Participation In Web Innovation

April 27, 2007

For all the hype about Web 2.0, Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion points out that there are still many people who have yet to participate. Mr. Rubel posted a graphic representation of how an extraordinary number people do not take part in simple online activities such as blogging; this reminded me of a presentation I did a few years ago about “cool hunting,” which I first came across in the Frontline show Merchants of Cool, a journalistic piece about trying to market to the hard to reach Generation Y. This report mentioned an article about a company called Look-Look, which had been profiled in a New Yorker article about “cool hunters,” a method that is based around the field of “diffusion research.”

I believe this shows that although influential people on sites such as MySpace are central to word-of-mouth marketing (according to a new report News Corp. put together), the 52% of people considered “inactive” in the digital world may pose a large problem for generating revenue: currently most Web 2.0 business models are based on ad-generated revenue, so the more visitors a site has, the more clout it has in charging for ad space. However, if we are not expanding the base of users, most sites are doomed to failure without other revenue channels. Fortunately, one point of data shows that diffusion is happening, according to a report that broadband subscriptions are rising; this does not mean, however, that those users are using social networking sites. So, how do we convince people to start participating? What strategies do we implement to help people begin to engage with new media?

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