Picking up the pieces from our previous installment (“A Deep Dive Behind the Editorial Wall“), let’s consider what publishing looks like without walls.
My hunch is that there are a lot of people who are completely unfamiliar with the idea that it is possible to publish something without some kind of advertising — and here, again, I guess I need to remind some readers of its duplicitous nature (if this is new to you, please go back and check out some of the basics involved).
Without attempting anything like a historical overview, let me go back just a few decades to note that one of the landmark establishments of print publishing were directories — first and foremost the ubiquitously well-known telephone directory. My hunch is that originally these were maintained by and large by the telephone companies, which were sort of responsible for a variety of telephone services. Maintaining a telephone directory — especially the so-called “yellow pages” was discovered to be a quite lucrative business … and note that one could argue that it was based on 100% ads (if it weren’t for the fact that there was indeed absolutely no non-advertising content). In a quite similar vein, websites like ebay and craigslist are viewed exclusively for the paid content (ads) — and there is practically no other content available. I predicted long ago that natural language sites would ultimately become more reliable sources of information than brand name sites — and indeed, even today, the most well-known brand name site (Google) cannot ignore a site like hotels.com when people search for “hotels” (and the number of such examples has been consistenly and constantly increasing).
Yet this isn’t the end game. Increasingly, these topical sites will become more nuanced and differentiate a wide variety of stakeholders participating with a wide variety of aspects related to the central topics of engagement. In the long run, sites will organize into networks of semantically related activity (to stick with the previous example, e.g. “hotels” and “travel”). Again, in the long run, brand name sites like Google will not be able to compete with natural language. Most of the leading brand names online have woken up to this fact, and in a “last ditch” effort many of the brand name companies have even attempted to own language (the two largest registrants of proprietary TLDs [see also “Auctions + Markets for Domains, Domain Names + TLDs“] are none other than Google and Amazon). Apparently, these companies intend to dupe enough “suckers” into believing the TLDs they own are not owned in order to exploit the suckers even more. Natural language cannot be owned — it simply routes around attempts of ownership.
As a result, we now find ourselves at the cusp of new interpretations of many business ethics. Exploitation is no longer the ruling mantra. I believe the future will increasingly belong to organisations which pay attention to the way everyone is a stakeholder, everyone is engaged (more or less), and ultimately, everyone is increasingly focused on sustainable solutions that answer questions such as “how would we like to deal with this situation?” (see also Chapter 21, “Social Business Regulation: Introduction & Socio BIZ Rule #1“)