In the beginning we used media like TV and radio to broadcast content. You still see a lot of legacy media on the internet:
The Professionals Talk: The first website I ever visited on the internet was CNN I remember thinking how cool it was to get the news whenever I wanted. Podcasts are the audio way to distribute this kind of content. Sites like hulu are the video way to distribute it.
Over the past few years social media, the framework people use to communicate with other people, has been advancing blindingly fast.
Talking to each other: When I started high school, internet email had just crossed the tipping point. Towards the end of high school instant messaging became all the rage. In undergrad ICQ gave us a more dynamic communications experience with video, audio, and text messaging capabilities mixed with file sharing, status messages and a host of other features.
Talking to the world: While all of these tools gave us the ability to communicate with other specific people, personal web pages (remember geocities?) followed by blogs gave us the ability to broadly communicate to an outside audience. YouTube, as great as it is, is just another example of a technology that lets people broadcast their content to others. Twitter also falls in this category.
The World is Talking: Wiki technology gave us the ability to allow a group of people who don’t know each other the ability to create content together.
Coping with all of the talking: Just as fast as we have been learning how to create content, we have also been trying to cope with the exponential increase of it. Search engines like Google help us find content. When I became one of the first users of Friendster I remember viewing the application as a way to organize all of my friends blogs and email information. MySpace built on that model, and facebook is taking it even further. RSS feeds, and Sharethis combined with personal portals help us digest the content. Just as fast as we think we have this under control syndicators like feedburner, twitterfeed, and podcast ready help us distribute our content much more efficiently and add to the pile.
What makes this evolution of social media so interesting to me is the generational component to it. Advances in helping the professionals talk are being embraced by older Americans. A mere 17% of hulu users are between 18 and 34, while 47% are 55 and older. Meanwhile advances in talking to the world, and letting the world talk are being embraced by a substantially younger crowd, with 18-24 year olds dominating facebook, 54% of bloggers under 30, and 20-somethings dominating wikipedia. Different generations are viewing communication on the internet in very different ways.
Barack Obama’s use of the internet has been universally lauded by the mainstream press, and for good reason. He has masterfully used the newer generation of media to get his message out, and then carried by younger Americans across the internet. Obama’s campaign uses ‘talk to each other’,’talk to the world’, and ‘coping technologies’ in amazingly complimentary ways (as did Ron Paul’s campaign which leveraged relatively small numbers of supporters into large impacts). What that means in practice is that the Obama campaign has been encouraging its supporters to produce their own content and distribute it. Some of the most talked about pieces of Obama media, like Obama Girl, Yes We Can, or the 1984 ad weren’t produced by the campaign. His campaign blog is full of open threads that allow his supporters to openly discuss anything the want.
Hillary takes the exact opposite approach. Hillary is using distribution mechanisms like her campaign website and YouTube to distribute her own content, remember her Sopranos parody? Her campaign blog is really a collection of articles and testimonials by her supporters. She is the professional, and she is talking.
John McCain has decided to corner the AdWords market, buying up adwords on Google. Simultaneously he has actively courted professional bloggers, believing they can influence media coverage. It’s an indirect route, and certainly less obvious than Hillary, but a “Professional Speaking” strategy to be sure.
And this leaves us where?
As a citizen, the different internet strategies gives me a lot of insight into which generation each candidate (or at least their staff) falls in to. As an investor, it means that I add a deographic lens to every social media play I look at. I automatically know that twitter is geared towards to a young but growing population, while Spotrunner is geared towards a large but declining market (I actually like spotrunner btw).
Maybe if people comment on this I might take these thoughts further