FASTforward: The User Revolution

Safa Rashtchy addressed us in this morning’s first session about the original six trends and impact of the user revolution, from a report that he created while with Piper Jaffray.

  1. The emergence of “communitainment”: community + communication + entertainment have collided together and are impacting each other’s growth, generating a new type of activity on sites like MySpace. Advertisers must learn to leverage the community aspect of communitainment.
  2. The increasing popularity of Usites: sites where user-generated content makes up most of the site, such as YouTube. Time spent on Usites has increased from 3% to 31% of total time spent online, since it’s not just about the content itself, but also about the community that emerges around the content.
  3. Mainstreaming of the internet: it’s becoming a mainstream media channel that people are using as part of their daily routine, and 40% of respondents in a recent survey would actually give up TV and keep the internet, given the choice. It has surpassed print media and radio in terms of reach, and is approaching TV. It’s also a key medium in the workplace, further expanding its reach.
  4. Declining usage of traditional media: in particular, TV viewing and TV advertising are both dropping.
  5. Fragmentation of content consumption across several media: we’ve moved from having only a few choices in how we consume content (e.g., newspapers, broadcast TV, magazines, broadcast radio) to more than 30 different ways, many of them facilitated by the internet. Furthermore, consumers are multi-tasking, merely “snacking” on any particular medium by doing things such as surfing the internet while watching TV.
  6. Evolution of user generated brands, especially when well-known corporate brands allow their consumers to impact the corporate brand: consider the Dorito’s Superbowl ad example, where they allowed consumers to design the ad that was aired during the most expensive time available on TV.

Search is the second most commonly used application on the web, and search is becoming the new portal: it’s how people interact with information on the web. Google is increasing their dominance in web search, but local and enterprise search are still wide open. Traditional media is changing their view of search as well: in 2005, Agence France-Presse tried to sue Google because their headlines appeared in Google searches, then by 2007, the Times of London was training its journalists on how to write in a way that would maximize the probability of a high ranking in a Google search.

He offered up nine trends and how they appear before and after the user revolution

  • Online versus offline media are changing from being separate and competitive to being integrated into one medium
  • Media sources are moving from a few large content providers to vertically-focused multiple sources
  • Content control used to be centralized and controlled by publishers, but is becoming fragmented and controlled by the users
  • Internet content is changing focus from text-based to video-based; Rashtchy feels that video will be the next killer app on the web
  • Main navigation method is changing from portals to search
  • Consumer decision process used to be basic and largely influenced by advertising, but is now sophisticated and driven by reviews and rating
  • Competitive advantage was based on exclusive content but is now based on simplicity, speed and interconnectivity
  • Media consumption patterns
  • Social networking

There are four key impacts of the user revolution on enterprises:

  1. Enterprise search is not a tool: it’s the platform that will hold your business
  2. Consumers expect simplicity, common sense and accuracy; if it’s not easy to use, they won’t use it
  3. If you have to use the search constantly, the website is in very bad shape
  4. A good search platform must be built on a great website design, created for simplicity, common sense and accuracy

He covered a huge amount of information, and I couldn’t absorb it all; I’d love to hear his talk again.

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