Over the next few years the enthusiasm around Web2.0 will trickle down to the original 1.0 content owner/providers and you can bet on a series of website overhauls often couched as new launches. The first that has caught my eye is MarthaSpace being put out by MSLO.
In 1997, everyone was creating a portal; now they are creating a social network with emphasis on community. Guess what? There will only be a handful of megahits like MySpace, and the rest will be relegated to small market shares which make them suspiciously like websites of yore only with “enhanced” community tools.
It is certainly amusing to have witnessed the complete turnaround of the term “community” which in 2000 had become the poster child for unmonetizable internet dreams. To a certain extent, they still are. Don’t believe the hype about Google and MSN bidding for MySpace inventory. Google has been land grabbing AdSense inventory (often at a financial loss) since 2003. The more pageviews MySpace generates the less those pages are worth to anyone.
So what are these new SmallSpaces vying for? Well, first of all, many have no idea that they are SmallSpaces. The majority of magazine/tv content providers went online spending more money than they wanted and deriving very little in terms of tangible ROI. The more gutsy and bigger players (NY Times Digital, WSJ) had the foresight to continue to develop and in some cases are building new businesses that perhaps aren’t as rosy as the old ones but they are figuring it out. The rest (often smaller books) panicked and let their websites stagnate.
And so the con begins again, fueled with dreams of huge audiences and new technologies. Unfortunately, these content providers are now starting at a disadvantage because communities (that hold their target audience) have evolved in fragmented fashion, inhabiting the most unlikely of places like bulletin boards and very niche sites with little or no brand.
Don’t get me wrong. There are opportunities out there, but I don’t think the existing content companies that are now “rethinking” web strategy are savvy enough to pull it off. For one thing, they need to stop thinking about MySpace and start thinking about SmallSpace. The media businesses held by small/medium magazines and newspapers will be reborn as online entities (new new media) that aspire to $1-10M in revenue and could be very profitable, just not megasites.
I’ll leave you with one example: dogster.com.
Update: Looks like the NHL is getting a smallspace.