The Open Web (Still) Isn’t Going Away
The “web is dead” linkbait discussions are back, spurred in part by recent IPO news but also by various tech pundits (ironically enough, the discussions started at sites on the open web).
Except I don’t think the open web is going anywhere anytime soon. Even with the proliferation of the modern walled gardens. My opinion is that at this point, it is going to be “and” not “or.” And it makes the most sense to develop a digital strategy that invests in both the open web and in other people’s platforms in such a way that is designed to meet outcomes (vs. just being trendy).
But I had some new thoughts so decided to put them in one place on why the future is bright for the open web:
Media companies (modern and traditional) are not just going to abandon their sovereignty
The web enables true independence for both emerging and traditional media companies. It allows them freedom as it serves as a home base that plugs into other platforms (open and closed) and enables robust distribution (search, social, email, RSS). It also allows monetization in creative ways without restriction. It doesn’t make sense for these brands to completely yield their presence to the stream or a closed platform. Ask the Huffington Post, CNN, Techdirt or even The Oatmeal to abandon their sites and they’d look at you like you’re crazy. Besides, there exists a robust set of tools to integrate sites with different platforms: setup correctly, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Serious artists / content creators use both corporately-owned platforms and independent
We live in a fragmented media world where no one has a monopoly on attention. What this means is that adopting an “and” not “or” mindset is the safest play. Build up multiple platforms of equity and don’t just survive, thrive. If one falls out of favor, no big deal. Even smarter is to experiment, then refine as you go using data. Look at how some of the most successful independent content creators like Darren Rowse and Chris Brogan operate: they’re active on emerging platforms like Google+ and have engaged audiences there. But in addition, they have successful sites which have their own design and personality with a unique community they’ve nurtured for years acting as a hub. They smartly see digital attention is not a winner take all situation and instead of turning their back on some audiences, they take a holistic approach.
Archives still have a lot of value for real people (even if early adopters continue to ignore this)
Remember when Wikipedia was down for one day and so many “regular” (as opposed to us geeks) web users freaked out? The highest value of Wikipedia on any given day is in the archives / tail. Sure, it’s being updated and improved upon but the archival value of information organized and accessible on a global scale, across platforms doesn’t decrease with time. If anything, it increases. This is true in each niche as well. The world benefits from an archive of information as much as what’s new, now. These two dynamics (real-time vs. archives) aren’t in opposition, rather they support each other.
RSS / email are far from dead, they’re actually really useful. Just not “sexy” – but who cares when you can easily use them too?
For sites I manage personally (and for clients) we track RSS / email subscribers in tandem with social / web analytics. They’re certainly not “sexy” for content distribution these days. But why not use them when, at least for sites we market, we see increases in metrics not just from a volume perspective, but consistently high open / read rates from these channels as they’re mechanisms which allow opt in at the source. And so frequently, our brands with high amounts of RSS and email subscribers have built the right type of community for their content to be organically shared across all web platforms.
As a digital marketer and content creator, my professional workstation always beats mobile for real work
A lot of people like to talk about how the landscape for computing is shifting to mobile and somehow this “kills the web.” I don’t see increased use of mobile as something that destroys a full web experience on a desktop, or laptop + high resolution display. While I love the mobile web from a consumption perspective, I do real work while at my workstation, with multiple monitors, in an ergonomically correct space. I vest hours of time in developing digital strategies, analyzing data, creating content, etc. And so a majority of my computing time in a professional sense is in a desktop platform, where the web still shines. It’s the same for others I talk with who do most of their computing while practicing their craft as opposed to simply consuming.
An alternative perspective…
Perhaps the open web is not in opposition to corporately-owned platforms. I’d argue they actually work together, something we see daily with how news is spread, reacted to and remixed / built upon as just one example.
While some continue to cry the sky is falling on the common web, I look at how digital communications have evolved over the years and see those who took a platform agnostic approach embracing an independent presence (along with new outposts that made sense) still here.
Do we really think everyone’s just going to stop creating on channels they own and only participation in other people’s platforms? Why not both?
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