As we gather our nuts and prepare for the long hard economic winter ahead, there will be an inevitable consolidation of companies, communities and customers. I wonder down which path this slowdown will lead us?
This being conference season, I have had a number of interesting conversations with analysts, advertisers, investor's, publishers and start-ups. The topic of the economy, globalization etcetera - is of course top of mind. Opinions vary on how this will all play out, what we can all pretty much agree on is that the social web has now entered adolescence. This is a fragile time for a teenager - she is highly susceptible to influences - both good and bad. Will she be dazzled by bling and a quick buck? Will she broaden her horizons via exposure to new ideas and people? [I will drop the metaphor before I beat the life out of it, but you get the idea]
In our enthusiasm over the potential of the social web, our rush to generate viable business models and find customers wherever they may be lurking - what forces will have the greatest long term impact on our social web? Will we forget the fundamental human drives that gave birth to the social web to begin with? Will companies sell out their customer base for an advertising dollar? Will innovation be spurred by the need for creative re-invention or will it come to a grinding halt? During the great depression - the entertainment industry was a much needed escape from the daily grind [see Sullivan's Travels and rent it NOW if you've never seen it]. If we can look past current mass media models - we may have a real opportunity to create some amazing and viable participatory fun with all these great tools.
I am no macro-economist, but if we can self-organize - what is the role of the multi-national? Can smaller economic trends mediate the big picture? The participatory web will have a huge impact on shaping our economic and social future. It is the next few years that are a big question mark.
What forces will have the greatest influence on our teenage social web as she grows into adulthood? Will tough economic times - shape a more robust future? Or will she crumble under the pressure?
So - now that I got that out of my system - what do you think? Did I lose you? Am I nuts?