Friday, December 21, 2012

Like it or Not, News Paywalls are Here to Stay - for Some.

With news that +The New York Times is now turning more digital subscription dollars than ad dollars, the media world is crowing about the concept of online paywalls for digital content. Clearly paywalls have helped the NYT to turn away losses from plummeting print subscriptions and to modulate the limits of online ad revenues diluted by the ocean of online outlets available for advertisers. When you have the right brand, the right community and the right information and experiences, paywall content pays, no question.

The main question, though, is how many news organizations fit that profile, and will they be willing to be as sophisticated in their implementation of outlets for paywalled content as The New York Times. Gannett's +USA TODAY, for example, has no regional footprint or other niche demographics behind which cohesive, high-value cohorts might huddle in a paywalled service. And few news outlets have the depth of staffs focused on hard-to-replicate relationships with newsmakers that make The New York Times' brand resonate with both its readers and the people about whom they read. With the combination of those three legs - demographics, high brand value and exclusive access to newsmakers - there's not doubt that many news organizations will have a core of strengths from which to build high-value online subscription news communities.

However, a core is just the start for defining success in subscription paywall news services. The New York Times has also lead in creating ways for consuming its news that can enable them to see the NYT as a style leader, also. When someone flicks open a copy of a premium newspaper such as the NYT, +The Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times in public, it's a lifestyle statement as much as their business suits or other  demographic-appropriate attire might be. It fits the image. Your average Web news site has no image-making substance - it just puts up words and multimedia on pretty standard Web pages. The sidelines of multimedia shows that are available may help them to differentiate their content for click-sensitive viewing of ad-supported content, but people need a lot more bling than that to make them feel not-uncool as people peek at what they're looking at on their tablets and touch-screen laptops.

Hence we have to credit the NYT for iterating rapidly on new versions of its mobile apps, providing a much slicker look, better touch-screen design and more usable multimedia via these apps. It's trial of Compendium, a stab at Pinterest-like sharing of NYT-only content, is slick-looking, although rather silly in its focus on only NYT content. Yes, this "reinforces the brand," but it's also rather an insult to readers who actually do have the ability to be influenced by more than just their own content. But even at that, the fact that a major newspaper is taking a stab at enabling users to become news aggregators in the most modern style is probably the first respectable attempt to get decent social media integration in a major newspaper since the +Houston Chronicle started hosting community bloggers years ago.

So with tech pieces that help their audiences to feel in style with other news consumers, the core of subscription paywalls targeted at the right demographics with the right exclusive content can begin to come alive. But even with this, news media companies are still pretty much just sewing together the pieces of old news flesh and bones into new forms like Dr. Frankenstein in his lab. What's still missing in the news business is an acceptance that their most valuable asset is not the news itself but the people who consume and make their news. Yes, they have always understood it from an advertising standpoint, but to news organizations content has always been about editorial operations. The spark that brings the new news monster to life is us.

Its the data and metadata that publishers are able to collect from their communities that's the real gold, and this is value behind news subscription paywalls that's largely untapped to date. Companies like Google will continue to have overall advantages in gathering this "signal" from audiences, but news media companies need not be out of this mix altogether. Editorial needs to be an agnostic information broker more at the intersection of gathering and interpreting signal from its subscribers' own online publishing, its valuable newsmaking contacts and the ocean of Web content from both people and sensor technologies that report information into the Web moment by moment every day. When subscription communities can get the most value from understanding when signal is news, they win - and they'll pay.

So yes, paywalls are with us to stay, but that's not to say that the work is done. We're still at the very early phases of shifting how news is made, what's newsworthy, and how news brands are formed in an era in which mobile content platforms are changing how people relate to news. There are many ingredients that will make it work well. Don't just look at the numbers that the NYT can generate and say, "Well, the time has come for paywalls." Look carefully at all of the ingredients required to maximize your success - and be ready to invest in them.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bloomberg/LinkedIn Deal: A Hit or The AOL/TimeWarner of B2B?

Normally I'd advise consumer tech journalists to take a seat rather than to go off analyzing B2B information services, but then  comes up with a pretty good take on Bloomberg's prospective acquisition of LinkedIn. While Bloomberg, LP grew to a multi-billion dollar B2B information empire based on financial and government information markets, LinkedIn has managed to become a going concern with $12 billion in market capitalization, and CNET points out that based on a Merrill Lynch share purchase of Bloomberg in 2008 its market cap is around $22.5 billion. That makes Bloomberg a bigger fish, but not that much bigger.

However, this math can be misleading. Merrill had had an interest in Bloomberg from its founding, and the stock event in 2008 was more a matter of converting that interest into a more fungible form. That doesn't make the market cap estimate wrong, necessarily, but you have to take it with a grain of salt, especially since it's an event from four years ago. The key factor here is cash. As a private and closely held company, Bloomberg LP's cash position is pretty opaque. Based on the history of similar companies like Reuters, they could have a pretty hefty cash mountain that its investors are now trying to figure out how to deploy. 

With that in mind, with its near lock on business information contacts and networking, LinkedIn is the Web's cash cow for B2B networking. B2B networking has formed the core of Bloomberg's value proposition since its inception, albeit with very different technologies and focus. What Bloomberg understands explicitly is that if you own the contact network and the conversation, your information services are built on the strongest anchor possible. LinkedIn is that anchor for the business world at large. So, as it has started to do in government markets,  Bloomberg can use LinkedIn networking as the core of communicating business opportunities with real-time communications and sophisticated analytics on a whole new level.

Yes, there are sure to be cultural differences, but fewer than you may think. LinkedIn is first and foremost a data company - its profiles were the first to provide really detailed, normalized tagging and categorization, the heart of its platform's real power. Its social media elements are powerful, but it's the data structure of LinkedIn that provides its real market differentiation.And LinkedIn figured out that you need a lot of content, especially real-time social content, to make those profiles attractive destinations and to capture information to provide more meaningful matching of services and interests. That's something that would be a huge plus with Bloomberg premium services wrapped around this capability.

But most importantly, if you have a cash mountain to invest in B2B media, there's not really any other company worth purchasing of that scale that would give Bloomberg a brighter future. Most major B2B information companies are slow growth/no growth companies that are challenged to reinvent themselves based on aging business models. Why not invest in information that ties every business sector together and can pave the way for more advanced business information services for specific verticals? Seems reasonable - especially if you can also wrap editorial content form sources like FT around it.

It's hard to say if such a deal will actually come to fruition, and the powerful Bloomberg culture built up around very strong personalities may indeed wind up having a hard time reconciling itself with online business culture and its own strong personalities. You may wind up with a new AOL/Time Warner fiasco, certainly, if that comes to be. But if "synergy" is a misused word in many major mergers, this may be an instance where it makes eminent sense. Both of these companies have mature and vibrant business models, and clear points of intersection where they can leverage off of one another well. If the "people issues" can be managed well, I think that this combo has a far greater chance of long-term success than anything that Dow Jones or Thomson Reuters is cooking up. Let's see what happens. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Programmatic Ad Networks: Threat to Editorial Models?

The New York Times posted a nice summary on programmatic ad buying, a rapidly emerging breed of online display ad auctioning that targets the people visiting a site more specifically than typical ad-serving systems. Briefly, programmatic ad networks learn about what you've been clicking on and reading about and tries to match ads to your expressed interests wherever you go on the Web.

So, to take the example on the right, I was investigating free-install solar panel systems online recently, and sure enough when I go to all sorts of ad-supported Web sites I see ads from a supplier of these systems whose Web site I visited. The advertiser bids for my ad space in real-time, so as the ads are being inserted into a Web page the system is choosing which bidder will get to put their ads up in programmatic ad spaces on their site.

The key factor here is that the editorial content of the Web site using programmatic ads generally has little to do with the ad that's displayed. For example, I was visiting general news Web sites when I saw these solar panel ads - not some other site related to this topic. In other words, since my interest in this type of product is fresh, the advertiser wants to keep it on the top of my mind as much a possible in the time immediately after my visit to their site, regardless of what I choose to focus on at a given moment. I think of it a bit like the movie "Minority Report," the science fiction film which portrays personally targeted ads of the future following us around on digital displays wherever we go.

Apparently programmatic ads work very well, and understandably so. While the context of editorial content certainly can provide very important content that can qualify an audience based on their immediate interests, the combination of focus and intent relating to purchasing things may not relate to that content's editorial profile with the precision that a programmatic ad system can provide. In other words, my profile as a reader at a Web site may contain any number demographic features and metadata based on my use of its content, but none of those may indicate where my focus and intent is regarding purchasing things in a given moment. Programmatic ad auctioning enables the key element of time to be added to an analysis of buyers' focus and intent, perhaps using editorial content as a general filter for excluding the value of a bid in certain circumstances but in general going with the data that they have in hand already to follow a reader into a Web site.

On the surface this may seem to explode centuries of efforts by newspapers and magazines to tailor editorial content to appeal to specific demographics in order to convince advertisers that they have appeal to those demographics on a consistent basis. But if revenues are no longer tied in lockstep to how editorial content can attract ad content, then it does open up the potential for different typed of editorial filters. Just as today there are tools like Inbound Writer that help publishers to tune their editorial output to key words and trends found on the Web in a given moment, perhaps programmatic ad networks will spawn a generation of tools that will help publishers to match a day's given editorial content to real-time ad demand. In other words, if it's between writing about fracking for natural gas or going green with solar, perhaps solar wins on the day that I and others were poking about for more information in places monitored by programmatic ad auctioning networks.

The NYT article highlights some of the usual whinging from journalists about this type of ad program, but I am not sure that it's wholly warranted. The old models of matching and selling ads to mass-market or niche market editorial content via display ad services has been in decline for a long time anyway, in part because of the very problem that programmatic ad networks are addressing. Publishers may know about what readers do when they show up at their Web sites, but they really don't know what we really do with our lives on a moment by moment basis. That's the purview of platforms provided by the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple, where the lion's share of online time is spent by the average Web-centric content consumer.

Google focuses especially on this type of insight; in essence they give away most of what they create to gather signal on who we are, what we do and what our focus and intent is at any given time; hence, Google Now, the new Android-based service that kicks out content onto phones and tablets automatically based on their analysis of what we might be interested in next. You might say that Google Now is trying to out-guess the predictive ad network technologies and push the content to us that's most likely to engage us before we ever go to look at it.

While editorial content is still very important, publishers rarely lead the online content industry in developing services that make use of content and experiences beyond their own editorial output. They're like storekeepers who "know" people who come in to their store based on the interactions that they have with them there, but have little idea what their lives are really like once they leave the store. Smart shopkeepers make it a point to learn those dimensions of their clients' lives, but with many major media sites not even bothering to integrate effective commenting systems, many don't really get the concept very strongly. By contrast, programmatic ad networks are like a shopkeeper who stalks someone who was just browsing in their store all over town. A bit creepy in real life, perhaps, but done right with the subtleties of Web communications, it can work well.

Clearly this type of ad placement technology is in its early days and the matching needs to be improved with enhanced signals and semantic processing of those signals. and editorial content can be a big part of that effort. Given the chase for search engine optimization that many publishers have been addressing in recent years, this is a challenge that may not seem unfamiliar to many of them. They could learn a lot more about their readers' behavior in general through whatever signal they can have their hands on. Unfortunately much of their needed signal is locked up in platforms like Android and Apple phones and tablets and Chrome and Internet Explorer browsers. So perhaps a good part of the answer is just writing the very best content that you can and get links into it on as many search engines and social media platforms as they can - in other words, accept that you don't really know who you're writing for all that well, but say what needs to be said. It wouldn't be the end of the publishing world if ad networks did all of the heavy lifting and writers did what they do best, after all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Google Drive and the Disappearing Desktop

After a wave of leaks this week, Google is now preparing to introduce its new Google Drive service, timed to support their annual Google I/O 2012 developers conference. Google Drive is on one level just a catch-up product offering for Google, which will compete with the likes of Dropbox and other online personal file storage services that have been available for years. Google itself has been enabling its Google Docs users for some time to upload files of any kind to its document management service, so the concept isn't even particularly revolutionary from its own perspective, either.

So, why all the fuss about Google Drive? Well, for one thing, it fulfills a long-ago promised move by Google towards a "cloud drive" file management service that could be a direct extension of our desktops. "GDrive" never surfaced, though, perhaps in part because at the time it wasn't really advancing the interests of other Google products in any significant way. Storage is a commodity business, after all, and when the GDrive concept first surfaced, Google's Android and Chrome OS operating systems for mobile, in-home and desktop computers weren't even on the drawing boards. For that matter, even Google's Chrome browser wasn't around when GDrive was first rumored in 2004.

But now Google does have two operating systems, as well as the highly popular Chrome browser that runs on Windows PCs, Apple's OSX for its Mac PCs, Android and Linux. Chrome's availability on Apple's iOS mobile operating system for mobile phones and tablets is doubtful any time soon, though, because Apple refuses to support apps that use the video playback formats that Chrome supports. It doesn't appear that the new Google Drive is dependent on Chrome for installation; though; early screen shots of the implementation show links to download platform-specific apps that don't seem to reference Chrome in any way. For each of the platforms on which Google Drive is deployed, there is a piece of software available that will map that computer's hard drive management services to the cloud storage in Google Drive.

With an initial 5 gigabytes of free storage, it's designed to attract Dropbox customers who get a 2GB allocation for free up front. But while the short term bogies for Google Drive are services like Dropbox, Google has much larger fish to fry via cloud storage - namely, revenues and strategic market share. First, on the revenues side, the fees for storage will be relatively tiny, but the real opportunity is to place ads and other materials related to content stored on Google Drive. It's all part of understanding what make us tick, to be sure, though one imagines that this will be done carefully and discretely - and probably not even as a part of Google Drive itself, necessarily. Information gathered one place can be used in another, after all, and with its mobile services Google has a lot of places to apply those insights.

But the strategic opportunity is perhaps even more interesting. If you look at how Chrome OS is evolving in its most recent iterations, you can see that Chrome is becoming a desktop environment of its own for launching Web-based apps, with or without the full features of a Chrome browser. Most of these Web apps work via the "cloud," using browser-delivered code to run Web-centric apps, though some use the advanced features of HTML 5 to enable their use offline. But clearly the design of this latest version of Chrome OS is intended to demonstrate that cloud-based services from Google and other Web apps providers can act as a full-featured replacement for desktop and mobile PCs. Add Google Drive to the picture and the ability of Web apps to replace desktop software in managing one's files becomes that much more complete.

This desktop view for Chrome OS is not available in browsers that are used on other devices like PCs - it's only seen on Chromebook laptop computers sold by Samsung, Acer, and, soon, Sony and others. , as well as those who install the Chromium open source version Chrome OS on other devices. But one wonders how long that will be true. It seems highly likely that Google may make available its desktop view to people using the Chrome browser on other devices such as Windows PCs and Macs. In other words, once you've captured everyone's file system in the cloud for seamless integration with cloud services, the desire to use platform-specific software becomes increasingly dimmer.

The special twist to this story may come over time as Google begins to integrate Chrome with its Android operating system. Today, Chrome OS launches only Web-based apps; if you want to launch Android apps, well, you'll have to use a device running Android to access them. But how much longer will it be before we'll be able to integrate and launch Android apps on devices equipped with Chrome and Chrome OS? Already Chrome supports Native Client, a capability that enables programs written in non-Web programming languages to be launched from Chrome browsers. A well-"sandboxed" approach to launching Android apps in Chrome may lead to the Chrome desktop integrating both Web and Android apps for people's use.

Conversely, though, it could be that increasingly Web apps begin to take over many functions previously reserved for platform-specific apps such as Android apps. As HTML 5 gets more "hooks" into devices living beyond the Web cloud, the interfaces to drive touch screens, sensors, cameras and other equipment will make native Web apps development and launching look more appealing.

The long and the short of all of this is that Google Drive is far more than just a place to store your files. It's a critical piece in Google's rapidly evolving puzzle to deliver Web-centric services that are intended virtually every computing platform available today. If you're developing software and information services and you're not looking more seriously at exploiting the leading edge of what's possible in Web apps, then you're likely to miss the peak of this wave. Platform-specific software will be with us for many years to come, but with Google Drive the stage has been set for the traditional device desktop to disappear into the cloud in a bigger way than ever before.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rethinking Sports Brands: Lessons from NASCAR's Reinvention

What does NASCAR have to do with content?

Quite a bit, actually - something that you may know already if you've followed our blog through the years. If you have, you know that Shore defines content as information and experiences in which  audiences may find value in specific contexts. Well, NASCAR stock car racing certainly provides some thrilling experiences for audiences in some valuable contexts, as well as plenty of information. So yes, NASCAR is all about smoking tires and go-fast action, but mostly it's a content business. And as with many content businesses, it's had challenges during the recent economic slump that have had NASCAR scrambling to understand what they're doing right and what they could do better.

As The New York Times related recently, NASCAR's evaluation of their pluses and minuses revealed some troubling patterns. One of the patterns that emerged was that it was an events service that was viewed very differently by the various constituents who provide support for the events and by the people who come to see them. Most particularly, there had emerged a fairly significant disconnect between how NASCAR and its supporting racing teams and sponsors had been communicating with newer audiences for their sport. It turns out that many of the assumptions of NASCAR's marketing communications were focused around long-time fans of stock car racing.

Some of NASCAR's fuzzy assumptions revolved around the core of things that had changed quite a bit in the sport itself. In earlier generations, folks that frequented NASCAR events were often "gearheads," people who may have tinkered under the hood of their own cars to soup up their performance or just to keep them working. Today, even if you are a gearhead, modern cars aren't designed with the tinkerer in mind - unless you happen to be into engine computer chip programming. Even if you are into high-tech auto performance, the upper limits of performance enhancement for oval track racing were reached decades ago. So for both the old-timer and the newcomer, the tech of NASCAR was not as accessible or motivating as it used to be. It's mostly about "shake and bake" - the action on the track that has to be tight and exciting as much as possible.

With that in mind, NASCAR has had to take a look at how it was engaging its audiences to build excitement around its brand. One key aspect that needed to be addressed was social media communications for the sports' drivers and key figures. Tweets and posts were encouraged from these people, so that fans could identify more with the individual personalities that drive the sport. The other key factor they recognized, though was that their media and advertising partners had goals that weren't necessarily reinforcing their own goals. Its deal with Turner Sports will lapse in 2013, enabling NASCAR to user their online Web site to collect video that highlights NASCAR from all sources. In the spirit of "There's no such thing as bad PR," NASCAR sees that if you want your brand to thrive, an agnostic approach to content aggregation that reinforces your core brand value is a must for reaching younger audiences in online markets.

And what else might happen once they get back control of their Web presence in 2013? Well, certainly Major League Baseball's approach to online marketing of its sport indicates that there are some transitions required for emphasizing online channels that are exciting but not always easy to navigate. MLB's "AtBat" package of cross-platform streaming video of its games provides an alternative for channeling the live experience of baseball to its fans on whatever device might be in front of their eyes at a given moment. But "AtBat" has a big hole in its offering - contracts with local cable companies and broadcast TV stations restrict them from offering at-home games on the service. So although MLB leads the way in many ways for defining their product's own brand via its own online media channels, the transition to an all-online approach to sports media is still a work in progress.

NASCAR has similar problems short-term with streaming video that hold back the value of its TRACKPASS online events content, which provides a rich mix of streaming audio and data during live racing and some video coverage of qualifying heats, but which sidesteps the live events themselves in favor of its main media channel partners. After 2013, though, one wonders how much longer that will last. The rapidly evolving world of cross-platform streaming Web content is pushing content brands such as NASCAR inevitably into much more independent modes of distribution of its content - and, therefore, better integration of its knowledge of fans and their ability to deliver valuable audiences for marketers via that knowledge.

Finally, though, comes the key question: maybe gearheads are a lost constituency that need to be regained in new ways. New forms of automotive technology such as battery-powered autos are pitting auto makers against one another in ways that are reminiscent of how Apple, Google, Microsoft and others go after one another in the online platform wars. There are plenty of people out there that dig technology on wheels, be it in your hand with a screen or in your hand with a steering wheel. The key link missing in NASCAR's strategy seems to be with the auto brands, which could be contributing a lot more oomph in NASCAR as a platform for distinguishing how their products really differ from one another.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen to NASCAR go-fast culture is to go back to cars that are a lot more like the real cars that we drive. Given that autos themselves are becoming their own form of online content platforms, it would bring new meaning to the old NASCAR axiom "Race on Sunday, sell on Monday" if they were to find ways to link people's on-the-road experience of an auto brand to the race version of similar models via content services. Special streaming services for Ford owners from the Ford-based auto teams, perhaps? If you leave the cars out of car racing, all you really have is a wrestling match on wheels. Chip in more foreign brands and you'd have people rooting for their favorite car brands again, perhaps.

So although NASCAR's challenges are somewhat unique to their sport, they point towards a wide array of common challenges that sports brands face. It's about channels, social media conversations and a more careful look at the "geek" of each sport that turns on as many people as possible from as many angles as possible. The reinvention of NASCAR is far from over, even as many sports relearn how to appeal to their audiences at a time when entertainment spending is tied more than ever to online spending and experiences. We're always glad to help folks in those transitions, of course.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Search Plus Your Ads: Google+ Pages and Users Offer Search Juice and Ad Juice

It's interesting how Google+ ties in to AdWords campagns and organic search results in Google Search. If you're an advertiser, you can get a +1 next to your AdWords ad in Google search results, but only if you've set up a Google+ Page for your business that links to the ad's Web site. In other words, feed Google+ and we'll feed you Google search juice when people click on the +1 link in your ads.

While I am sure that there may be some "don't be evil" blowback on this, I can see their point. If you're a spammer or low-grade advertiser, setting up a Page in Google+ that you don't bother to maintain to attract an audience degrades the value of Google+ and won't likely improve the value of search results - or the value of a click-through.

If you do a good job of maintaining a Page, then it's more likely that people in your social network with a common interest will have given a +1 to their ad, and therefore you're more likely to see someone's personal endorsement with the ad, as well as content from Google+ associated with the ad in organic search results and people associated with the advertiser from Google+ in the Search-Plus-Your--World version of Google search results.

To get a quick feel of what this combination looks like, try searching for "Rackspace" - if you're following me you'll see my +1 of the Rackspace ad at the top of the search results and some content form me in the organic search results, as well as people on Google+ who work at/with Rackspace - including, of course, Robert Scoble.

Click on the Personal Results link at the top and you'll see not only people's Google+ posts about your ad-keyed search result but also Web content that people in Google+ have posted or shared on the Web that relates to the search term. It's like a People-centric version of PageRank, if you will.

This all related to what Google terms "Zero Moment of Truth" marketing - trying to being together the most personally influential resources when people are using Google search to research a purchase or a company. Our own research here at Shore as well as many other studies show that trusted peers are the greatest influencers in purchasing decisions.

So SPYW is trying to curate both Google+ content and Web content that relates to that more personal view of decision-making - and, since it's what people value most in decision-making, making it a default view. This transforms the nature of an AdWords link. Instead of clicking into that ad link blind, it's now surrounded with content from trusted peers and links to people associated with that advertiser.

In a a world in which a brand is ultimately a trusted relationship, this "circle of trust" then invites someone to click on that ad link with a whole different set of motivators that are both emotional and rational. Instead of the ad having to be the emotional trigger to click on it out of greed or fear, there is an element of trust and emotional bonding that acts as an ultimately more powerful motivator to make the person more willing to move into a transaction frame of mind with the advertiser on a social and financial level.

While there are somewhat similar things that happen with Facebook ads and pages, there is nowhere near the layering of sophisticated motivations for influential engagement that you find in this SPYW engagement model. It will take more active engagement from advertisers to make it work, mind you, but that's probably not a bad thing.

And clearly to make it work most effectively it should include more social signals from other major social networks. That, of course, will require the cooperation of those networks, which, given that they're chasing the same ad dollars, may not happen any time soon. It will also take people providing an authoritative map of how their Google+ profiles map to their other social media profiles, so that there can be a good correlation of content that's really relevant to a person's network.

So this is the beginning of a new era in search - an era that recognizes that the Web has become The Second Web, a Web of people, places and things, contextualized most effectively by the people, places and things whose influence we trust the most. Google+ profiles are tokens for the people in this new world of search that link us to their content both in Google and on the Web; our mobile sharing of content and locations via Google+ helps to provide the places quotient for search, and Google+ Pages provide the things tokens.

Yes, Google did just reinvent search for a whole new world of marketing, but they had to, given the shifting nature of the Web becoming a world that lives in the Web. All of the information that people want to access on the Web will still be there to access. But rather than to try to eliminate the Web in a walled garden like Facebook or provide mostly mass-media oriented social signals that Twitter provides, this approach from Google enables the Web to be contextualized in a Web of relationships as never before. 

Assuming that the evil quotient remains low, that could be a good thing, and, if other social signals can be added, even better. But it will be a tricky road to travel in proving that so. For now, it's an interesting and welcome improvement.