much the case in the future.  We may indeed face “fierce markets” whether we like it or not. People who used to do their own “research” have gotten used to have their own news spoon fed to them.   
Of course, we can imagine another innovation.  Why not combine social media (with friending) with conventional blogging (even site shared hosting) as well as microblogging.  Of course, Blogger and Wordpress platforms offer this in some part, but not with the wild connectivity of Facebook.  There is room for more "big ideas" here, perhaps.  

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