Friday, November 18, 2005

Battelle on Web 2.0: A Contentless Boom?

John Battelle of FM Publishing has a great piece in The New York Times Op/Ed pages today on the meaning of the "Web 2.0" buzz and why today's frenzy for Web properties is not a boom with a false bottom. John's premise is sound in many ways and based on generally accepted facts: inexpensive or free software and high-speed network access, effective search engines, more self-funded efforts by the "geeks" themselves, the trend towards acquisitions instead of IPOs. But mysteriously the article does not once mention the key driver in today's Web marketplace - content. This is where many involved in the Web 2.0 frenzy lose sight of the true focus of today's Web environment, which has subsumed technology as a whole far further into the overall structure of media and publishing than had been the case ten years ago. Technology companies are still building the shovels with which publishing companies are going mining for gold, but increasingly the gold miners of content are coming out on top with viable monetization schemes for content. Add in user-generated media taking advantage of nearly free technology shovels and there are a broad array of publishers who are the true winners in this mix.

As in earlier Web efforts there will be media and technology companies that jump in with notions of how content works that prove to have as weak a false bottom as the original dot-com bubble. We may not see as many "build it and they will come" fiascos this time around but there is plenty of money chasing weak business plans and weak technology that need to be evaluated outside of the Web 2.0 rhetoric. Welcome again, folks, to Content 2.X, where both technology and traditional media companies need to start negotiating their value propositions with users and institutions who have come to understand the value of content better than themselves.
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