I recently wrote a message on Twitter saying that I was “thinking that newspapers are looking more and more like magazines. And magazines are looking more and more like books.” That thought came out of the following realization:

  • Newspapers are trying to stay relevant by doing more in-depth analysis and longer articles (the Focus section of the Globe & Mail is a perfect example). They’re slowly morphing into magazines.
  • Magazines are still focusing on long articles and analysis but are also doing special topical issues. For example, Philosophie magazine recently published an amazing issue on twentieth-century philosophers. Monocle magazine’s about us section says its “More of a book than a magazine, Monocle’s designed
    to be highly portable (it’s lightweight and compact) and collectable (it’s thick and robust)”. They’re slowly morphing into “books”.
  • For many people, microblogging is replacing blogging. I had detailed that new phenomenon in a recent blog post.

I also received a couple of responses to my Twitter message. Bruno Boutot said.. and tweets like blogposts?”. Dylan Fuller added I
expand blogs R now newspapers or niche ‘zines… thus newspaper to mags to books. what R books becoming? perfect & timeless”. To which I replied that I agreed and that “books are permanent reference markers in time.”

A typical reaction to new competition is to add value to your product, to avoid becoming a commodity and having to fight on price only. I think we’re seeing that reaction on the whole “news” value chain.

  1. Microblogging is replacing blogging (expressing your thoughts)
  2. Blogging is becoming newspaper-like (more reporting)
  3. Newspapers are becoming the new magazines (more analysis)
  4. Magazines are becoming book-like (more permanent reference material)
  5. Books are still relevant as reference material

Have you seen the same thing?

SP32-20080904-131153 

This morning, the fine folks at Mashable wonder “What is FriendFeed’s Effect on Blogging?” Friendfeed, for everyone’s benefit, can be described as a lifestream activity aggregating site.  You basically centralize in one place all of your social media feeds from a variety of services (such as your blog, tweets, YouTube postings, etc.).  You can find mine here.  You also add “friends” and watch the aggregate of all their activities in one place, on the home page of Friendfeed (when you’re signed in).

One of their killer features (which was quickly replicated by Facebook) is the ability to comment on any feed.  Spontaneous conversations can erupt around a variety of topics. The Silicon Valley in-crowd quickly adopted Friendfeed and it seems like many interesting conversations are happening there now . The Friendfeed commenting feature could be equated to what you do in Twitter or in the Facebook status update. In my case, I haven’t adopted Friendfeed as most of social graph doesn’t really hang out there. 

About Friendfeed’s impact on blogging, Mashable says: “I see most of the folks who’ve taken up Twitter, FriendFeed, and other similar services drasticly decrease posting volume, but not to the expense of their substantive editorial or news based posts, it seems. A lot of the personal updates, questions to incite discussion and the observational posts shorten themselves and end up on the lifestream. (…)  In short, micro-blogging isn’t killing traditional blogging, it’s evolving it.”

What it means: I agree.  Blogging is slowly evolving towards a more fragmented world as we see the emergence of new social conversational tools allowing more and more people to start/join conversations in many different places.  More fragmentation means a more complex ecosystem, but also more opportunities for word of mouth. For me, this is still the tip of the iceberg on our way to a completely social Web.

Back in December, in “A look back at 2007“, I wrote that I believed early adopters’ interest in Facebook had peaked and had even started to decline. Recently, the blogosphere echoed that sentiment with news of “Facebook fatigue”.

  1. In January, The Register started by saying “Whisper it, but numbers from web analytics outfit comScore have confirmed what the chatter in bars and cafes has been saying for months – people are, just, well, bored of social networks.” About Facebook, they added that “behaviour seems much the same; join, accumulate dozens of semi-friends, spy on a few exes for a bit, play some Scrabulous, get bored, then get on with your life, occasionally dropping in to respond to a message or see some photos that have been posted.”
  2. A few weeks later, Techcrunch also looking at ComScore data said “The number of people who visit Facebook has been leveling off over the past few months in the U.S., and even dipped by about 800,000 individuals in January. (…) Maybe all that friend spam has something to do with the decline. Will the Facebook fatigue get worse, or is this just a temporary dip?”
  3. Adding his grain of salt, Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC added: “The general feeling is that the kids, with their minute attention spans, have already tired of the social networking site and moved on to something more hip and happening. I think the opposite is true – that Facebook’s new wave of older users have decided it is just not worth the bother and are now leaving it to the kids.”

I agree. My personal experience with Facebook is that its relative utility for me has decreased drastically in the last few months. There used to be a lot of “friend” activities in my newsfeed and in my status updates. Even though I have more than 550 “friends”, I suspect that only 20% at most are using it regularly. As I wrote two months ago, Facebook is just a game. Industry pundits are looking for utility and, for a while, it certainly felt like Facebook was IT. But not anymore. Has something replaced it? Yes. Today, I’d like to say it’s Twitter. It’s all anecdotal, mind you, based on my brain filtering a massive quantity of articles and blog posts I read every day. You’ll have to trust me on this. :-) Should you still care about Facebook? A resounding YES! As Jeremy Liew from Lightspeed Ventures Partners says “The digerati, with their Outlook address books and social network friends lists in the 1000s, bloated by people they met at conferences several years ago, are edge use cases. Their experience is atypical. Normal users of social networks use Facebook apps in the same way that middle America forwards emails to one another.” Those millions of users are not going away and Facebook is still a formidable platform to broadcast your brand and content.

But back to Twitter, what is it? Twitter is a micro-blogging application that allows you to send text messages of up to 140 characters. It really exploded on the Web scene last year at the SXSW Interactive Festival. People started using it in drove but I wasn’t sure what to do with it (and I’m sure I was not alone), until Facebook taught us how to “Twitter” through its “Status Update” feature. Along with the newsfeed, it is one of Facebook’s killer apps but I think most people found it too limited in functionality. It was really just about broadcasting information.

Twitter is much more. It can be a:

  1. Broadcast tool. Send information to your network of “followers”, your latest blog post, a breaking news, a summary of a conference you’re attending, the boring stuff of your daily life, etc. Best of all, you can share clickable URLs.
  2. Conversation tool. Using the @ symbol followed by the Twitter alias, you can ask questions, join an existing conversation and contribute to the community.
  3. Early warning system. Breaking news seem to pop-up on Twitter much more quickly than in other media. I’ve learned about different breaking news more quickly in the last few weeks using it. Some people have already created specific channels for breaking news, which you can start following. See BreakingNewsOn or the Techmeme firehose.
  4. Proxy conferences. Recently, I was able to follow updates from the TED, a very coveted invite-only conference. You could obviously follow it in real time, but through structured data standards called hashtags, you can also see what people have been reporting about TED here.
  5. Subscribe to people. Where else can you follow updates and insights from industry luminaries like Pierre Omidyar (eBay’s founder) or Paul Kedrosky (famed Canadian VC)? There are hundreds of interesting people to follow in Twitter.

Howard Rheingold of SmartMobs fame offers even more reasons to like Twitter.

Twitter obviously has flaws:

  1. It hasn’t announced a business model yet and people are afraid its introduction will break the utility.
  2. It suffers from many well-documented technical interruptions.
  3. You can’t segment your “tribes”, allowing you to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, as you start following more people.
  4. Most of my (and possibly your) contacts are not on Twitter yet, which reduces its intrinsic value.
  5. It’s a huge time-waster, looking at the conversation feed and making sense of it all.

But even with these flaws, I expect Twitter to really catch fire in the next few months, with more people joining, trying it out, finding utility and transforming it into a vibrant worlwide conversation-based community. Even my Praized Media partner, Sylvain, is organizing the first TwittYul, an informal event for Montreal Twitter users and fans You could read about it first … on Twitter. BTW, if you join and want to follow my “tweets”, I can be found here: http://twitter.com/Praized

In the last ten days, I have actively started using Twitter (you can follow my tweets here) and have a written a bunch of personal notes about how I think “Twitter is the new Facebook”. I can’t wait to write that blog post but I don’t have time to write it today (this week?). One insight: here’s one way Twitter intersects with local search:

Twitter Local Search

Wow! Local merchant reviews and micro-blogging. You can find the original tweet from Tantek here.

Facebook Is Just A Game

January 9, 2008

During the Holidays, I met with my friends and family multiple times and one topic of conversation that came up very often was Facebook. “What’s Facebook?” my mom would ask. “Why are people so fascinated with it” my brother-in-law would add. “It’s useless” or “it’s a waste of time” would also come up very often. The proof of the whole uselessness was the “poking” and the “sending my friends a virtual beer” examples. I tried explaining Facebook the way I’ve explained it many times in this blog but I quickly realized I was getting nowhere. My friends and family members that thought Facebook was useless wouldn’t change opinion even after I explained my big social media theories. “I am Media” did not fly as well in the offline world as in the blogosphere.

What was I doing wrong??? And then it hit me…

Facebook is just a game. That’s it, that’s all.

Yes, it’s a game. Out of the 60M+ monthly active users, most of them are there to have fun, hang out with their friends and reconnect with old ones. Only a few thousands (like Scoble and me) are using it as a broadcasting platform, sharing interesting links, discovering new ways to market products, services and ideas.

So if it’s a game, it must be a complete waste of time, no? No.

Why? People are learning while they’re playing. Remember my blog post showing the speeding up between the introduction of new communication tools? This generation will have to learn two, possibly three new communication tools in their lifetime. E-mail was definitely one of them in the ’90s. And now the next phase of learning is happening right before our eyes and we don’t realize it. Facebook users are discovering social media’s opportunities and pitfalls. They’re learning to blog and micro-blog, post pictures and videos online, They’re learning the proper etiquette in a social media environment. And it’s beautiful to watch.

So, is Facebook relevant today? Yes, like training wheels when you start riding your bike. Will it be relevant in the future? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not important. The key is that a whole cohort of web users will be ready for the next evolution, the social web.

Facebook Is Just A Game

January 9, 2008

During the Holidays, I met with my friends and family multiple times and one topic of conversation that came up very often was Facebook. “What’s Facebook?” my mom would ask. “Why are people so fascinated with it” my brother-in-law would add. “It’s useless” or “it’s a waste of time” would also come up very often. The proof of the whole uselessness was the “poking” and the “sending my friends a virtual beer” examples. I tried explaining Facebook the way I’ve explained it many times in this blog but I quickly realized I was getting nowhere. My friends and family members that thought Facebook was useless wouldn’t change opinion even after I explained my big social media theories. “I am Media” did not fly as well in the offline world as in the blogosphere.

What was I doing wrong??? And then it hit me…

Facebook is just a game. That’s it, that’s all.

Yes, it’s a game. Out of the 60M+ monthly active users, most of them are there to have fun, hang out with their friends and reconnect with old ones. Only a few thousands (like Scoble and me) are using it as a broadcasting platform, sharing interesting links, discovering new ways to market products, services and ideas.

So if it’s a game, it must be a complete waste of time, no? No.

Why? People are learning while they’re playing. Remember my blog post showing the speeding up between the introduction of new communication tools? This generation will have to learn two, possibly three new communication tools in their lifetime. E-mail was definitely one of them in the ’90s. And now the next phase of learning is happening right before our eyes and we don’t realize it. Facebook users are discovering social media’s opportunities and pitfalls. They’re learning to blog and micro-blog, post pictures and videos online, They’re learning the proper etiquette in a social media environment. And it’s beautiful to watch.

So, is Facebook relevant today? Yes, like training wheels when you start riding your bike. Will it be relevant in the future? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not important. The key is that a whole cohort of web users will be ready for the next evolution, the social web.

A Look Back at 2007

December 17, 2007

In business blogs everywhere, it’s that time of the year again, when we start looking back at the year that was and we start to forecast what 2008 will look like. In this post, I look back at 2007 and discuss the most significant local and social media news of the year.

1) Facebook

Clearly, Facebook was the number one news of 2007. By allowing anyone to open up an account in the Fall of 2006 (at about the same time they introduced their newsfeed function), Facebook paved the way for the arrival of tech enthusiasts and early adopters/influencers. Silicon Valley got very excited in the Spring and the launch of the F8 platform in May, allowing third-party developers to build applications, brought more excitement. I believe early adopters’ interest in Facebook has peaked (and has even started to decline) but the job is done. More than 55M active users of all ages access the site every month. The social network had a couple of setbacks around the end of the year with the beacon fracas and the launch of OpenSocial by Google but I believe it does not tarnish their luster. Facebook retaliated by opening up their infrastructure. The biggest benefit to the Web in general: Facebook is introducing people to the social web (micro-blogging, blogging, pictures uploading, “friending”), people who will eventually graduate to more complex social applications.

2) The opening up of the social web

Symbolized by the publication of the OpenSocial standard, the web is becoming more social and more open. Additionnally, the announcement by Six Apart that Movable Type, their leading blogging software, is going open source and the launch of the DiSo initiative to create open source implementations of distributed social networking are also important projects. Social will be part of the fabric of the web.

3) The launch of the iPhone and the unveiling of Android

Apple created quite a stir in June by launching the iPhone, a beautiful device that changes the way we see mobile web access. It’s not a perfect machine by any mean (still very closed) but it’s a game changer. The Android mobile platform by Google is also potentially very disruptive and paves the way to an interesting 2008 in that field. Local mobile search, the famous holy grail of local search, is on the verge of becoming reality.

4) The acquisition of Ingenio by AT&T/YellowPages.com

This purchase is a critical move for YellowPages.com and it clearly signals to the rest of the directory industry that call-tracking/pay-per-call will be the unifying standard in local product bundling, allowing a single sales force to sell multiple media formats. In the same vein, Marchex acquired Voicestar earlier this year.

5) The Radiohead “pay what you want” experiment

Even though it wasn’t as radical as industry watchers wanted it to be (Radiohead is still going to release a CD version of InRainbows), this trial by one of the most preeminent alt-rock group generated a lot of discussions in the blogosphere. Consumers were allowed to pay whatever they wanted to pay for the download including not paying at all. ComScore released some disheartening information about the percentage of people who paid for the album but that was quickly shot down by Radiohead’s management. In any case, the music industry needs more bleeding edge experiments like this one to find their future business model(s).

6) Reality check in the local search industry

The last two Kelsey conferences offered a sobering and realistic look at the realities of local search. Local is tough, hasn’t been cracked yet but offers tremendous opportunities. Stakeholders are realizing that partnerships will be needed to succeed. Two senior executives from the print directory industry talked openly about the opportunities and challenges of being a traditional media publisher and it was the first time that we heard that kind of discourse publicly. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all courting traditional local media companies that possess large sales forces to help them increase local revenues. I think we’re getting close to the “acceptance” stage of the Internet grief cycle and we should see a lot of action next year on the local search front.

I’d love to get your feedback on 2007 events. Anything important I forgot?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.