Conversations are replacing content on the Web
OK, so maybe conversations are not REPLACING content, but it is clear that interaction and the discussion of ideas ARE changing the dynamic of the web. Just as static pages that you visit on websites are giving way to Social Distribution Streams of content you can consume anywhere, people no longer need to “publish” to communicate on the Web.
For some time now, I have found the most interesting nuggets or ideas in the comments of blog posts. Sometimes they are made by the readers and often they are made by the author in response to a question or challenge. You see this behavior on Twitter as well. People will link to, or retweet, an interesting post, article, or video and will add their own commentary as they pass the meme along.
In many ways, this behavior is a modern day letters-to-the-editor writ large and in real time. No more waiting for the next issue of your local paper so you can read the local liberal wit bitch-slap the local conservative curmudgeon, who happened to complain about an older article in the previous edition. The debate happens all over the web stream in a real-time, multi-platform discussion.
And the online discussion isn’t limited to reacting to online content. It has become harder to avoid spoilers about TV shows, etc., if you don’t watch certain shows when originally broadcast (and you didn’t avoid Facebook, Twitter, etc. until you catch up). More interesting has been the way that Twitter in particular has been inserted to create real time commentary and discussion to live events. Sometimes this is planned and productive and other times it is spontaneous and possibly disruptive (as in the recent set of cases where the audience has hijacked some conference keynotes). God help you today if you are not a good presenter or you misjudge the match between your material and your audience.
This all connects back to the themes of transparency and feedback. We are living in a world where the audience increasingly expects to participate and they will do so with or without your help or permission. Companies that choose to close comments on posts, for example, lose the ability to host and perhaps frame and influence the discussion. They don’t stop the discussion. It will happen with or without them. With Google Sidewiki it may even happen “on” their own site without their permission.
All this is actually GOOD news for the businesses and brands that learn to use the conversation to create relationships and develop communities. Messages are no longer one way communications that are distributed through a channel and controlled. Companies that recognize this and embrace this concept will flourish.
Photo by Akuppa