With the whole Facebook privacy kerfuffle still fresh in peoples minds (see this back and forth between Techcrunch and Jason Calicanis on the subject), I read a great post this morning from Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures – who talked about platforms as governments. The question is, what sort of government is Craigslist, Facebook, Apple, Google, etc….
As usual, some of the best ideas came in the comment section
What really struck me was the large number of comments I read this morning – as well as other days on just who owns the infomation on these services.
Do you own your own info when you post it up there? Can you take it with you?
As I said on Fred Wilson’s blog this morning:
I’ve never really gotten the idea of people expecting the data they provide to be theirs exclusively. If you want exclusivity – don’t post it online – and then see if there is real value for you insights and personal lifestream. Unless you can get reality show contract – my guess is that the internet has taken data that has heretofore had little value – and by aggregating it and distributing it to the people for whom it does have some meaning – has created a ton of value. Whether some of that value is captured by the platforms is almost irrelevant to my way of thinking – I am providing value – and am receiving value – and I can opt out at any time. A pretty fair trade in my opinion.
This got me thinking more about the value of information.
There really is no value to my comments or posts without an audience of people who may or may not find them interesting. Pictures of my kids are useless to anybody but my friends and family. Where I ate breakfast is generally of little import to anybody, but by posting it up via Foursquare – it might reach a few folks to whom it does resonate.
When you think about it, the internet has taken information and made it available to anyone with a connection – and then allowed that person to collate their own information – bringing far greater value to each member of the ecosystem.
Think about it in terms of old media. Before the internet (yes there was such a time) – all of your information was gathered and collated by “professionals” who fed it to you where they decided and when they decided. Newspapers, television , magazines, radio, etc… all depended heavily on someones editorial judgment as to what I might like or be interested in – and to make it all the more clear – since all of these companies were (and still are) for profit entities – the editorial decisions were (and still are) made based on aggregating the largest audience for the information provided.
Fast forward to today and I am my own editor.
On Pandora – I decide what I want to listen to – not some program director looking at the middle of an 18-34 year old bell curve.
With blogs and news aggregators, I am my own Ben Bradlee.
With Hulu and YouTube, I am my own Brandon Tartikoff.
And the great thing is – the more I want to put into my editorial job – the more I am going to get out – almost guaranteed.
Sure there are nights when I want to kick back and watch Lost or 24 (neither of them around anymore alas) – but more and more I spend my time with my own curated information.
Whether I own this information or not is irrelevant to me. I move freely between the differing governments – Facebook, Google, Apple, etc… using each for what I believe is its most relevant facet for myself – and pay my taxes by contributing to each ecosystem. If someone finds my contributions worthwhile – all the better.
And if enough people people find enough other peoples informational contributions worthwhile – well then the value of all the collective contributions has increased dramatically.
New media gets this. Google was built on it. Facebook is a product of it. Apple provides the digital picks and shovels to create and access it. And so on.
If the old media guys are to have any sort of future – and regain any semblance of real growth – then they are going to have to realize that their information – whether it be in the form of a tv show, a newspaper article, a new song, a movie, whatever – needs to be produced so that people can not only consume it in the traditional manner – but also curate it, embed it, check in with it, scrobble it, clip it – and ultimately make it part of their own creations. It’s only then that they really will be able to move past the traditional – and into the new.
Information is valuable – but in order to really understand its value – you need to understand the ecosystem in which the information lives – or can be used. The best information can be tailored to all different ecosystems – and ultimately monetized across the lot. There’s not much of that going on – but as I am my own editor – there will be.