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 I wonder if Henry Ford would have changed his business model if he had launched his car company in the Web 2.0 world.

There seems to be a mindset in social media that if you build it, advertisers will come. We think that advertising is a funding source without limits, as long as you produce the necessary eye ball count.

Using this business model Henry would have provided a new car to everyone who came in and filled out a profile on themselves. He could justify giving the transportation tool away for free because when the cars really catch on, and the volume scales; there will be millions of unique eyeballs watching these things drive around. He would dip into the bottomless pit of advertising dollars for the magnetic door-sign opportunities presented by these rolling billboards. He would tell marketers that all of his users give him great demographic information and he could even geo-target the cars in various communities and by their commuter habits.

Sure it costs a few grand to build a car, but Henry would make that up in no time using advertising revenue– Remember; millions of eyeballs will be exposed to the door-signs!

I had a college professor suggest that “nothing happens until someone sells something”.

That is probably why Henry Ford chose the “build it and sell it” business model rather than ad monetizing. I don’t think Henry would have told the press, “We will get to a business model sometime in the future; right now we are focused on building a solid automobile delivery platform”.

This economic downturn has highlighted the problems associated with an advertiser based business model in social network. As the budgets constrict in corporate America, the marginal networks are fighting for the advertising crumbs. Andrew Chen wrote a great piece on the weak foundation of many social network business models.

Andrew expresses his concern that these models will have trouble attracting growth capital as the advertising revenues go south. He worries about all those that don’t have a true business model or are waiting for the model to present itself. This is especial challenging when there are so many social sites that rely on ads and early-adopters to fuel their engines. Henry would probably be fine until Misters Chrysler, Buick and Toyota joined the door sign monetization band-wagon. Then they would all be heading to Washington for a bail-out!

Lucky for Ford, it launched during the industrial revolution and not the social awakening.

Ari Rosenberg, a media sales consultant shared some insight on the challenges of online advertising; but his concern was the volume of advertising presented on each page.

His conclusions would point to a different problem that Henry Ford would have experienced with is Ford 2.0 business model – Door sign clutter. If Henry’s cars where popular then he might be tempted to plaster on dozens of advertisement, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the system. Ether way, relying on the ad machine to power all networks seems destined for a bad bend in the road.

It seems reasonable to find a way to monetize a network through ether a “Selling-Something” business model, an “Offer-Freemium” business model or a “Subscribe-to-This” business model.

Any of these models have sales-fuel that keeps the economic engines running. The door-sign monetizing plan will not sustain a world of social networks.

But a Selling-Something plan works most every time.






Managing editor Andy Serwer posed this question to a group of Silicon Valley technology leaders this past week. Om Malik, senior writer for the blog Gigaom reports that Fortune wants direction on the next technological frontier. I suggested in the comments that they consider discussing a network designed for Empty-nesters. Not a “Facebook for old Farts”, but more of a Ning for family events. I think Fortune needs to discuss the creation of the virtual family room, or a spot on the web where families can reenact all the wonderful events that have built their family albums and parental memories. Fortune has built its fortune speaking to the Baby Boomer throughout the years. Their discussion of technology should help them find a way to connect with their internet savvy generation Y children. Years of great memories in these families can and should be extended by a well positioned network. So Fortune – Where is the empty nest network?

The Tyranny of Distance

The Tyranny of Distance

 No reminders are needed to bring to mind the current economic doldrums. What really hurts is that we will not be visiting our children as much this year. The reason; we are trying to be cautious with money. This means that we will miss some important life-events with our family to save the nest-egg.

Our oldest son calls this phenomenon “The Tyranny of Distance”. When everyone lived close, our life-event celebrations just required setting a time, sending invitations, determining the activities and purchasing the gifts. But today, thousands of miles separate us and creates a distance that seems to be tyrannical in its power. We don’t blame our children for the distance that has been created. They are seeking great opportunities and we are proud of them.

Before the economic downturn, distance did not seem as big a hurdle as it is today. Catching a flight, a couple of nights in hotels and dinner on the road were not questioned when the 401K wasn’t tanking. Christmas in California just meant some gas and a 10-hour drive down I-5. When a new baby arrived in New Hampshire, we would fly in to celebrate. By traveling we could be personally connected and continue to share in our family experiences. But now distance is the tyrant that has power over our personal connections.

These economic realities have not stopped some of the traditional activities from finding a way around distance. We still send the gifts and attempt to spoil the grandchildren. We still connect by phone, webcam, email and social networks. But the rich personal connections are much more difficult to produce in today’s realities.

We are grateful that the internet is delivering so many great tools to breakdown the grip that distance has placed upon us. We will continue to do everything possible to join every life-event; even if it must be online. These actions are our personal protest against the tyranny of distance

During the final days of 2006 our lives made an abrupt change. We had just returned from our youngest daughters wedding reception to start our life as empty-nesters. After twenty-plus years of living in the chaos created from five children, we were left with just the two of us, and the dog.

The strange thing is that we had planned on this day for years, but when it really happened we weren’t prepared for how it would make us feel.

At first it was peace and contentment, but soon we discovered that over the past 30-years we had developed a habit that we couldn’t or didn’t want to break – We were hooked on our kids!  We began to suffer from withdrawal. And to make matters worse; our kids had chosen great spouses, and we had become addicted to them as well.  And the grand kids; well they turned us into real “family-longing junkies” as we sat around staring at each other.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention – Well in our case we needed something invented to cure the longing for when we had children in the family room each night.  We had a tradition of family game playing, so it seemed logical that we would search for a game that would connect us again.

Our dispersed family would not allow gathering in the family room like before, so we started a family game that we could do together on the internet. It started by using simple email messages and attaching images of the gifts that we were sharing in the game.

The second year it expanded the conversation and the engagement increased. By the third year we were playing on a social networking site, attaching videos, images and bantering like craze people.  This online family party has become the cure for our Mom and Dad family- longings.

The family nest is still empty, but the opportunity to connect online virtually fills the space with laughter and banter.  We can again participate and watch our children, in-laws and grand kids in our virtual family room.

We thank the internet for inventing a solution to the empty nest.  What do you do to keep connected?

The party game is both the crutch and the creator of the social discovery in a party.

My personality is such that I get very nervous when find myself needing to produce small-talk. I am not a great conversationalist even though I consider myself genuinely interested in people. I often find myself looking for a social crutch to prop up the conversation and give a structure to my social voice. I know that I am not alone in needing something to kick start the conversation.

The ideal social activity would engage me along with a common task with other party attendees. Give me something to do and I will engage with others as I do it. In fact I will turn into quite a party clown if given a social crutch like a party game. There are many very clever conversationalists, but just as many closet-clowns who need the support of a structured activity to start the communication.

I suggest that an activity or game supports and strengthens the social power of any party. The party game forces all the personalities together into a common cause and pulls out the latent fun in everyone. This social creative crutch even assists the “wall-flower” to open-up when they take their turn.

Bringing all the personalities out creates the rich social tapestry that makes parties memorable of everyone. It is sad that some party host never use the party activity crutch because they feel that they don’t want to interrupt the conversations that happen naturally. By using a common activity that requires everyone to take a role creates conversation, creates common ground, creates a group atmosphere and creates contribution. The crutch is the creator of a rich party experience. What crutches have you found to work best for your parties?

 I find party experiences fascinating. A party can be a social explosion or a fizzling dud. One thing that I have discovered is that the party’s success or failure hinges on what fuse is used to start a social chain reaction.

We attended an 80th birthday party last night, hosted by the oldest daughter of the seven children. Most of the attendees comprised immediate family. We, and some others made up a small group of family the friends. We walked in about 3-minutes after the suggested start time and there was a swarm of family around “mother”. There were the obligatory balloons, table decorations and a video loop of their mother on the wall. Laughter, smiles and catching-up conversation permeated the room.

We left early, because we never had our fuse lit. (No alcohol was served, so using “lit” is not intended as a pun). Sarah and I like to think of ourselves as fun people, but the party chain circled around the room and missed a few of us. We could have broken our way in, but it was easier to head home. This party missed the opportunity to experience the unique chain reaction that leads to a social explosion.

A social chain reaction suggests that individual people are somehow connected and that something moves through the group transferring energy into everyone. Social explosions happen organically if there is the right amount of energy applied and if all the humans are connected by common activity. Fizzling duds occur when no connections are made in the chain or when the starting energy doesn’t have enough power to push through the group.

A party-fuse needs to light the minute attendees enter the room, allowing individuals to feel the burn of anticipation for more social contact. As the party progresses, several social fuses should be ignited so as to leverage every personality into a more powerful blast. The more individuals that are connected, the more energy is developed , resulting in a bigger explosion.

It is the responsibility of the Host’s to organize all of the fuse lighting events of a party.

I would be interested to discover what fuses you have found to ignite some great social blasts at you parties?


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