Online Community Membership Swells; “No Single Company Can Capture the Social Graph”

In light of the latest Kelsey Conference in Seattle last week whose theme was “vertical marketplaces”, I read with great interest this eMarketer article about online communities. Analyzing a portion of the 2008 Digital Future Project“(.pdf) report produced by the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, eMarketer reports that “nearly half of US Internet users (…) said they belonged to a hobby-oriented online community, a full 41% of respondents belonged to an online social community, and one-third belonged to an online professional community.”

The following graph shows the types of communities users belong to:

Types of online communities

eMarketer also quotes a recent The Economist article that said “… that the future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the social graph. Ning, a fast-growing company with offices directly across the street from Facebook in Palo Alto, is built around this idea. It lets users build their own social networks for each circle of friends.”

What it means: I’ve often mentioned how much I like this Wired article about meganiches. I’ve often said that I’m a strong proponent of media “verticalization”. I therefore believe Ning is onto something really big as the social Web becomes more distributed.

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25 Million Influencers: How Will We Capture Those Conversations?

Even with all the FOG (Fear Of Google) out there, most people in the directory industry will agree that the biggest competitor to directory advertising is word-of-mouth. eMarketer gives us some new data points around the topic. They also published a new report that you can buy here.

More and more, consumers are relying on advice from friends, family and even strangers to make purchase decisions, select physicians, choose travel destinations and pick politicians to vote for. And many of them are giving — and getting — that advice online. By eMarketer’s latest estimates, over 25 million US adults regularly share advice on products or services online.

word-of-mouth stats

Adult Internet users surveyed by DoubleClick chose recommendations from friends as the one type of promotion they consider most worthwhile.

word-of-mouth stats

What it means: I am a big believer in the ability of the Web to capture (and monetize) a large portion of these word-of-mouth referrals. I agree that friends and family are a major source of referrals but I think we forget that communities/groups/associations are also a trusted source for recommendations. And we’re seeing more and more of these communities online. Influencers can be found in blogs, niche verticals and social network groups (ex: Facebook groups) as well and you trust these people sometimes as much (if not more) than your friends.

How People Find Blogs (and Some Learnings from Praized)

eMarketer analyzes a Vizu Answers and Ad Age report that discusses the way readers find new blogs.

Survey highlights:

  • “Two-thirds of blog readers discover blogs by links on other blogs.”
  • “Recommendations account for another 23% of blog finds. “
  • 20% finds them through search engines
  • 6% through blog search engines like Technorati or Google Blog Search

eMarketer adds:

The fact that blog awareness is effectively spread by word-of-mouth is key for anyone using one in a campaign. Not only can you not build it and expect them to come, you cannot even build it and optimize it for search and expect them to come. Blog launches must be accompanied by links on established blogs, and some good recommendations from established, influential bloggers.

In addition, the survey asked respondants their main reasons for reading blogs:

Two-thirds of blog readers said that they read to be entertained, and 43% said that they read to keep up with personal interests or hobbies (multiple answers were allowed). A third said they read for education and 12% for business, making these clearly minority opinions.

What it means: high-level, here’s what I’ve learned about blogging (and blog linking) since I started writing 5 months ago.

  1. Before you start blogging, you need to identify the ecosystem(s) in which you’re going to “evolve”. The Praized blog is part of multiple ecosystems: Above all, it is part of both the Local Search ecosystem and the Social Media ecosystem. But geographically, it’s also part of the Canadian bloggers ecosystem.
  2. Once you’ve identified your universe, you need to start reading blogs from these worlds. I follow updates through a RSS reader (I use Google home page, nothing fancy). I read about 40 to 50 active blogs (by active,I mean daily updates) that operates in those three worlds. You’ll find a good subset of these blogs in my blogroll (I have not updated it in a while).
  3. Pretty soon, you’ll want to start commenting in these blogs. This will allow you to find your voice.
  4. You’re ready to start blogging. Continue commenting in your ecosystem’s blogs and make sure you refer to other blogs when you find interesting news on them.

I’ve also found some interesting qualitative data about blog post “tagging” (the “Categories” in the right column), which might help you with search engine indexation, but that story is for another day…

How People Find Blogs (and Some Learnings from Praized)

eMarketer analyzes a Vizu Answers and Ad Age report that discusses the way readers find new blogs.

Survey highlights:

  • “Two-thirds of blog readers discover blogs by links on other blogs.”
  • “Recommendations account for another 23% of blog finds. “
  • 20% finds them through search engines
  • 6% through blog search engines like Technorati or Google Blog Search

eMarketer adds:

The fact that blog awareness is effectively spread by word-of-mouth is key for anyone using one in a campaign. Not only can you not build it and expect them to come, you cannot even build it and optimize it for search and expect them to come. Blog launches must be accompanied by links on established blogs, and some good recommendations from established, influential bloggers.

In addition, the survey asked respondants their main reasons for reading blogs:

Two-thirds of blog readers said that they read to be entertained, and 43% said that they read to keep up with personal interests or hobbies (multiple answers were allowed). A third said they read for education and 12% for business, making these clearly minority opinions.

What it means: high-level, here’s what I’ve learned about blogging (and blog linking) since I started writing 5 months ago.

  1. Before you start blogging, you need to identify the ecosystem(s) in which you’re going to “evolve”. The Praized blog is part of multiple ecosystems: Above all, it is part of both the Local Search ecosystem and the Social Media ecosystem. But geographically, it’s also part of the Canadian bloggers ecosystem.
  2. Once you’ve identified your universe, you need to start reading blogs from these worlds. I follow updates through a RSS reader (I use Google home page, nothing fancy). I read about 40 to 50 active blogs (by active,I mean daily updates) that operates in those three worlds. You’ll find a good subset of these blogs in my blogroll (I have not updated it in a while).
  3. Pretty soon, you’ll want to start commenting in these blogs. This will allow you to find your voice.
  4. You’re ready to start blogging. Continue commenting in your ecosystem’s blogs and make sure you refer to other blogs when you find interesting news on them.

I’ve also found some interesting qualitative data about blog post “tagging” (the “Categories” in the right column), which might help you with search engine indexation, but that story is for another day…

Podcasting Trends & Ad Revenue Forecast: $400M in 2011

Details of a new eMarketer report on Podcasting have surfaced in Media Week (via Frank Barnako’s blog)

Highlights:

  • Spending on podcasting advertising will quintuple over the next five years, from a paltry $80 million base in 2006 to a $400 million market in 2011.
  • eMarketer analyst James Belcher expects that by 2008, (Google) will develop a version of AdSense that can be easily adapted to podcasts, theoretically allowing any podcaster to add advertising.
  • Market size: some 90,000 podcasts are available on the Web and there are close to 90 million iPods in the market
  • Just 12% of Americans report having ever consumed a podcast and just 1% do so regularly, which translates to roughly 3 million people.
  • Despite the small base of users, podcasting represents an attractive medium, given its targeting, its low cost and its obsessive/passionate user base but podcasting is thought of as a supplemental medium by advertisers.
  • Several major brands have jumped into the medium. Podtrac, a startup that’s building a podcasting network, has run podcast campaigns for Warner Bros., Paramount, Dell, T-Mobile, HBO, Honda and others, with most coming in the second half of last year.
  • A common complaint among buyers and sellers: it’s very difficult to measure exactly how many people actually listen to or view individual podcasts right now.

What it means: based on that information, podcasting is still very much a niche market. The winner will probably be the company that manages to aggregate enough ears or eyeballs to create critical mass. Standard measurements will also be key if pro podcasters want this to become a true media. Would love to know what my friend Mitch Joel, a pro podcaster with 38 “Six Pixels of Separation” podcasts under his belt, thinks of this new report.

Podcasting Trends & Ad Revenue Forecast: $400M in 2011

Details of a new eMarketer report on Podcasting have surfaced in Media Week (via Frank Barnako’s blog)

Highlights:

  • Spending on podcasting advertising will quintuple over the next five years, from a paltry $80 million base in 2006 to a $400 million market in 2011.
  • eMarketer analyst James Belcher expects that by 2008, (Google) will develop a version of AdSense that can be easily adapted to podcasts, theoretically allowing any podcaster to add advertising.
  • Market size: some 90,000 podcasts are available on the Web and there are close to 90 million iPods in the market
  • Just 12% of Americans report having ever consumed a podcast and just 1% do so regularly, which translates to roughly 3 million people.
  • Despite the small base of users, podcasting represents an attractive medium, given its targeting, its low cost and its obsessive/passionate user base but podcasting is thought of as a supplemental medium by advertisers.
  • Several major brands have jumped into the medium. Podtrac, a startup that’s building a podcasting network, has run podcast campaigns for Warner Bros., Paramount, Dell, T-Mobile, HBO, Honda and others, with most coming in the second half of last year.
  • A common complaint among buyers and sellers: it’s very difficult to measure exactly how many people actually listen to or view individual podcasts right now.

What it means: based on that information, podcasting is still very much a niche market. The winner will probably be the company that manages to aggregate enough ears or eyeballs to create critical mass. Standard measurements will also be key if pro podcasters want this to become a true media. Would love to know what my friend Mitch Joel, a pro podcaster with 38 “Six Pixels of Separation” podcasts under his belt, thinks of this new report.