Sips from the Firehose


Apr 13

John Battelle About the Future of Webconomics – OMMA 2009


Posted: under advertising, New Marketing, new media.
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“We’re about to get another breakthrough, another interface leap.  If I knew what it was, I would start a company there.  But I don’t know what it is yet, but I have some ideas, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.” – John Battelle

Battelle says he stayed up late one night (visions of the mythical college dorm room & heavy inhalation) to come up with this heavy information and interface theories, and worked up this speech to try to describe where he sees the future of the web going.

If what he said above is right, then there is about to be another evolutionary stage, and the current titans of search (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc.) are going to be replaced by The New Hot Thing.  He seems to be hanging his hat on “conversations” which sounds pretty good to me – the human urge to connect & trade information is one of the strongest forces on the web.  I’m just not entirely convinced that the Facebook/MySpace paradigm is at all viable.  We’re been waiting a while now for anything remotely resembling a business model to emerge, and the latest news is that Google’s shareholders are starting to get a bit bent out of shape about subsidizing the world’s inconsequential home videos, and that Emperor’s Missing Wardrobe-type questions are starting to get asked about the 1/2 billion a year burn rate.

Money quote:

YouTube will manage to rake in about $240 million in ad revenue in 2009, against operating costs of roughly $711 million, leading to a shortfall of just over $470 million. This half-billion dollar loss comes after more than a year of feverish experimentation in various forms of advertising, cross-product embedding, licensing and partnership deals. YouTube is adamant that ultimately they’ll find an advertising solution that will enable the ungainly behemoth to reach profitability. Looking at the math, it doesn’t seem likely.

Battelle’s take on where all this is headed is pretty complex, and not all that out of line with things that you’ve probably heard before.  This is only the first part, so stick with it – it gets more rewarding as we go along.

Here’s some teaser quotes to get you to click over and watch the video – please excuse the camera movement, but Battelle kept pacing around on the stage, and I had to either go so wide that focus was a problem, or track him, making the camera movements a little jerky.

Every publisher is now a marketer … you have to engage the audience in a conversation … if you don’t know how to do that, you’ll die.  That’s it. It’s over.

I call this the conversation economy.  It’s kind of a sequel to the search.

The three-bump theory of how man interacts with technology … as Eric Schmidt is fond of saying ‘25% of GDP is fine with me.”

We all give Apple credit, but basically we know that Windows won.  I call this the “hunt and poke” interface … that’s way better than learning a foreign language like FORTRAN.  That’s also called the “I’m lost in a foreign country interface.”

We started having conversations at scale with our customers.  All of a sudden every customer could talk to every company, and nobody was ready for the conversation. But around the turn of the century, we started to develop that interface, and that interface, I argue is search.  This is the first time we have ever been able to have a conversation in our own natural language with a machine.  People don’t see search that way, but I do.

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