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October 19, 2005

Bubble 2.0 – Amateur Hour

My wife Mary tells a story about being a young American woman in  Paris.  She was in her miniskirt waiting on the corner for her boyfriend (not me – I don’t really like this story) when she was accosted by two professional women.  “This is our corner, honey,” they said in French.  “Get off!”

It seems no corner is safe for “professionals” – at least those in unlicensed professions – anymore.

Chris Anderson, Wired Editor-in-Chief and discoverer of the Long Tail, describes the situation in an excerpt from a presentation he made to The Churchill Club:

“Look at my world right now, the world of media: I'm at the very top of the tail. I have a mainstream magazine, 2 million readers, Condé Nast's big, big magazine publishing operation behind me. And yet I'm competing with blogs. Advertisers are now partly in print and partly online, and the ones online via Google AdSense have as big a presence in blogs as they do in commercial sites. So I'm competing with amateurs. And some of these amateurs do a better job than we could possibly do in their narrow sector. They're better informed; they're faster; they're more relevant to their readers. So you have this kind of pro-am marketplace.”

James Enck, European Telecom Analyst and Global Telecom Strategist at Daiwa Securities SMBC Europe Ltd., posted today on his personal blog:

“…a loosely federated open source research and opinion-shaping network seems to be taking shape - one which largely excludes the brokers. The well-informed fund manager, armed with an RSS newsreader and a list of highly recommended feeds, can do a helluva lot for himself, thank you very much. Take a heaping tablespoon of Telepocalypse, add two pinches of Richard Stastny, a smidgen of Tom Evslin, stir in healthy portions of the Ominator and Telcotrash, season (to taste), add water, stir, and presto. More adventurous palettes may like to sprinkle in some P2P, gaming, or a tasty melange of art and technology.

I have, for a long time, had deep forebodings about the long-term implications of this for the brokers' research efforts. When your client base is sufficiently well-armed to say "Duh!" to your output on a daily basis, you have a problem.”

Nationally we are having a debate about a shield law for reporters. OK, may people say, reporters need to be able to protect their sources or their won’t be any sources and all sorts of skullduggery will go unexposed.  But who qualifies as a reporter? Bloggers?  Should I be able to promise someone anonymity even if she tells me about a crime she committed because I might blog about it.  People who aren’t shielded are routinely subpoenaed to testify and are held in contempt and punished if they don’t.  Jeff Jarvis posts: 

“I firmly believe that anyone and everyone can do journalism; I am a blog triumphalist, a proponent of citizens’ media. So there should not be a special privilege for people who are somehow officially accredited as journalists — not only because that excludes citizens who do journalism but also because it puts those credentialed at risk of having their credentials pulled by authorities. We do not want to find ourselves in that position.”

In the old days a professional writer was someone who worked for an organization which could afford the cost of making his or her work available to a mass audience.  That used to be expensive so writing by amateurs was inaccessible to a mass market .  Not anymore. Anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection can blog.  Or post music.  Or post video. 

Chris Anderson goes on to say that there are many people who write or play music because they want to perform before an audience – not necessarily because they need to earn a living from doing whatever they love to do.  These amateurs are the denizens of the Long, Long Tail.  Interestingly, these “amateurs” even have a way to make a little money from their work through online ad networks.

“What’s all this have to do with Bubble 2.0?” you ask.

Web 2.0, the amorphous concept which is inflating Bubble 2.0, is all about the Long Tail and the Long, Long Tail, an explosion of choice, a continuum between the most famous professional and the most obscure amateur.  Value is created in Web 2.0 by empowering amateurs as the blog platform providers do, easing distribution of a wealth of content as the feedreaders and email subscription services do, and replacing traditional gatekeepers who effectively credentialed professionals with the opinions (note the plural) of communities (plural again) as the tagging services do.  Web 2.0 is also the distribution of advertising out to the end of the Long, Long Tail.

No corner is safe for professionals anymore.

I posted more on the Long Tail here.

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