Taste Graphs and the Future of User Controlled Media
My friend Andy Weissman posted some really interesting ideas last week on the future of branded media that got me thinking.
“we are moving to a world where almost everything is available, basically on demand. The problem for users in this environment is no longer "what CAN I watch" (or read or listen to). Instead, the problem for users is now "what SHOULD I watch " (or read or listen to). The problem has moved from *can* to *should*.”
I think Andy is leaving out the most important problem for users of all in an attention constrained media world – what do I WANT to watch or read or listen to. Here's why:
We’ve exploded the limited paradigm (MGM made 50 films a year – every year in their golden age) that fueled traditional media. Instead of gravitational centers (sports, entertainment, jazz) you have millions of distributed nodes connected to lose centers – or in many cases not centers at all. The genie can never go back in the bottle.
This took place because creation and discovery costs are zero. Making and consuming content are both free. Because of that our “taste palette” has expanded. It’s not that these tastes did not exist before. It’s that both the creation of new tastes and our ability to satiate existing tastes makes taste-making more difficult than ever. Disney is a good example of traditional media's difficulty with this shift. They just fired Rich Ross who was their tastemaker extraordinaire in TV. Responsible for Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers and more he failed miserably trying to judge the tastes of moviegoers - in the same demographic!
This medium is under public control. This has to be the foundation of any conversation about its future or business models involved in it. This power shift reaches its zenith in our ability to query the medium. The web is a database. It is a series of requests and responses. It is client and a server. You can almost always get what you want and most times get what you need.
Like cars? There is plenty of great content for you. If you’re into muscle cars there is content. If you’re into Pontiac muscle cars there is content. If you’re into Pontiac GTO’s there is content. If you’re into 1967 Pontiac GTOs there is content. Better yet - the further down you go in the taste funnel the more likely you are to find community that will provide the socialization of content. The niches keep getting bigger. They were always there. They just never had an organizing particle until digital content - or a path to that content before search.
That’s an amazing thing – the further down you drill the more likely you are to gain access to deeper content and community. And when discovery is self-directed it works best. Here’s an example that involves Andy and myself.
His tweet the other day:
I got there through a search I conducted and it was fascinating to see the intersection of both align with what Google is doing. They are bringing in the social signals to help discovery. Here’s proof:
That's Andy's smiling face in my personal result set. Bringing it full circle (pun intended) to Andy's blog post, Google appears just as, if not more, interested in luring brands into Google+ than people.
The web is exploding. The lookup tables of the web database are changing. More nodes need to be indexed and understood. Social is the best graph schema for this new world because - and here’s where everyone gets it wrong and Andy gets it right - in a self directed media world influence can never be captured and indexed but taste, taste is on demand.