Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Relationship Economy: Be Humble--Be Of Use

The good thing about covering the Internet for 15 years is that you can recall so selectively all of the brilliant things executives said about this space eons ago that finally have come true. I recall that about a decade ago, Rufus Griscom, founder of the adult content site NERVE.COM, launched a fee-based personals network that partnered with a number of major media sites. What Rufus told me then makes more sense now:

People won’t necessarily pay for content online, but they will pay to connect with one another.

Rufus Griscom was getting at something that future Internet historians are sure to unearth about our early years of digital missteps. One of the gross miscalculations media executives made about the Internet was they saw it first and foremost as a publishing platform, while consumers were really embracing digital as a communications platform. Consumers saw something even better and more addictive: a supercharged telephone. While publishers and developers sought their “killer app” for the Web, users had already found it in (wait for it) e-mail.

The rise of the social networks and social media, the new raw power of person-to-person connectivity online, shouldn’t surprise us—but of course it does. The seeds of this revolution were there from the beginning and, as always, most media companies are frantically playing catch-up. The default position in being “sociable” online is to become a user’s “friend.” While it is not necessarily a bad initial strategy, most brands are going through a rather predictable stage of recruiting T witter followers and gaining Facebook “fans” as a way of leveraging the social network channels.

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