Oct 23, 2009

The Golden Road (to Online Distribution)

The technology industry has a seeming lack of institutional memory - the constant cycle of invention and reinvention while barely looking to the past. It's so optimistic in nature.

But we sometimes need to look to the past to sharpen our pattern recognition. We started betaworks by specifically looking at the past, and using that look back to come up not only with a specific and focused view of online media but also a corporate structure to enable us to optimize our participation in future innovation.

Don't yet know how fully right or wrong we are, but we believe we are in the very beginnings of the fourth major road (or phase) of online media distribution and innovation (where the words "online" "media" and "distribution" are each broadly defined). Each of these roads bleed into one another, to the point where its hard to tell when one is transforming into another, but generally each phase seems to last 10 years before the next emerges at scale:

1. The first phase was the ISP phase - where content and distribution were optimized (monopolized?) thru the ISP onramps. ISPs provided access and attempted to provide services and content.

2. The second phase was characterized by portals (AOL and the like) - the idea and philosophy that all your services and content are located under one roof ("come here for everything").

3. The third road IS search (characterized by the idea “you don't need to remember anything, you just need to know where to find it”). This is why the Google UI is so much more radical than given credit for, it represents a media philosophy that was materially different from everything that came before it.

4. And the fourth road - which is barely just beginning now - is real time social distribution. The idea that “if something is important it will find me” - a constant flow of content and ideas with applications and services supporting the distribution of content ("content" again broadly defined) from person to person initially and then with intelligence, filters and who knows what else. This represents the final breakdown of the traditional media content producer/distributor/consumer buckets, which now blend into one another. Indeed, there are no more consumers, there are only “users”. As a result, this transformation is utterly disruptive to the whole media value chain. Think Twitter and Facebook obviously, but also think Boxee, pubsubhubbub, Etsy, Kickstarter, 20x200, PostSecret, Dogster, and many more.

This is where distribution - the linchpin of content - gets flattened, pushed to the edges.

I don't think information (content) wants to be free. I think it just wants to be distributed friction-free. Which is why this fourth road - social distribution - has so much potential. It opens up distribution in ways that never existed before.

blog comments powered by Disqus