At is core social media is about human communications returning to normal levels of discourse that may have been forgotten in the push to cash in on electronic content – and that will require more sophisticated monetization models than those being pursued by most media companies.
Call it the trivialization of publishing, if you will, the demystifying of the erstwhile black art that has allowed individuals and institutions to create their own tiny publishing bubbles at will. Some micropublishing plays will come and go with hardly a whisper and others will be able to grow into superstar status with or without help from traditional media outlets.
The trivialization of publishing was on display also at ContentNext’s EconSM conference in Los Angeles last week. There were lots of great insights presented at this event from some of the leading thinkers in entertainment and business media, but the truth of the matter is that few of these people seemed to have very compelling ideas about how they were going to monetize social media.
It was mostly back to talk of “stickiness” and roll-in ads for video clips – very conventional fare. Nowhere in this mix was the dirty little secret uttered: you’re going to have to have to reward audiences who create and distribute popular social media content. So as much as these executives were speaking volumes about how they “get” social media they are not very close to “getting” the business models that are going to be required to make the most of its value.
Tiny bubbles will get tiny rewards – rewards that sometimes will grow into big rewards, but in general rewards that will have a hard time filling the office buildings along Wilshire Boulevard or the Avenue of the Americas with well-heeled media executives.
This is where the talk of “farm teams” emerging from social media to feed major content producers stumbles somewhat. Social media talent may fact make its way from social media into mainstream publishing to some significant degree as Vaudevillians used to make their way to Hollywood, but to a larger extent we’re seeing mainstream publishing talent establishing their own social media outlets to gain independent credibility for their skills.
We’re also witnessing corporations establishing both social media and more traditional media content via their own Web sites, obviating to some degree the need to employ mediation to get their branding and insights incorporated into the public’s thinking.
In other words, social media is becoming the destination content of choice, content that can be accelerated to the peak of its market value with little or no help from traditional media experts. Social media is folk art unbound. The next Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash or Buddy Holly may never have to stray far from their roots to become a folk sensation. Or they may be happy just being who they are with whatever audience comes along.
The deployment of tools such as feed readers and widgets that accelerate user-generated content aggregation capabilities only emphasizes this trend. Before social media major media producers could at least feel comfortable in the knowledge that they had some control over the venues in which content could be found: now content can be assembled by anyone anywhere from virtually any source.
Not only do tiny bubbles reign, they also can appear in whatever glass we choose. So if personal and enterprise users control the production, the distribution and the aggregation of content and infrastructure companies like Google control the contextualization, what’s left at the bottom of the glass of bubbly for today’s media companies?
In the words of the late Johnny Cash: hurt…