Its something that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently. What shape is our digital universe?
But it isn't just the age dimension that marks out Facebook from MySpace. An intriguing contrast in strategic vision is also becoming apparent. Murdoch bought MySpace because it had become one of the most visited sites on the web. The challenge for the Murdoch team was how to 'monetise' those eyeballs. Their solution was a traditional combination of advertising and control. (It also helped that Google paid $900m for the privilege of providing search facilities on the site.) The advertising bit is self-explanatory; the control freakery is exemplified by the Murdoch philosophy of not allowing other people to make money on his platform. In that sense, MySpace is really Rupert's Space
So Rupert it seems has got the charts out, but it still looks like the world is flat. There is no Panama canel to fast riches as yet. Yet I thought the purchase of myspace was a real understanding about the digital holes in the digital cheese
Then we have magazines trying to chart the same universe. In the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean, navigation of the underworld forces Jack Sparrow to think laterally
You won't find an executive in British magazines who doesn't believe that in the near future 30% of publishing revenues will come from digital ventures. But neither will you find one prepared to tell you precisely how that 30% will be achieved or give you a definition of "near future".
So be prepared to think laterally. But its so hard to do.
The future lies in letting loose the very thing they have spent a large part of the past 20 years trying to suppress - the individual voices of their writers - and recognising that all that the web provides is a platform upon which to compete for the key commodities: attention and trust.
Then, Jeff Jarvis points to even a digital immigrant that should know better and are struggling with their own charts...
Yahoo! is the last old-media company, for, just like a publisher or broadcaster, it has relied on controlling content, marketing to attract eyeballs, then bombarding those eyeballs with ads, arbitraging our attention for as long as possible.
So how do we think differently. How do we work out that down is up and up is down?
In Terry Semel, Yahoo!'s just-bounced CEO, the company got the essential media man and model. The site, he said once, is "all about content" and distribution. But the internet isn't. The internet is about people, connections and networks. Google knows that; that's how it won. Google is a platform
So – Plant your own forest
What should it do next? Yahoo! could sell out to another company that also watched Google whiz by: old-media conglomerates, for whom Yahoo! would seem like a younger second wife; Microsoft, always in search of a media strategy it doesn't need; cable companies, seeing their exclusive hold on content torn from them by the internet; AOL, because they can fade away together. Or it could split itself into three mediocre companies: content, services, ads.
The internet: the 6th Mass Media and mobile: the 7th Mass Media are not however good at forgiving second rate content or mediocrity. Why should they. We live a world of Plenty not a world of Scarcity. And lets be honest – interruptive ads that are irrelevant, non-contextual (therefore lack meaning) and boring will not succeed on the 6th and 7th Mass Media.
We have to live in a world of open platforms, engaged and targeted content, information and services. It doesn't matter, whether you are Yahoo, Emap, News International, or a retailer. The reality is the rules have changed as Jack Sparrow realised as he realised that the Black Pearl was the wrong way up.
what shape is our digital universe? well, we don't know, but what we do know its not the same as our analogue one.