UK AOP: The social web

Another panel discussion here at AOP, now talking about the social web. Simon Waldman, of the Guardian Media Group, moderated the panel.

The panel:

  • Tom Bureau, CNET Networks UK
  • Adriana Cronin-Lukas, Big Blog Company
  • Lloyd Shepherd, Yahoo!

Tom talked about CNET Networks UK. They try to create ‘architected participation’. They will look at Gamespot. One of the biggest interactive, online-only publishers with about 115 million unique users each month. They have, CNet and other sites.

It’s important to think about who you serve. There is only a small sliver of groups who will contribute, but they are very important. They are not trying to be AOL, Yahoo or MSN to cover everyone. What they are trying to do is to focus on the top third of level of passion/expertise and numbers. They are not trying to reach the ‘true freaks’ but with ‘avid contributors’ with a very deep way. They want to create value for the smart consumer (probably people like me with the obsessive-compulsive comparative shopping gene).

They have to be aware of brand sensitities both ours and our clients. Also, they are looking at challenges with quality, appropriateness and relationship to their core mission. He talked about MySpace and Bebo issues of size of community and ‘child care’.

He also talked about the issue of centre of gravity. Without a centre of gravity, they wither, eg Friendster. You give people are a reason to return.

Systematic approach for created architected participation

  • Draw in passionate and high value users
  • Solicit their knowledge and get them to contribute and translate that to the broader audience.
  • Encourage them to make contributions and connections

He gave the example of Gamespot UK. Globally, it reaches 30m unique users. First thing they realised, users create content everyday, their use, their links. They created a product called Gamespot Trax, a real-time reporting tool. You can find out an enormous amount of what they are doing. They use this information to focus on what content they need. They have to register. They have to use site for several weeks. They must use drop downs. They set a barrier to entry.

They promote user content. They encourage them to create better content. They create an identity for themselves. They have over 3000 ‘editors’ on Halo Union.

Your profile is your social identity. They have blog levels. Profiles. They are encouraged to set up their own identity. She can contact and track others and start to make social contacts. Real life connections hapen. People take their online contacts to make offline social connection. Someone set up a Gamespot UK Frapper map. How many users are using your site and for what period? That is the new metric.

Adriana and the social web and Web 2.0. Changing attitudes and behaviour. This is not about technology but a developing culture. This about creating content and distributing it like never before. The one trend driving this on all sorts of fronts. The consumer is no more. The monolithic is no more. People are contributing. Does this technology allow people to do what they could not do before?

Control was always a delusion and you were never were able to control the context for the content. The process of distibution on relaying a message to the final audience has been disrupted.

We’ll be right back after these imporant message. Feel free to go fuck yourself in the meantime.

from a Hugh McLeod business card

Channels and networks. In the early days, ots of people see the internete as another channel. TV, print, radio and internet are just seen as another distribution channel. But the internet is a sea for the other channels. It is creating leaks from these other channels. We all swim in the same pool. The internet is not a one way channel.

All of the other pipelines have a particular business model. The current model is based on pipelins. Media makes society one way. Internet is many-to-many. The internet is interconnected. We are all networked even in the offline world to some extent. Why does thi matter? Online if aster. Change is being amplified faster. The balance of power between the broadcaster and the audience is changing.

Social media: Blogs, RSS, wikis, live search. The social aspect is far more important than technological.

The demand side, the customer, the consumer is now supplying itself. It is no longer a straight forward supply-demand curve. She pointed to the rise of the amateur professional. First came the geeks, then the news junkies, then the teenagers and now anyone. It is not mainstream as in the mainstream media, but it is mainstream. The network is more dense. The amateur professional is someone who uses their knowledge but uses social media tools. You can’t cry that these aren’t amateurs. They are professionals.

Why talking about social media? We’ve had new media for a long time. People used to pigeon hole me into new media. The progression from old media to new media means that old media is moving to the digital space. The pivot where new media and social media meet is the individual.

Where’s the business model? New media doesn’t change the core competency of the media. Google sells reach. Amazon sells reviews. eBay sells reputation. It goes back to what O’Reilly said this morning that we are selling something but it might not be what we think.

She said that media used to sell eyeballs to advertisers, but now they are trying to sell content as audiences flee.

The internet is a network. Users are rerouting around the gatekeepers.

One things she said really resonated with me:

Content is never finished. The ultimate audience is gone.

Lloyd Shepherd with Yahoo! finished up the round of talks. He started off with a couple of quotes defining social media, one from Tom Coates of Plasticbag:

The age of social media then is probably about a fusing of these two

ways of thinking – the communicative and the publishing/creative parts

of the internet – into something new and powerful. It’s an environment

in which every user is potentially a creator, a publisher and a

collaborator with (and to) all of the other creative people on the


(I don’t think this is the quote of Tom’s that Lloyd actually used, but it’s a good one.)

He then quoted a blog in an article called the Myth of Social Media:

Social media is just one metaphor for the way that humans tend to

coalesce into various thought collectives. Let’s not forget that we’ve

been doing this for millennia anyway – mainly in offline mode. And the

jury is still out on whether social networks can establish anything

beyond weak, loosely-coupled relationships;

Lloyd then walked us through all of Yahoo’s social media sites, including Yahoo 360, Yahoo groups (800,000 groups in Europe alone), messenger, MyWeb and, of course, Flickr and He credited Flickr with unlocking and spurring a lot of social media and interface design at Yahoo. They just launched a feature in the US called The 9 (note the video automatically loads on launch and note Suw, number 6 is Chocolate: It’s what’s for dinner). The programme is the top 9 videos on the web based on what users think.

One of the interesting things things that Lloyd talked about were some interesting mixed community-driven or user-generated content advertising campaigns. One was on the Yahoo! France for the launch of the Ford S-Max. They gave 10 people a S-Max for a week, and asked them to blog about it. The person who had the most popular blog won the car. After a week, the bloggers had posted 1200 photos, 168 posts, 15 videos and 3 podcasts. Wow.

They also had a contest called Get Your Freak On and had people do their own versions of a Shakira video. The most popular user video got as many views as Shakira’s video.

In the Q&A, one of the questions about the attention economy: How do keep relevant with all of these new bits of content out there?

Adriana said watch what the individual is doing. I’d follow that my network is my filter. So much of what I read, watch and listen to come from recommendations from my friend. My social network points me in the direction of articles that I’ll be interested in either in e-mails or IM conversations. I was slightly surprised that this wasn’t brought up. But a former BBC colleague said that she was surprised that no one has mentioned RSS today. I would be drowing in information if it wasn’t for RSS, and I’m constantly looking for better tools to manage those feeds. But in the meantime, my friends are my filter. And they are a damn spot better than the EPG on TV.