Mapping the future of business

I’m on the marketing trail for Uses of Blogs at the moment, and getting a few interviews on the value of social software and Web 2.0-style technologies in business futures. And it’s been fun to articulate my own vision of user-led markets; the playful marketspace where ideas are spawned and then let out in to the wilds of distrubuted networks, to be virally reproduced, modified, expanded, focused, adapted, mashed and finally, made obsolete. But the questions are always the same: how will businesses make money from these technologies? How do you generate a revenue stream from conversations?

I always struggle with these questions, but not because I don’t have any answers. Oh there are ways of making money. As a useful article in the Media section of The Australian noted yesterday, the percentage advertising spend being dedicated to online media channels is set to grow dramatically in the next 4 years. And micropayments as a business model for desired content does actually appear to be working for iTunes. But it’s not the monetisation of these technologies that is significant for the future of business. It’s what’s happening to the marketspace itself that matters. Consumer expectations are changing, consumer practices are altering dramatically. Not only are audiences for business products and services becoming more fickle in their consumption habits, they are becoming more informed about their choices. It’s not so much that Web 2.0 technologies are going to make organisations megabucks. It’s that they are going to evolve, whether companies adopt these technologies or not. If companies don’t appropriate and sensibly integrate these technologies then consumers will either develop their own space for discussing the company or the consumers will find a company that will provide them with the conversational marketspace they need.

The same goes for blogs. When I talk about blogs, people keep saying, “yes but most blogs I read are just utter garbage”. Well yes, of course a lot of blogs are terrible. But as Technorati’s slogan goes, “50 million blogs can’t all be bad”. And when it comes down to it, it’s not that blogs are necessarily good, but the fact that they’re there. Businesses need to consider blogs and Web 2.0 technologies not as a silver bullet to business problems of siloisation and a fragmented consumer base, but as a channel for understanding different aspects of human needs and desires.

This needs another blog entry which I will attempt this weekend, but for a long time I’ve been convinced that when it comes to business in the information age, we have a tendency to attempt to measure the wrong things. Web 2.0 technologies (and blogs as a subset of these) should not be measured by collective quality or activity, hits or visitors. They should be acknowledged as evidence of a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour and a revolution in content production when compared with the media landscape of even a decade ago. That’s why they fascinate me 🙂

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