Thursday, February 7, 2008 

The Future: People Networks 

By Dave Morgan



We’ve seen the online world change a lot over the past 15 years. We’ve seen several shifts in the key battlegrounds for control of the value generated by consumers’ use of online services. 


Throughout the ’90s, it was all about the pipes. Access was the watchword and the business was all about providing consumers with the “pipe” to access online services. Advertising was not a big part of the picture, though charging “slotting fees” to sponsors was a big business. 


By the end of the ’90s, with the Web finally displacing proprietary online services, the battle shifted to building and owning the largest portals. Aggregation was the watchword, and the business was all about amassing the most users on gateway pages providing news, information and entertainment. Advertising moved into the foreground, and the value in business shifted from sponsorship and position to a heavy focus on delivering tonnage. Raw scale was the name of the game. 


Once again, we’re in the middle of another major change, and it’s going to be just as significant as the shift from pipes to portals. 


The big trends over the past two years have been about networks: the extraordinary explosion of consumer usage of social networks, and the very significant shift in online ad spend to the ad networks. While some may disagree, I think that these two trends are ultimately about the same thing, and it’s not just the search-accelerated audience fragmentation away from portals to vertical and niche sites. To me, it’s all about the growing role of “people networks.” 


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Online Spin for Thursday, February 7, 2008:





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