Why local newsmedia should host a marketplace

February 6th, 2015 by bruno boutot

Steve Yelvington says it best:

The retail revolution is nothing short of an arms race to accumulate as much information about individual customers as possible. Local media companies can be major winners in the revolution by developing delightful products that help merchants to capture and leverage customer data. If they fail to act, however, they will be marginalized as advertisers move to interactive marketing.

18 Useful Tips for Doing Business with a Welcome Platform

April 12th, 2012 by bruno boutot

The four parameters of the Welcome System (Proximity, Origin, Equality, Memory) apply everywhere on the Internet. They have consequences for every kind of platform.

Any business on the Web can use features from the Welcome System. And most do, a little here, a little there, without necessarily thinking about it that way: we can recognize, for example, Proximity in applications for eCommerce, Origin in efforts for registering members, Equality in chats for customer service, Memory for storing and displaying archives. Generally, these features are used simply because “it can be done”, not because “it’s a new imperative”.

Once we have identified the Welcome System, we can take full advantage of its properties for maximizing efficiency and profits. We have seen here that the Welcome System is not an extension of the Distance (Media and Marketing) System. It’s a new system, a new territory. This is a disorienting proposition. So, before we plunge head first into a news media project, here are a few pointers for understanding the Welcome territory.

Note: Each of these tips can be the topic of a whole post. What is included here is just a quick overview.

It’s an Open Game

Proximity tells us that, even if users are far away from us, whenever they decide to visit we are only one click away from them. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others may seem overwhelming for any business entering the fray but they are not closer our users than we are and never will be. Any site is but a click away from our users.

This makes for a highly competitive environment, but it is an open one. We can start late, or even later, there is no rush: if and when we have a great platform, users surround us and can therefore find us. If we are in it for the long haul, we don’t need Facebook, Google+ nor Twitter or any other service for reaching our users or for building their identity. We can use those services but we don’t really need them. Nobody is too late. Nobody has to play catch up. There is no wall between us and our future users: the Web is wide open.

In this quote from John Battelle, “Facebook” can be replaced with any other social media or network:

It drives me crazy to see major brands using expensive television time to drive consumers to a Facebook program that lives exclusively inside Facebook.
If that same program lives out on the Independent web – your own site, on your own domain, with your own platform – then you own all the data and insights.
My advice: put your taproot into soil that you control, soil that is shared by the millions of other independent voices on the web.
John Battelle
Put Your Taproot Into the Independent Web

It’s an Open Field

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the Web is almost empty. When memory space expands faster than we can fill it (as we can see for example with YouTube), the available space is nearly infinite. So there is no “real estate” with its “location , location, location” imperative on the Web.

We can set up our tent anywhere, anytime. We have as much room to grow as we want, as big, as ambitious as we want. No other Web site or service is constraining our space or our growth. And wherever we are, whenever we open our doors, we are always smack in the middle of the action, just one click away from our users. It’s an open field. Always.

It’s a Stillness Game

Not a pun: Origin is the starting point. Only the readers move. We don’t. For being able to exploit this parameter, we have to get it, internalize it, grok it: we sit down, we stand still, we close our eyes if need be but we don’t move. We don’t send a package. We don’t send anything away. Our website is stuck in a server.


So this is our home. We can reach people with the Distance game, we can use notifications for calling our members back, but we are where the exchanges take place. This is where we do our business: content exchanges, commercial exchanges. Readers scurry by, on and off again. And our website can’t move to go after them. If we want to do business with them, there is only one question left: what can we do to make them stay here?

Easy: 1- Build a door. 2- Put a big Welcome sign above it. 3- Open the door. Now we need to take into account Equality, Proximity and Memory.

It’s a One-to-One Game

The best use of Equality and Proximity is one-to-one communication. By definition, this is the strangest game changer for mass media and marketing people. But don’t worry: it can be done. You don’t have to exchange personally with all your members. It’s just a place where there are only people: nobody is hiding behind a news media, a brand, a company name, an anonymous title. All that’s needed are people exchanging on a one-to-one basis, like in a forum or a community.

We are used to one-to-one communication in real life. We know how it works. But there is a part of us that excludes these familiar mechanisms from our business on the Web. This is the part that has been shaped by the Distance system. But we have left the Distance system. We are in the Welcome System, where one-to-one rules. This whole process is just about learning how to do business in this new world: one-to-one.

It’s a Community Game

The word “community” is used for all kinds of social groups. It’s not different on the Web, where “community” can have many different meanings. Here,  in a Welcome platform, it describes a specific social mechanism with its very own gears and wheels:
– in a Welcome community, members create something together, with at least one main place for common activities;
– a “member” is a registered user whose identity is stable and whose every contribution to the site is recorded and easily accessible to all;
– there are clear guidelines of participation and a system to alert moderators (flags);
– moderators are members of the community.

It’s a One-at-a-Time Game

In a one-to-one context, new members arrive one at a time. It’s not about registering; it’s about participating and becoming a contributing member in a community.

Successful communities put the effort in after the registration process. They fight for every member. They introduce members to others. They ensure members make a contribution on their first visit. They initiate and support interesting events/activities for members. They start discussions and prompt people to respond to them. They create content about what members are doing. They take the time to build genuine relationships with members.
Rich Millington
Focus On The Post-Registration Effort

One at a time is a little anticlimactic and difficult to get in a froth over, but one at a time is how we win and how we lose.
Seth Godin
Preparing for the breakthrough/calamity

It’s a Members Game

A “user” is a person who happens to pass through any page on our site. A “member” is a registered user who has a stable identity, and whose contributions are recorded and accessible on their personal page on our site. Only members can contribute in a community.

Turn your readers into members. Not visitors, not subscribers; you want members. And then don’t just consult them, but give them tools to consult amongst themselves.
Paul Ford
The Web Is a Customer Service Medium

It’s a Participation Game

Communities don’t care about page views: it’s a place where members do something together. It’s more of a workshop than a theater: there are no spectators, only people working toward a common goal. A Welcome community is about doing and making (active), not about viewing or consuming (passive).

It’s quite simple: members are contributors. There are hundreds of ways – from the smallest to the biggest – of contributing to common goals. But consuming is not one of them. A member is neither a user nor a commenter: a member is a person who cares for our topic and who can contribute to it in a useful and appreciated way.

A member is one of “us”.

It’s a Non-Media Media Game

If we are creating a private community, it has its own end. The process of becoming a community in the Welcome system is about doing something together. There is no need for another process.

But if part (or all) of the content produced by the community is displayed to the public, it can attract onlookers. So even if the whole process of a community is only about members (insiders) who do something together, they can attract a mass of  viewers (outsiders): the content produced by a Welcome community can therefore become mass media.

It is important to understand that every step of the way, the community operates in the Welcome system, whereas mass media operates in the Distance system.
Both can happen at the same time and have the same content but the two operations involve totally different mechanisms.
For example, in some communities logged-in members can create content and don’t see ads, outsiders see ads and can’t contribute.

Producing content that becomes mass media is only a side effect of the process of a community, not the community process itself.
So when the content of a community is displayed publicly, only the “side effect” needs to be operated in the Distance system.

The public content can then have all the features of mass media. For revenues: marketing and advertising. For engagement: comments from unregistered users.
The community continues to operate in the Welcome system, with content created by its members.

It’s a Slow Game

A community is made of interpersonal exchanges around a common objective. So it can only grow one person at a time, one new member at a time.
Look at the biggest (non community) social networks like Facebook or Twitter: they took two years just to appear on the radar.
If we try to rush the process, members won’t build an identity, won’t establish relationships, won’t build a reputation and won’t build their home in our home: they won’t come back.

We need a long-term perspective. We need to focus on the lifetime value of members. If you demand short-term results, you build a short-term community. You build a community based upon clicks.
Relationships aren’t built upon clicks. Relationships are built upon meaningful interactions. Relationships are built upon increasing levels of self-disclosure, gradual (gradual!) development of trust and familiarity.
Rich Millington
Member Lifetime Value

It’s an Ever Growing Investment

Every contribution to a community makes it grow: a vote, a comment, a choice in a poll, a piece of  information, a picture, a review, a video, a news story, a compliment, a flag, a question, an answer, anything. Each contribution adds a little to the identity of the member, to their sense of belonging to the community, to the exchanges with other members, to the content of the community and to its governance. There is no loss. Ever. Even mistakes are lessons for the member, for the community, for the moderators.
A Welcome community is an ever growing capital.

It’s an Identity Game

In real life, we don’t have to know the legal identity of someone to have a casual information exchange or a commercial exchange with them. Most or the time, if we come to know better the people with whom we have regular casual or commercial exchanges, it is because we remember them.

This is how we build identities in a Welcome platform: by remembering every exchange, every contribution, every transaction. We don’t need a legal identity anymore than in real life. We just need a stable identity, to which we can attach every recorded contribution. Each identity grows with time, each time a member participates.

It’s a Trust Game

In the gears and wheels of a Welcome machine, trust is the best lubricant to facilitate any kind of exchange: exchanges of information, news, services, or money.
Trust is made of positive memories of past exchanges.
The more positive exchanges our members have with other members, the more they develop trust between each other.
The more positive exchanges our members have within our community, the more they develop trust toward the community.
To have the best content exchanges, we have to be a trust-generating machine.
To have the best commercial exchanges, we have to be the best trust-generating machine.

It’s a Transaction Game

The Welcome system has a single operating mechanism: exchanges between members.

A conversation is a transaction of information.

An exchange of service, money, or of things is a transaction of value.

There is no difference between the social mechanisms of conversation and of a money transaction between members. Both are one-to-one exchanges between equals.

We just have to provide the platform and the context where people want to exchange information and want to exchange value.

The Urban Metaphor isn’t…

Proximity, Origin and Equality define “A space that doesn’t move where people have one-to-one exchanges”. This definition has a lot in common with what happens in real life in any store. So if we want to understand how a Welcome platform works, we have much more to learn from store builders and managers than from media and marketing people (who operate in the Distance System).

So when we use a urban metaphor for explaining relationships in a Web community, it is not a metaphor: it is the exact representation of what is going on.

There are two main differences between urban life and Web life, though: identity and memory.

In urban life, we have a holistic perception of identity. When meeting face to face with someone, we have a huge bandwidth of communication across all the senses that allows us to absorb a lot of information: height, build, clothing, voice, smell, attitude, tone, stance, rhythm, skin, empathy, smile, gaze,  accent etc.

In Web life, even what we call bandwidth is meager compared to urban life. We have almost no real perception. But we have huge advantages: we have memory; we have stable identity; we have an accumulation of information on an identity. And we have identity over as many topics as we care to record, of which any store manager can’t even dream of having in urban life.

It’s a Relationship Game

Equality tells us that users feel equal to whatever is on their screen. So they are in an equal relationship not only with any other user but also with any website.

Relationships are made of exchanges of information and of the memory of these exchanges.

If we want to enter in a stable relationship with our users, we first have to make sure that they feel equal to us in the information exchange. Since we have much more stuff than they have, we have to make sure that they always feel welcome to contribute to the site.

And since we are the ones that need to have this relationship the most (users have countless other choices), we have to host all the events of these exchanges: we have to host for every member the memory of all their contributions, all their exchanges with other members and with the site. And these recorded memories have to be easily accessible to every member so they can see easily and find the history (and the strength) of their relationships on our site.

It’s a Memory Game

Memory allows the building of identity.
Memory allows the building of relationships.
Memory allows the building of trust.

Memory space allows us to host exchanges between our members, to record these exchanges, to host the identity of our members, their relationships and maintain their trust.

It’s a Welcoming Game

In the end, in a Welcome community, we want people to like our place, to feel secure in it and to settle among us to have exchanges with other people.

Our first job is not to send them anything but to welcome them, one by one, to give them their own place and to help them to have meaningful exchanges with others.

As much as traditional communication is about sending packages, a Welcome platform is about creating an available space for people to settle in.

One of those days, we are going to have a conference for platform builders where all the speakers will be from the hospitality business: hotel and restaurant builders, architects, designers and managers.

Your comments and questions are very welcome.

Filling up

Image: Filling upmathowieSome rights reserved

The Business Model Is Not a Mystery

April 12th, 2012 by bruno boutot

Update: Please note that, following a few questions, a precision has been added: the word “marketplace” has been replaced with “peer to peer marketplace”.

Media is the connective tissue of society.
Clay Shirky
Cognitive Surplus

An alternative business model for news is not a mystery.

I have been looking for it for fifteen years and all this time it was like the proverbial elephant, smack in the middle of the room.

So I have taken the Grand Tour and come up with my observation of what I call the Welcome System, which can be summarized in one sentence:

A platform where people can have content exchanges and commerce exchanges.

A Welcome platform manages exchanges of content (conversations) and exchanges of goods and services (peer to peer marketplace).

So the basic result is very, very simple and has been known for a long time: the basic model of content exchange between people on the Web is a conversation; the basic model of commerce exchange between people on the Web is a peer to peer marketplace.

This is exactly what the Welcome System describes.

“A marketplace is the space, actual, virtual or metaphorical, where goods and services are exchanged.”

From farmers markets to stock markets, from eBay to craigslist to Etsy and countless others, there is nothing exotic or strange about peer to peer marketplaces, in real life or on the Web.

The business model of these peer to peer marketplaces is pretty standard: selling or renting space, taking a fee and/or a percentage on transactions, selling services that lead to transactions.

It is not as if nobody had seen it coming. In fact, the best minds of the Web have been describing it for years:

Newspapers are in the business of helping other businesses sell their goods/services.
Steve Yelvington
What I’ll be telling journalists in Minnesota

Media companies are becoming in part, retailers. Does it make sense to put a toll booth at the door to your store to keep people out? Once you have a lasting relationship, there are more ways to serve customers and make money.
Jeff Jarvis
The danger of the wall

When I talk about direct sales, I am not talking about selling what our company produces. I am talking about brokering sales for our business customers: Instead of selling them eyeballs, we help them sell their products, which is what they really want.
Steve Buttry
Robert Niles says there is no new revenue model for journalism; I disagree

And the way it makes money need not be in click-throughs on intrusive ads. That’s the old business model. The new model may well be sharing transaction revenues on all kinds of online commerce, for example.
Steve Lohr nytimes
Siri and Apple’s Future

And there is no doubt that transactions offer a big opportunity.

Consider for a minute how gargantuan the social shopping/merchandising market opportunity is: the current US retail market (excluding home and automotive) is around $4+ TRILLION/year and is supported by $150+ billion in advertising, the bulk of which still goes to TV for immersive, emotionally impactful ads.

Capturing the proverbial 1% of that total market would represent over $40 billion/year in transactions which is huge!

So, clearly, whomever figures out how to get paid to unlock socially-driven product discovery and merchandising is going to make an astounding amount of money and have a huge impact on net culture.

Gordon Gould via Simon Simeonov
Social Commerce Goes Mainstream

Proximity, Origin, Equality and Memory are the underlying parameters that allow such a platform to work.

A Welcome platform has to have a system for managing the exchanges of goods and services between our members: a Commerce Management System which, of course, must include a payment system. Such a system must allow members to make transactions between each other and must allow the platform to deduct a percentage or a fee for each of these transactions.

We’ll see that there are many other ways to monetize the services of a community with its members. But a Commerce Management System is as necessary as a Content Management System (CMS) is for hosting conversations.

So what went wrong? What has been hiding the “elephant” from our view?

I think it’s “mass”. “Mass” is the audience of news media and marketing. So, all of us who come from the news media and marketing world see the Web from a “mass” perspective. We have a tendency to want to attach everything that we discover on the Web to our “mass” system.

But “communities” and “peer to peer marketplaces” work on an individual basis. There is no mass: there may be a lot of people, but they are all there one by one, each of his own volition, each for their own reasons, with his own personality, and with his own degree or mode of participation. There is no mass. At all.

So, back to square one: we have to build new systems from scratch to host exchanges between people; we have to adapt the community mechanism to the task of gathering news; we have to adapt the peer to peer marketplace mechanism to commercial exchanges between our members.

Sure, we have to experiment. But now we know exactly what to experiment with: communities and peer to peer marketplaces.

Marché Jean-Talon

Montreal Jean-Talon Market – Some rights reserved

The Welcome System and the Distance System

February 7th, 2012 by bruno boutot

I tried to say things that were true, useful, elegant and memorable.
Jay Rosen


The original objective was to research why traditional media haven’t found obvious revenue models on the Web.

The relationship with readers seemed to be different on the Web, but how?
When analyzing how other successful businesses on the Web do it, patterns emerged. Then, patterns of patterns.

Four new parameters stand out, which are unique to the Web.

When observed as a group, these parameters structure social interactions on the Web, whether they are content interactions or business interactions.

We call this new system (for now) the Welcome System.

Its content model is simply how people interact whenever these four parameters are present.
Its business model is simply how commerce works whenever these four parameters are present.

The existence of this new system infers that Media and Marketing form a distinct system of their own. We can observe the parameters of this system, like we have done with the Welcome System.

The parameters of those two systems are so different that the social mechanisms of each system are also radically different. Each system must be operated separately.

News media wanting to benefit from both systems would have to set up two different operations.

The Welcome System and the Media and Marketing System currently intermingle on the Web. To clarify how the new Welcome System works, we analyze it by examining its parameters.

The Four Parameters

We call the four parameters Origin, Proximity, Equality, and Memory.

These parameters are intrinsic to the medium. They are all equally important.

Origin defines the origin of the action of communication between a media and its users.

Traditional media consists of packages sent out to consumers. The media are the starting point— the origin of all communication with consumers. On a website, however, mass media aren’t sent out anywhere. The creators just drop the content on a server. And wait.

On the Web, media websites don’t move. Users go to the media. Websites and their contents are stationary.

On the Web, in the relationship between a media website and a user, the origin of communication is the user, and only the user.

Note: News media can reach users via email or social sites, but here we are first analyzing the website-user system.

Proximity defines the distance between a user and a media.

Traditional media travel long distances in space and in time to reach users.

When on the Web, users are but a click away.

For our purposes, we have established one second as the standard for high-speed connection, knowing that it may be faster or slower. In the physical realm, in one second, we can reach out and touch the person in front of us. Thus, when we “click,” the distance, as we perceive it, is only an arm’s length away.

That’s what Proximity means. When on the Web, users perceive whatever appears on their screen as being an arm’s length away.

Note that the reverse is not true. Web media are stationary; they cannot cover the distance between website and users. Proximity exists only when a user decides to go to a website.

Equality defines the level of exchange between a media and a user.

Traditional media have a fundamentally unequal relationship with each user: on the one hand, a huge news media, on the other, a single user.

When on the Web, a user has exactly the same means of communication as any mass-media outlet: whether that media uses text, images, sounds or video, any user has the same tools and the same power.

This is not new. We are very familiar with other symmetrical media such as the telegraph, the fax machine and the telephone: both parties use exactly the same tools, with the same range of expression when sending and receiving information.

Equality can also be called Media Equivalence or Communication Symmetry: the user always feels on an equal basis with whatever appears on the computer screen.

When on the Web, users perceive any exchange via the interface as a one-to-one exchange.

Memory defines the space and expands the time available to the media.

Memory Space: For traditional media, space is at a premium; print media has a limited number of pages, radio and television shows have a limited number of seconds. That’s why advertising is so expensive; space is a commodity.

On the Web, memory space is almost free and almost infinite. Media have as much memory space as they can use.

On the Web, a media has as much space as it wants.

Memory Time: Traditional media exist in linear time. They deliver discrete packages, sent out at regular intervals.

On the Web, memory space gives us infinite time to display the past and the present without interruption; time frames are individually controlled by the user.

On the Web, a media flows continuously, past and present content merge seamlessly.

On the Web, all our content is available as long as we want.

A Tale of Two Systems

These four parameters, or conditions, have been observed—in online communities and marketplaces especially—by several authors.

When only individuals are involved, these four conditions are sufficient to describe all the processes taking places in fledgling communities and marketplaces: individuals going to a place where their one-to-one exchanges are being recorded and searchable.

These observations lead to the consideration of the four parameters as structural parameters of a system that can exist on its own, one that is independent from what we have known until now.

Any new website that would be structured by the four parameters could be described as a place that doesn’t move, which has limitless memory space, and where people have one-to-one exchanges up close.

In short, this system hosts exchanges between individual users in one place. So we are calling it — for now —the Welcome System.

Viewed from here, all traditional media and marketing seem to operate in another world. They all operate over distances; they all reach statistical groups of people.

Viewed from the Welcome System, all media and marketing seem to belong to another system, whether they use print, broadcasting or the Web.

Since all media and marketing operate over distances, we are calling this system— at least for now— the Distance System.

Reaching anonymous people across long distances has nothing in common with hosting individuals in one place: it doesn’t operate in the same ways, it doesn’t need the same infrastructure, it doesn’t have the same social mechanisms.

Of course, the Distance System is not necessary nor does it work when individuals communicate up close: we don’t hold content or an ad in front of people who are only an arm’s length away. We talk to them.

There is no direct continuity between the Distance System mechanism and the mechanism of the Welcome System.

The Welcome System is not an extension of the Distance System, therefore is not an extension of marketing nor is it an extension of traditional news media.

Think of this limited metaphor: in the same way, a hotel is not an extension of a plane. The mechanisms for creating the two are completely different. A single company can own an airline and a hotel chain, and have them work in synergy. But the two operations are based on completely different and independent mechanisms: we don’t build planes with concrete.

The Welcome System and the Distance System cannot be built and operated as a single operation because they are totally different processes requiring totally different mechanisms.

The four parameters (Proximity, Origin, Equality, Memory) have consequences beyond the world of news media. But this is where we are working. So the Welcome System has consequences related to the readers’ identity, news making, the readers’ participation, relationships, freemium, trust, design, commercial transactions and local opportunities.

We already have templates for hosting social exchanges in the Welcome System, that is, online communities for content exchanges and marketplaces for commercial exchanges. Of course, they would have to be adapted to news media operations.

But for now, the existence of the Welcome System helps us to understand the difficulties that traditional media have on the Web in regards to their relationships with readers and their search for a new business model.

Such a relationship and such a business model, if they are in the Welcome System (and they are), are not in continuity with the Distance System. We can’t create a welcoming place for readers as an extension of the Distance System: we can’t build a community at the end of news media. Sending a packaged product outside a newsroom is completely different from hosting exchanges inside our platform. We have to create a place specifically designed for welcoming and registering members in person.

In the same way, we can’t create a marketplace for individuals as an extension of the marketing operations of our advertisers. They all operate in the Distance System. In the Welcome System, we have to provide an environment where our members feel welcome to build trust among each other and to have commercial exchanges.

Communities and marketplaces are strange animals for media and marketing professionals. This is normal. We have learned and earned everything from the Distance System. But communities and marketplaces are not very complicated: we have 25 years of experience with Web communities, 15 years with Web marketplaces, and numerous tools for both. They are just different from the Distance System.

And the Distance System will continue. It is the most advanced system for reaching statistical groups of people over distances, evolving toward greater personalization. There will be a next step for the Distance System. But the next step for harnessing the Welcome System is not a step ahead of the Distance System, it’s a step in a new world.

The Welcome System opens clear horizons for news operations on the Web: it leads to the development of new models for making news and for generating revenue. But to take full advantage of the Welcome System, we have to first  set up a specific Welcome platform.  The sooner we start, the better.

Your comments and questions are very welcome.

Next :
– The Business Model Is Not a Mystery
– 18 Useful Tips for Doing Business with a Welcome Platform
– Outline: A Welcome Community for Making News
– Outline: A Welcome Community for Enabling Commerce

Looping Hot

Image: Looping hotNASA Goddard Space Flight CenterSome rights reserved

Pitching the Welcome Project to Jarvis, Rosen, Shirky & Co.

February 7th, 2012 by bruno boutot

Of course I am pitching this project to news media publishers, so if you are interested feel free to contact me at any time: bruno (at) boutotcom.com.

I am also pitching it to the explorers of the Internet who have recently inspired me.

The Internet is the ideal tool for studying the Internet.

I live in an ideal time, which is a statement I’d never thought I would make.

Once upon a time, journalists who were interested in the mechanisms of media would have been lucky just to find an eye-opening book once every few years. Then, at best, they would have had to wait another two or three years to catch another glimpse of the entrails of the beast. These days, I feel I am lucky just to read the observations, the questions and the exchanges among the best minds of my time in my field.

The leap from Gutenberg to the Web is so immense not because of technology but because of the people with whom we can constantly be in contact. The old image evokes shoulders and giants; on the Web, it is more like bouncing on an energy field generated by great minds. :-)

(Another difference with books is that, on Twitter, most of these people have the opportunity to display their terrific sense of humor. Daily interactions are serious—even dramatic at times—but there is always room for lightness, comedy, and the human touch.)

All this work would not have been possible without the uplifts I receive from the following people, and this is why.

Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis, and Jay Rosen make up my McLuhanian trinity. Nowadays, Shirky is more focused on the Web’s socio-political consequences, Jarvis on the value of sharing, and Rosen on the truth imperative in journalism.

But all three understand media to be social machines that can be observed, described, and operated. Furthermore, they have observed, described, and promoted the notion that the people formerly known as the audience are now the most critical component of the new media landscape.

I have followed Steve Buttry since he developed A Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection. He applies everything we know about the role of a news media in its community. And he generously shares what he and his colleagues are learning from their experiments. He has continued to be an innovator at TBD and is now at Journal Register Co.

I can’t ignore that John Paton has hired Steve Buttry and Jim Brady at JRC and that Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen are on his advisory board. What Paton has done by imposing “digital first” at JRC is nothing short of revolutionary. His audacity— and the results he obtains—has made him a beacon for all news publishers. Paton and Brady don’t write much, but I follow their interviews and their talks.

Steve Yelvington is also a hands-on journalist. His insights on the future of news media stem from his passion for the craft and his knowledge of the market place.

At MediaCamp Montreal in 2010, I was asked why most people I had quoted had backgrounds in print journalism and not in radio or television. I don’t remember what I answered then, but the question stayed with me for several days after. The people I quote are on the frontline. Through their blogs and their daily practice, they exchange directly with their readers. That’s the new imperative: the readers as individuals, not as statistics. Nothing like living it for grokking it.

I go through my RSS reader three times a day; I participate in unconferences; I have just installed the plugin Winerlinks (that adds permalinks to paragraphs) on this blog; So Dave Winer is part of my life and his view of the Web from the perspective of a programmer is irreplaceable.

I also benefit from the original observations of investor extraordinaire Fred Wilson. He generously shares his knowledge and he provokes stimulating exchanges of ideas.

Then there are the “embedded” new media journalists Patrick Laforge, Zach Seward, Tim Carmody, Alexis Madrigal, Jeremy Zilar, Megan Garber. And of course I have been reading Scott Rosenberg since Salon and Dan Gillmor since the San Jose Mercury News.

If I miss anything in the Web media world, I can always count on Mathew Ingram. He has managed over a few months to become the most active reporter in the field. The great people at Nieman Lab have eyes everywhere. Paul Bradshaw surveys digital journalism from the UK, Benoit Raphael and Philippe Couve from Paris.

I know where marketing is going because Seth Godin breathes it, John Battelle runs on it, Mitch Joel questions it and Ben Kunz calls it as it is.

David Weinberger has antennas.

Besides their area of expertise, most of these people are generous and care for the greater good, as Tim O’Reilly and Craig Newmark show so well.

I will let you find on your own what the other common point is between Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, and William Gibson—but the main one here is that they are avid practitioners of new media. Sterling and Doctorow are masters of blogging, Ellis has gathered a very original and passionate community, the discussions on Stross’ blog fly high and bright, Rucker knows the simple power of images and Gibson’s interactions on Twitter are one of a kind. They have more insights on communicating with readers than many social media specialists. And they write better.

As for communities, the people I have learned from the most since Stewart Brand and Howard Rheingold are creators of communities (more on them later). But they don’t write much about it. The great Matthew Haughey occasionally shares his experience on his blog and at conferences. But the clearest and most knowledgeable writer on creating and managing communities today is Rich Millington. His blog is recommended reading for anyone who has to build a community.

In Montreal, I have the privilege of exchanging ideas with the very best of geeks: Philippe Martin, Mario Asselin, Michelle Blanc and my WebCamp accomplices Sylvain Carle, Martin Lessard, Patrick Tanguay, and Seb Paquet. The advantages we have IRL (in real life) are, of course, bandwidth and the opportunity to enjoy a drink together.

If you think that I am invoking the spirits of all my “gods”, you are probably right. But these are gods who read a lot and share a lot, so we are in contact with whole networks of other creators, explorers and analysts of new media on the Web.

This work is dedicated to you.

Your comments and questions are very welcome.

Geography of Twitter @replies

Image: Geography of Twitter @repliesEric FischerSome rights reserved

12 | Groundwork | Four Observations: Recapitulation

December 31st, 2011 by bruno boutot

Note: The five posts entitled “Groundwork” were originally written in 2009. See here.

Be a platform. Join a network. For newspapers, that may mean soliciting the public’s assistance in finishing stories. It may mean recruiting and mobilizing the public to report. It may mean setting them up in business.
Jeff Jarvis
What Would Google Do? p. 126



  • Traditional media
  • Web media – Distance
  • Origin of communication:
  • media
  • user
  • Location of media makers:
  • irrelevant
  • on our website
  • Characteristics of  supports:
  • limited space (print)
  • limited time (electronic)
  • unlimited space
  • unlimited time
  • How we reach users:
  • sending products out to the users
  • sitting on our website
  • Distance between media – users:
  • huge
  • proximity
  • Contact between media – users:
  • where the reader is, far from the origin of media (has no control).
  • inside our website: proximity (has control)
  • Revenue:
  • selling space (ads) = selling the users’ attention while keeping it.
  • selling space to users
  • subscriptions, copy sales
  • selling clickable ads = selling the users’ attention (click) and losing it.
  • selling space to users
  • subscriptions, micropayments
  • Distance between advertisers – users:
  • huge
  • proximity
  • Input from users:
  • negligible
  • as much as we want
  • Memory:
  • our archives
  • as much as we want

What We Gain, What We Lose


What we lose on the Web What we gain on the Web

  • Sending content to people far away
  • Marketing through space and time

  • Proximity between media – user
  • Proximity between users – advertisers
  • Proximity between users

  • One way communication (us to them)
  • Synchrony
  • Isolation (tranquility?): no users on our turf
  • Readership as target

  • Conversation with people one by one
  • Asynchrony
  • Receiving real people in our salon
  • Welcoming mindset and infrastructure
Mass Media

  • Specialization by medium (print, radio, TV, poster, etc.)
  • One to many
  • Sole responsibility for producing content
Media Equality

  • One medium with identical properties for all media and users: text, images, audio, video
  • One to one; many to many
  • Collaboration, participation, shared responsibility
Mass Media

  • Packaged product, limited space and time
  • Discrete packages
  • Statistical knowledge only of contact between media and users’ attention
  • Statistics
  • Limited memory for our content

  • Place, unlimited space and time
  • Flow
  • Control of environment where contact between media and users’ attention occurs
  • Real numbers of all views, all exchanges, all clicks
  • Unlimited memory for our content
  • Unlimited memory for users’ content
  • Unlimited memory for all interactions

What Did We Just Read?

  • That we are in a place that we can expand at will.
  • That we have a level playing field to compete with all other media.
  • That we have unlimited memory for:
    • Our content
    • Our users’ content
    • Our advertisers’ content
    • Our merchants’ content
  • That we have unlimited memory to record exchanges between:
    • Users and our content
    • Users and media makers
    • Users and advertisers
    • Users and merchants
    • Users between themselves
  • That we can give as much – or as little – space as we want to any and all of these exchanges.
  • That we have total control over the environment where all these contacts, exchanges, and relationships take place.
  • That we have total control over the context, the nature, and the content of these exchanges.

Is it possible
that we can’t find a way to make money with this?


We have to use the system structured by the Four Observations.

Expo TechnoCRAFT au Yerba Buena

Photo: TechnoCRAFT @ Yerba Buena – Vero.bSome rights reserved

11 | Groundwork | Four Observations: Memory

December 30th, 2011 by bruno boutot

Note: The five posts entitled “Groundwork” were originally written in 2009. See here.

We hear a lot about Moore’s Law and the doubling of processing capacity, but storage-density’s growth makes the pace of processor improvements look glacial.
Cory Doctorow
Tracking the astounding pace of digital storage


figure 23: Memory of exchanges in a traditional media

Observations on figure 23

This analysis is fairly straightforward but, as often happens, by outlining the relationships I ended with seeing more than I initially imagined.

  • The three rectangles are, from top to bottom: the advertiser (the orange rectangle), the media (the black rectangle), the user (the light blue rectangle)
  • The large circles stand for the exchanges between the media and the users, as shown in our analysis (figure 7): specifically, content exchanges (the big black circle), business exchanges (the big red circle).
  • The two kinds of small blue circles (solid and dotted lines) represent the memory, if any exists, of these exchanges.

The users know and remember:

  • What content they have used (the solid blue circle overlapping the big black circle)
  • What they have paid for (purchases, subscriptions, classifieds) and what ads have interested them (the solid blue circle overlapping the big red circle).

The media knows what the users have done only through statistics (hence the dotted lines).

The media and the advertiser share this information.

That’s how a “mass” media works: all the knowledge about the readership, the readership profile, and the ad targeting and efficiency is statistical.


figure 24: Memory of exchanges with users in a Web media

Observations on figure 24

The media wants stable exchanges with the user. So it has to do all it can to create the right conditions.

We now have as much memory as we want.
We can record every real action of any kind.

We can keep track of the user as a person, with an identity on which memories can be built.

And we can track every possible contribution made by the user, from a simple vote to any kind of content (text, images, audio, video, money).

Finally, we can track how every user shares our content; please note that “our content” now covers everything that is produced within the media:

  • By media professionals
  • By other users
  • By our advertisers and merchants

Hosting these memories has two main effects:

  • Hosting the user’s memories = the media as a “home” for the user
  • Hosting recorded relationships = generating trust

What does memory change?

Traditional media had documents and archives, but they were cumbersome to search and use.
We had nothing like digital memory, which can store billions of data every second, data that are easily accessible, easily searchable, and easily expandable.
Digital and interconnected memories change . . . everything!

Memory changes the space we have for content

  • We were constrained by the format (paper area for print, linear time for electronic media)

Memory changes the space we sell

  • Advertising prices are based on the scarcity of premium space, just as real estate is
  • When space is expandable at will, its value tumbles: buying free space doesn’t make sense

Memory changes the value system

  • In near infinite space, real estate has less value; data and connections have more value; so relationships (data + connections) have more value

As it happens, Memory changes the space we have for hosting memories (data, connections, relationships)

  • Expandable memory allows us to transform all our exchanges with advertisers, merchant, and readers into relationships.

And obviously, Memory changes the space we are in, because, on the Web . . .


figure 25: . . .  Memory is the medium:
Users and merchants are everywhere on our platform
How do we do business with all of them?

10 | Groundwork | Four Observations: Equality

December 29th, 2011 by bruno boutot

Note: The five posts entitled “Groundwork” were originally written in 2009. See here. .

TV is unbalanced – if I own a TV station, and you own a television, I can speak to you, but you can’t speak to me. Phones, by contrast, are balanced; if you buy the means of consumption, you automatically own the means of production. Participation is inherent in the phone, and it’s the same for the computer. Clay Shirky Cognitive Surplus p. 22


figure 20: Current exchanges between media and user

Observations on figure 20 This is a simple but fairly accurate description of exchanges between a traditional mass media and its users:

  • Black arrow right: Most of the content flows from the media to the user.
  • Blue arrow left: The user’s mail and comments trickle back to the media.
  • Red arrow left: Most of the money exchanged goes from the readers to the media, either directly (paid content, classifieds) or indirectly (advertising).
  • Red arrow right: Users can make money via the media when they sell stuff through the classifieds.
  • Blue circle: Memory – only the reader remembers what they have bought and read. For the media, the user is only a statistic, not a person with whom to have an exchange.


figure 21: Exchanges in an equal media, like the telephone

Observations on figure 21 Our goal is to have a stable relationship between users and media. So we have to look into what our users expect when they get involved in exchanges using an equal media. We know of several examples of equal media, where the two parts of an exchange have the same power to send and to receive: the telegraph, the fax, and the telephone. We’ll use the phone as our example, because we are all familiar with relationships that develop over the phone. Here is the million dollar question: What would happen if you had regular phone calls with a person and this person talked all the time, barely listened to you and never remembered who you were? Exactly! That’s the traditional media / user exchange. For two people to have stable and repeated exchanges on the phone, we can roughly expect that ideal conditions would involve:

  • Equal exchange of content
  • Equal memory of the exchange


figure 22: Exchanges that occur when Web media and user have equal media capabilities

Observations on figure 22The user has countless choices: it’s the media that “wants” a long term and stable relationship. If we want the user to “feel” that they have a “good” relationship with the media, it’s up to the media to do its best to “equalize” the exchange. Here we use the phone exchanges as a model.

What media equality changes?

Content: Since we have a lot more content to offer than a lone reader does, we have to find any way we can to make the user feel “equal.” We can request users to send as much content as possible to us:

  • Content that contributes to our original content
  • Content that users want to share with other users

Exchanges: Because we can’t have one-to-one exchanges with all our readers, we can make sure that other exchanges happen as frequently as possible between “equal” persons: between users, between users and merchants.

Identity: There is no other way to equalize the exchanges than to recognize participating users individually and to remember them, their contributions, and their exchanges.


I could talk to you forever objects of co-dependency 2008 keetra dean dixon
used with permission of the artist

09 | Groundwork | Four Observations: Origin

December 28th, 2011 by bruno boutot

Note: The five posts entitled “Groundwork” were originally written in 2009. See here.

Push models treat people as passive consumers whose needs can be anticipated and shaped by centralized decision-makers.
Pull models treat people as networked creators who are uniquely positioned to transform uncertainty from a problem into an opportunity.
John Hagel and John Seely Brown
From Push to Pull (pdf)


figure 17: Sending printed media to consumers

Observations on figure 17

For a print media, the content is printed on a support (the black squares in the inner circle); these supports are distributed (the black squares in the outer circle) to reach the users wherever they are (the blue squares), either by mail or via stores, newsstands, posters.

The publisher of a printed media is the origin of the communication, which travels toward its readers.


figure 18: Sending electronic media to consumers

Observations on figure 18

For a radio or TV station, the content is sent out (broadcasted over the airwaves or through cables) to  receiving devices (the green squares) near the users (the blue squares).

Here the station is the origin of the communication, which travels toward the users.

Whether for print or electronic media, users don’t need to know the specific place where the media is created: they are in contact with paper supports or  receiving devices, not with the media makers.


figure 19: Users going to a Web media

Observations on figure 19

The black dashes stand for any media on the Web.
Media people put the content (the gray dashes) on their web sites.
They don’t send any printed object, they don’t send anything over the airwaves: the content just stays on a server.
The content of the media does not travel in space nor in time.

The users (the blue squares) decide if they want to visit the media and to give their attention (the blue dots) to its content (the gray dashes).
The origin of the communication is the user.

What origin changes?

On the Web, since we don’t have to send our content out in a tight package over space and time, we don’t have to create and present our content as a tight package anymore.

A media is not a product anymore, it’s a place.

Since people are coming to our place we are probably better to have a mindset, an infrastructure, and features to welcome them.

08 | Groundwork | Four Observations: Proximity

December 27th, 2011 by bruno boutot

Note: The five posts entitled “Groundwork” were originally written in 2009. See here.

The Internet is a place. It is a weird place in which proximity is determined by interest, rather than a space in which interests are kept apart by distances. It is a place in which nearness defeats distance.
David Weinberger
The Net is a place

Let’s begin with a process we know very well: Advertising.

The orange balls represent the product we want to promote, followed by what the ad must do.

figure 10: The advertising process

Observations on figure 10

As a communication specialist, I admire the work of the ad agencies’ creative minds.
They have to pack a lot of information into a very small area, like a printed page or a 30-second TV or radio commercial.
Given a product (the circles), they have to make an ad (the triangle) that accomplishes numerous tasks:

  • First it must be noticed among the clutter of thousands of ads that we see every day.
  • Then it must keep our attention to make sure that we read or view the whole message.
  • It must summon an emotion, because emotions are the only paths to memory.
  • This emotion must be positive enough to engage us.
  • This positive emotion must be attached to the product.
  • This product-emotion must be anchored in the viewer’s memory.
  • And then, tightly packaged with all this, there must be some kind of spring that will unwind at just the right moment: a delayed push to action.

But the smallness of the display area is not the only reason ads have to be engineered this way.


figure 11: Traditional marketing

Observations on figure 11

Recap: (1) An advertiser orders an ad from an agency; (2) the agency buys a place for the ad in the media; (3) the media is sent out to the consumer.

(4) The ad is viewed where the media reaches the consumer, which is generally at work, at home, or in transport. The consumer comes in contact with the ad and then, hopefully, the ad leaves behind an imprint (the dotted triangle) on the consumer’s memory.

(5) For the ad to succeed,  the consumer must, later, go to a store in person to buy the product.

“later”: The time between the placement of an ad and the act of buying a product can be as brief as one hour. But generally  it takes days, weeks, even months, and sometimes years.

“store”: The distance between the place where the consumer views the media and the store can be as near as 100 m and as far as 10 km or more.

A good ad is first an imprint device and then
it’s a vehicle to make a buying decision travel through space and time.

Note: figure 12 will appear in a future edition. Here we jump directly to figure 13.


figure 13: The traditional content process

Observations on figure 13

For users of a traditional mass media only they themselves (the blue squares) and the media products (the black squares) are in physical contact – the black squares represent either a paper object (print) or a receiving device (radio or TV).

The media makers (the gray dots) and the making of the product (the gray square) are far away from users in space and in time.


figure 14: The Web media content process

Observations on figure 14

For users (the blue squares) of a Web media, their attention (the blue dots) is inside the media site (the black-dashed rectangle).

Here, they feel as though they are in immediate proximity of other users and of the media makers.

The media makers (the gray dots) are hiding behind their content (small black dashes): they imagine that they can maintain their distance from the users as in a traditional media. But users know now from countless other sites that this distance doesn’t really exist. In every news media on the Web where readers can’t interact with journalists, readers know that it is only so because journalists (or editors or publishers) don’t want them to.


figure 15: Proximity is only in the hands of the users

Observations on figure 15

On the Web, proximity is only available to a person, never to a media.

Media makers, as individuals, can reach any Web page a click away, but the media website itself can’t be sent away on a decision from the media.

A media website doesn’t move, can’t move, and can’t be sent to consumers: it sits on a server.

We have to learn immobility.

It is the decision of the users to take their attention to the media (the blue solid horizontal arrow).
For any content that can interest the users (news alerts, new comments, images, offers, activities, etc.) the media can (and should) offer to the users as many ways as possible to be alerted (the black-dashed arrows):

  • RSS
  • email,
  • Twitter, etc.

The small hollow ovals are there to represent the users’ decisions to receive these alerts.
It is important to understand that these alerts are not a return to the traditional media process of sending content. The only function of these alerts is to bring the users back to our place where we can use all the advantages of proximity.


figure 16: What proximity changes

Observations on figure 16

The black dashes represent the news media on the Web.
Users (the blue squares) are inside the website.
The triangles represent the ads that send our users to the merchants (the orange line circles).


Proximity kills the distance in space and time between media and merchant: the orange circles become orange-dashed circles.
Proximity can fuse advertiser and merchant (the ads are a part of the dashed circles) inside the media.
Proximity can bring users and merchants in contact inside the media.
For users and merchants who are inside the media (member users and member merchants) once an ad has been clicked on, marketing may end: the media can become a place for sales.


Proximity kills the distance in space and time between the media makers and the readers.
Readers are among us, right there, we can touch them.
Everybody is a click away: everything can be personal whenever the “personal” is more efficient or more productive than  generic content or an automatic process.