From Social Media to the 3-D Internet: Companies Need to Change Up, Says Former RealNetworks Exec Kelly Jo MacArthur

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communicate outside the country, and inside the country when media was closed down by the government. We began to see the impact of putting media technology in the hands of anyone. That was very much related to the beginning of social media.

When media was introduced to the Internet, of course, the first people who began to think about how their paradigm would shift were people who control content and other traditional media channels. News channels, ABC News, NPR, News Corp., broadcast radio, then the music industry. The paradigms of how content is created, owned, distributed, and licensed around the world, paradigms which had been created for a non-Internet world—to this day, their translation has been very difficult. When you’re in an industry entrenched in its models, you must be able to think far out into the future, so you have the ability to control how your model will evolve, versus letting the provider of the technology, whoever it may be—Apple—decide how your industry is going to evolve because they become the way in which you reach consumers.

Some of the very first things broadcast on the Internet were college sports. Alumni were scattered around the country, and there was a belief that alumni would want to be able to listen to the basketball game from their school. That is an entirely social application, it’s about reconnecting with the community. But it’s a one-way device. As we moved into video, and broadband capabilities caught up with the media technologies, you saw things like YouTube evolve. YouTube really solidified the way we as citizens around the world feel we have the ability to communicate our own message to the people we really want to communicate with. In part because [Google] bought YouTube when they did, they do have the leverage to negotiate some outcome with the providers of content that have solidified that means of communication.

You overlay on top of that tools like MySpace and Facebook, which began, like e-mail—we needed ways to communicate with our small network of people. Because we understood how to open APIs [application programming interfaces] very broadly and advertising models were becoming more mature, it all converged very quickly in a way that has taken advantage of our desire as citizens and consumers to reengage in a more personal way with each other. It’s a very positive phenomenon—people want to create progress. And we don’t want to wait for companies to do it in their models. Companies have to think more quickly. They have to be more transparent, but they have an amazing opportunity to engage their users in helping them to be transformative right now.

Now, in my work with all kinds of different industries, it’s really accelerating the way and pace that they move into the future.

X: So what is the long-term future of social media? Some people are still wondering whether Twitter or Facebook are passing fads.

KJM: People say they didn’t predict the rise of Twitter or Facebook—and we don’t know what particular applications of the technologies will evolve—but in fact they’re not huge leaps, even from e-mail and other networks. It’s just we’ve been able to … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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  • Kelly is spot on. I particularly like the way she emphasizes the power of people as citizens and consumers, and how it is vastly enhanced via social media.

    Her analysis goes beyond the blunt and obvious “Now people can broadcast their complaints” assessment of social media impact. Instead, she seems to understand that this media gives companies a chance to let people actually form their very offering. Their core value. We are doing this at Daily Grommet, via “Citizen Commerce” but we have the luxury of forming a business around that central notion of asking people create our business with us, in creating a participative commerce experience. But it is SO much harder for a big company to backfill with this kind of participation and sheer personal touch.

    I would be interested to hear Kelly’s POV on the relative balancing of power between small and large business now. I argue that social media levels the playing field and that small is a huge advantage. I think the days of nameless/faceless business are over. Social media takes us back to the notion of living in a village where you know who made your bread and forged your horsehoes.