There are two items in the news today that I can’t help but link together as harbingers of something. Let’s see if by the end of this post I can figure out harbingers of what.
GeoCities preceded MySpace and Facebook as the way for common folk to create a presence on the Web. I don’t think GeoCities was quite the phenom that its offspring are, but I do think that it suffered from the same problem that MySpace and Facebook are struggling with — namely the lack of a decent business model. Unless, of course, you count getting bought by a bigger company as a business model.
When Rupert Murdock bought MySpace, at the time I thought he was getting suckered by the same deal that suckered Time Warner into AOL. I also tend to think the same thing about Google’s purchase of YouTube, and when Facebook gets bought, I will probably think it is also sucker deal.
The premise of these deals is that there is a direct relationship between traffic/eyeballs/impressions and economic value. I’m sure at one time this was true, but I’m not so sure it is true any longer.
I do know there is value in commercial relationships — the most fundamental being the relationship between a buyer and a seller. But I wouldn’t describe the relationship between Facebook and its users as a commercial relationship.
It is extremely problematic to change the terms of a relationship once it is established. That’s the problem that Facebook and its ilk are facing. Their’s is not a commercial relationship with their users, and to try and commercialize the relationship is to change the terms under which they achieved the very thing that makes them attractive to Big Media.
Which, of course, brings us to MyMindshare, which establishes and facilitates commercial relationships with and among its users.