Mutter: Media 3.0 is Big Media’s Last Chance To Survive


SAI contributor Alan D. Mutter is Managing Partner of Tapit Partners. He was deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1980s and has since served as CEO of three start-ups. He writes a well-regarded blog called Reflections of a Newsosaur.

Media executives struggling to wrap their minds around Web 2.0 may be distressed to know they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Several media kibitzers, including yours truly, believe Web 2.0 is merely a transitional stage on the way to a new era I cleverly call Media 3.0. I use the term “Media 3.0,” as opposed to “Web 3.0,” because the term is technologically agnostic and the web, imposing as it is today, could be supplanted some day by a new technology as radically different to it as HTML is to hot metal.

Media 3.0 will turn absolutely upside-down the classic one-to-many model of Media 1.0, replacing it with a many-to-one paradigm in which news, entertainment and advertising are delivered in a uniquely individualized fashion to all but the most technologically recalcitrant consumers…

The paradigm shift will be enabled by significant future technology developments in such areas as artificial-intelligence software, database systems, media-compression algorithms, network architecture, mobile platforms and nanotechnologies capable of delivering vast computing power to more diverse and tiny platforms than we can imagine today.

The potential impact on consumers, media companies and advertisers is detailed in a new white paper I have written, which is too long to publish here but freely available via email (don’t forget to change the “[at]” to an “@”). Here are a few of the key implications for traditional and new media companies:

:: Media companies can succeed in the future only by enabling their content, as well as any associated advertising, to be acquired on an individualized, ad-hoc basis by consumers.

:: As the large and “sticky” audiences traditionally enjoyed by Media 1.0 companies continue to fragment, they will become increasingly devalued in the eyes of most advertisers. Media companies must develop sophisticated systems to marry targeted commercial messages with content wherever and whenever it is consumed.

:: Mass-market advertising, which already is in the process of being supplanted by targeted and verifiable keyword advertising, will migrate to contextual systems that deliver precisely tuned messages to individuals on the verge of ordering a pizza, buying a car or booking a vacation.

You may be shocked to hear that not everyone happens to agree with me…

“There are a lot of constituencies trying to hijack the term Web 3.0,” one Gartner research analyst told a recent forum in Las Vegas, as reported by Network World. “It’s not going to be another era like Web 2.0,” said Gene Phifer, another Gartner guy. “However, there will be some very interesting innovative things coming out. If you’re in love with numbering schemes, maybe it’s Web 2.1.”

“The term Web 2.0 is in fact just a marketing ploy,” responds Nova Spivack, the founder of a stealth Media 3.0-type company called Radar Networks. “Web 3.0 actually does refer to a set of new technologies, and changes they will usher in during the third decade of the Web (2010-2020). Chief among these is the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web is actually not one technology, but many. Some of them such as RDF and OWL have been under development for years, even during the Web 2.0 era, and others such as SPARQL and GRDDL are recent emerging standards. But that is just the beginning.”

Nova’s commentary goes on to get more technical from there. Even if you don’t know your OWL from your GRDDL, the point is that big changes in technology in the next decade are going to cause even more disruptive changes in the media business than anything we have seen to date.

The traditional media companies were completely blind-sided by the web and its associated implications. Though their historic market dominance has been weakened today by the continuing onslaught of new media companies ranging from Market Watch to iTunes to You Tube, the old media remain big and healthy enough to architect, fund and implement the sort of cutting-edge initiatives that could enable them to survive in the Media 3.0 era.

This is their best chance to get it right. But also their last.