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.







There has been a lot of discussion on the blogs concerning paid content, endorsements and sponsorships. Forrester Research started the argument with a report on sponsored posts. Chris Brogan spooled up the discussion with the suggestion that being straight forward about intentions has worked for people like John Chow and Shoemoney. Chris had a lively group of comments from those on both sides of the fence. Marshall Kirkpatrick of Readwriteweb came out strongly against the practice suggesting that “paying bloggers to write about your company is a dangerous and unsavory path for new media”. Valeria Maltoni’s conversation856211 added thoughts on blog sustainability, transparency and development as we witness an evolving marketing system.

I see social media as a large post office box full of party invitations. This box is stuffed with varying invitations in appealing envelopes. You open them at your option and by reading the words on the card you make a personal choice. No one is looking over your shoulder so you can toss them or keep them. Most of the invitations that you receive are pretty straight forward and transparent. When the Tupperware party invitation is opened, you are aware that if you go, somebody at the party will be selling something. You can choose to attend the party, share in the fun and conversation and purchase product, or you can decline the invitation. The invitation to the White Elephant Gift Exchange states clearly that you must bring a $25 gift to the party. You can measure the advantages of the social banter, personal engagement and gift sharing against other investments of your time. These invitations, along with past party experiences provide you with the transparency to understand the intentions of the host.

The other underlying factor in choosing party attendance is the value you place upon the host of the party. If you have attended their parties in the past and found them duds, you probably would toss the invitation. On the other hand, some party hosts have a reputation of sponsoring a social explosion and you would be a fool to miss the date. The great hosts make a Tupperware or a White Elephant or even a knitting party worth the effort. Trustworthy hosts have earned their reputation by demonstrating that they bring added value to the party experience. They prove through their actions that they can sustain the value of the party even if there is selling involved. They send invitations that are clear in their intent.

If they choose to have a banner over the punch bowl that states, “Punch sponsored by Hawaiian Tropic”, you are free to ask the host why. An honest host would state that the company provided the punch free for you in exchange for displaying the sign. A well-trusted host could suggest that Hawaiian Tropic is their personal favorite and you would not be offended. A clever host would plan a party game that involved the punch in the conversation and in the activity. In the end, you had a great time with friends and family, associated with an experienced and practical host and didn’t mind that the party was partially subsidized by the punch distributor.

As I explore the blog invitations that are presented to me by the social web, I like the fact that I can freely measure the value of the host. I appreciate hosts who provide open communication so that I can ask why the “punch banner” is there on the page. I know that I can look at the conversation to determine if I can trust the site to be full of great conversation. I am grateful for the experiences presented to me, so an honest attempt to pay the bills makes perfect sense to me.

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

You have to be impressed by those who can create comfortable conversation with someone that they just met. You know the people; they come to the party and the conversation just flows in every direction that they turn. These conversationalists seem to make friends at the drop of the hat.

But are these real friends or is this fleeting friendship? David Armano the VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass, suggested that in some ways the word friendship, in the old context is dead, but friendship, with the new technology is very much alive and well.

There are so many social networks that link people together that even the non-gifted conversationalist creates fairly strong friendships over time. David suggests that there is a similar dynamic between meeting up with old friends and meeting online friends. He says “We’re able to launch right into a comfortable conversation as if we’ve known each other for years. But in reality—we’d just met”.

This dynamic works in party situations as well; if there is a way to build common ground into the conversation. Most parties use a group activity to build friendship opportunities.

Think of a party activity as Wiki collaboration that builds into a friendship facilitator.

Let’s assume that the party starts with clusters of conversations in various parts of the room. If the host is smart, they will offer a collaborative event to break the ice and facilitate connections. As the activity progresses the personalities of the players come out through the natural banter generated by human connection. Friendships develop as like-minded people begin to find common ground in the activity.

This collaboration turns strangers into social partners, then into friends, and sometimes the result into friendships.

The party’s ability to generate friendships from thin air is an amazing study in personal dynamics. Playing games together with strangers can create comfortable conversation as if you had known a person for years, when in reality the party just introduced you.

This style of friendship facilitator system works much faster than other “friend” networks, due to the common party activity. The odds of building lasting friendships from these collaborations are the magic of party events. Watch and observe how strangers can become close friends from a party.

 You’re going to miss this; you’re going to want this back. You’re going to wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast. These are some good times, so take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you’re going to miss this…

Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller teamed to pin these words sung by Trace Adkins.  These words express the value of great memories and our natural ability to bring memories back. The words are also a small manifesto on age. The lyrics and song go on to present some life-event scenarios that involve a younger and older persons interaction.

The younger person sees the “here and now” or the near-future. The older one suggests that there will come a time when the here and now will be only a valuable memory. Both individuals are right to think the way they do; it is the blessing of our social existence. Creating great memories is the best part of life. Storing memories away for future recall is the finest fruit to be picked while people age.  All of our life-events create a memory or two. For those that are experiencing that moment in time; they look forward to moving on past the moment to the next one. For those who look back at that time; they relish in the memories that the moment left them.

Gorley and Miller’s words are not new to the human language. We have heard our parents or grandparents tell us that we are going to miss the passing days. We heard their voices as they wished days had not gone by so fast and suggesting that these days will also be missed.  As our life passes by, we begin to believe their words and feel their meaning. As days “gone-by” stack up, our perspective changes and even some of the bad times turn toward good. Many of these memories create a longing for a time that we would want back, if only it were possible.

The song demonstrates how valuable memory generators are to us.  Even listening to this song’s lyrics will generate memories for some people. To some, a picture from the past, a mention of a place or an old song can generate a great memory.  We find that past party experiences with our children hold many of our great memories.

Today, Facebook and Twitter focus on gathering and sharing moments which are mostly, here and now.  Someday in the future, these will also be memories.  I believe that the reason why so many Boomer- Women are joining networks is not for the here and now, but to generate memories from the past.  Other networks will discover ways to generate memories of great life-events and feed them to the Boomers and others.  These new platforms will pull old memories out of the good times; all the good times that we had hoped wouldn’t go by so fast.

You may not know it now, but you’re going to miss this…

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?