Five years ago, March 1st, 2010, I wrote about what Blogs might look like in 5 years, I also threw out some numbers that I predicted would happen. Let’s go back and see how close I was back then.
Here is my opening paragraph:
“I can’t help but wonder what blogging will look like in 5 years, blogs for the most part are static and becoming integrated with Social Media Tools. There’s only 1.7 Billion people on the net and over 235 Million Blogs out there. Projections clearly show that over the next 3 – 5 years 5 Billion people will be on the Internet. Will Blogging be the primary platform? I don’t think so, everything is going more and more mobile, on the go.”
At that time only 1.7 Billion people were using the Internet. There were ONLY 235 Million Blogs, and data also suggested that in the next 3 -5 years there would be 5 Billion people using the Internet.
Today, over 3 Billion people are using the Internet, that’s 2 Billion short of projections, but that’s mostly due to the speed in which Internet access could be provided. Google & 3BNetworks are making the Internet available to all the 3rd world countries, but not as quickly as they had hoped.
The number of blogs on the Internet today is, well….seemingly impossible to track, there is no accurate count that I’m aware of.
Let’s look at paragraph #2:
“Will there be a place for blogs? Will there be a need to for content to be new and fresh multiple times a day? The money won’t be the content, it will be in the filtering and curation of content produced. More products or systems will be invented to manage all this data, data will be connected to data, there will be a huge need for filtering.”
There was a time, recently…that blogging was considered dead. But ask the question, will there be a place for blogs? Obviously blogging is not dead, and there is still a place & need for blogging. The money in blogging is actually the content, original content…there is bigger money in the curation, and the delivering of that filtering and curating. It’s kind of like the retail market, the channel of distribution, more information, curated, and lower prices. Whoever has curated a large amount of data, and has figured out how to deliver it to the masses at a low price, and even free, is making large piles of money. Not much has changed here, the old way, or the old attitude still prevails here, in terms of how we think about business, and how it is being done. One thing still rings true, it’s impossible to read every blog on the Internet, so those who filter and curate have a leg up.
And the last paragraph:
“There is much to do, and it will be interesting to see how things scale as the rise in Internet users climbs to 5 Billion. How will it impact your business? How will it impact your blog? How will we rise above the noise we can’t rise above now? The answers are forth coming, but we haven’t figured them out yet. We better hurry, time is running short. Will this blog even show up on the radar screen, it barely does now! So many questions and so many unanswered. We spend hours a day working on our blogs thinking it will look and feel the same years down the road. But I can help but wonder, what will blogs look like in 5 years?”
All these questions are still valid today, why? It boils down to one thing….we still haven’t made the paradigm shift. We are still hanging on to the old ways of doing business, organizing business, and we are still trying force feed an Industrial Age to the masses. We just can’t seem to embrace the change required, it’s too hard I guess.
In some circles, change is happening just for the sake of change, and in others, it’s moving to fast to accept as a new way of life. No matter how difficult it might be to make this paradigm shift, the blog doesn’t appear to be going away, everything is just more mobile. Mobility is here to stay, and is also changing, technology is being embedded into everything these days, including our clothes.
So, was I wrong? Sure, but not because I should have been, I was wrong because most of what I saw, and see today, is just taking longer, but it’s still going to happen. Is blogging dead, not by a long shot…you’re reading it now : ) And yes, there is still much to be done. To be honest, I’m disappointed in where blogging is today, but that to is changing. I am concerned as well, technology is fooling us, we are allowing it to control our lives. Texting and driving is all the proof I need.
When we don’t fully understand something, or we fear the thing, we give it a name to justify our rational towards it. There is no secret to content marketing, or content, it is just that, content…. with a message, and most of it is geared to selling something. As much as we all say, “I don’t like selling”, that’s what we do every day, in our conversations, and in our blog content, we’re either selling ideas, or products and services, but we are always selling. We all want conversion on some level, whether it’s views, traffic to a site, or for someone to buy what you’re selling.
Whatever it is you’re sharing, on your blog, on social networks, you are selling, you’re marketing….you either want click’s on your shared content, or they’re going to be asked to buy something on the other side. So let’s knock off the fancy names and just tell the story, stop hiding behind something to help you have a clear conscience. Most people hate being sold, so we change the game, we give selling a new name, content marketing. You’re not fooling anyone, you’ve just created a new revenue stream of lies.
Whatever content you’re going to share, tell the story, tell it well, believe in it, own it, but don’t make it something it’s not. Content marketing is a scam.
This is a Blog Post is in part about my new book I’m currently writing called, ” The Open & Free Business Model – The Future of Business”. This Blog Posts is also a bit longer than my usual blog posts : )
In fact, I held a workshop for some local business owners and walked them through the process of figuring out what this model might look like for them and their business. One of the harder exercises was looking at their current business and asking a simple question, what is your CORE business about? If I was to ask you, what does your business do, you would most likely tell me the the easiest answer, I’m a…. the highest level snap shot what YOU do, not your business. I’m a technology company might be my answer, that doesn’t really say anything other than I’m into technology. I might ask what that means, I would volunteer a more descriptive answer but still not touching on the core. By the third or fourth time of asking what your business does, I might get to the core of what your business really is about, and what it does day in and day out.
Once I uncovered what your core business is, I might ask what your vision is for your business, and then I most likely would want to know what your mission statement is, and does your staff know it. Much of this is traditional in nature, but it is still important to your online presence as well. The next step most likely would be to ask for the results of a S.W.O.T. Analysis, I think that’s useful information. At this point we could start talking about what kind of content your Blog should consider, after all we know what your core business is now, we can start to build on something here.
Once we’ve gotten this far, we can start listening. Listening for what you might ask, well, we want to know who is talking about your business, if they are talking about your business, and what exactly are they saying. I would recommend spending a considerable amount of time here if your getting alot results in your searches. I would be listening in multiple Social Media Networks, other search engines and so on, you’ll be amazed what you find out.
Another fun project is determining revenue streams, pick the highest-margin, low-investment streams (the low hanging fruit). Then advertise your chosen stream to your captive audience, it’s important to have a captive audience, you want generate much revenue without one. In the end you’ll collect money, deliver the goods, and keep your customers happy. Advertising not @vertising, did you catch that? This topic has many levels and many more choices, but you will have to choose more than one to get attention amongst all the noise.
Distribution is key but has already been taken care of by the Internet, what about mobile apps, iPads, iPhones as a way to get your content out there. iTunes Connect is an option, apply and hold your breath, it takes awhile to get approved.
One of the stumbling blocks is, determining what content should be paid for and what should be free to download or read. I too wrestled with this question, but I found giving away good content created readership and eventually revenue and the bigger more important currency, attention. The world isn’t ready for this shift, in fact, the world hasn’t really arrived online yet! The world we know is willing to pay upfront for the most part, but the world yet to come will not be forced into paying upfront for most information and even some products. I’ve said it here on this blog many times, people will keep looking until they can find what you offer for free. If they don’t find it, then maybe they’ll come back and buy it, but they look first before making that purchase. The term PFE, Proudly Found Elsewhere, coined by Gerd Leonhard, is as real as the nose on your face, so get ready.
Another looming problem is the plethora of bad content, we will have to find better ways of filtering before the bad stuff gets out of the way. Eventually, someone will come up with a great way to filter and even curate your social network meta data, then we’ll have something to really sell. There are a couple of websites that take your Twitter stream and make a daily newspaper out of the hot stuff or trends within your stream. One is called Paper.li and another is The Twitter Tim.es, they look neat but you still can’t do much with it once it’s completed. It would be good if we could customize these newspapers a bit and make them work for us in a commerce kind of way.
The primary purpose of giving away content should be to get attention, build relationships, build trust, and then maybe you can sell something. But be careful, you might get what you wish for, it might not be the kind of attention you were hoping for. The truth is, we all want to be recognized, affirmed and we all want to generate revenue, we want to make money here online so we can do the things our hearts desire keeps searching for. We want to have freedom of choice in a more relevant way, where we get to choose, not what the industrial age has conditioned us into responding to.
The Open & Free Business Model is misunderstood for the most part, it is the future of business, most business owners are not ready for it. Being Open instead of closed is scary for business owners and people in general, we just need more practice before fully embracing it. Using Open Systems like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on are just the beginning to being open, it’s not a place or a thing, it’s a mindset. Being open also means being transparent, willing to let users see and hear more than you have been willing to share in the past. It’s really how you view Open, it’s how you view Free, it’s about how you see what an Open & Free Business Model might look like for you and your business. You may or may not need help with it, there are many around that can help, but very few truly understand what Open & Free Business Model is.
Create compelling content, give some of it away, then look for ways to monetize around that free content. It sounds simple but it’s not, because you have to deliver the goods in such a way it’s brain dead easy for your visitors to get and or buy. If not already, in the future when the other 3 billion people get here, you’ll want to already be in a position of having they’re attention, then it will be a little easier, but just a little. That’s enough for now, go practice, give yourself away and watch your world change before you, eventually it will click with you and you will see a future you haven’t seen before, ever!
If you are doing it, I would love to chat with you and maybe even use your business as an example in my book. You can be a part of my book, go here.
I recently started using the Hashtag #openandfree on Twitter to track my conversations on the topic (Open & Free as a Business Model), some very interesting things are starting to come out of these conversations. The conversations also trickle away from using the hashtag, but I still get the interaction. Whether I’m speaking or consulting, there is always a series of questions, How do I know what should be free content and what do you mean by open? I’m usually surprised by the questions because, well, when I dig a little bit, it becomes obvious to me. It’s not that I’m smarter than anyone, it’s just what I’m listening for and or looking for are the opportunities in and around their business. Most people are too close to the problem(s), that’s the difference, if they could step outside of themselves and look at their business the way they did when they worked on the first draft of their business plan, they might see what I see. I think it’s human nature to see other individuals challenges and have solutions for them rather than our own.
I’ll touch on the 1st question of what content should be free. It’s can be easy to figure out, but it’s mostly confusing for most, because business owners are trained for control, conditioned to old business models where free is not done. It’s always about what you can get, rather than what you give. Being open means you aren’t keeping all your content behind walls, where access is much more difficult to obtain. It put things out in the open and trust the quality of that content, and you need to learn to trust the people formerly known as consumers. They might pay for your content on their own, you can no longer force them to pay, because they will go and not come back. The new acronym is PFE (Proudly Found Elsewhere).
The thrill is when the lights come on after just a couple questions, and then show a simple effective way to get the creative juices flowing again, that’s all it is really. We need to think outside the box, even unlearn what we know about commerce and advertising. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes we can’t see the forest for the tree’s, it’s like writer’s block and the like, you can sit and spin your wheels for what feels like hours, or hire someone to come in and kick start the creative gene.
By using the hashtag (#openandfree) on Twitter I’m collecting data, I’m looking for ways to help, and I will always direct you to come here for the basic steps. If you are a DIY (Do It Yourself) kind of person, then poke around here on my blog and chip away.
A recommended exercise is, ask yourself this question:
What is your CORE Business about?
Now we tend to struggle with the CORE because nothing is static anymore, press on and you will get the picture. Don’t stop on the first answer, drill down and ask yourself the question three or four times until you can answer the question in a preferably short accurate sentence. Get your answer down to a simple statement, crafted in a clear concise way that the masses will understand easily. Sometimes it can’t be kept short, but you want your prospect or the person you are sharing with to get it quickly, then you can move on to the next point or question knowing they understand.
Once you’ve arrived to a satisfactory statement, you now can begin the process of figuring out your content questions. But that’s another blog post.
This step also helps you design the why of your business, assuming you haven’t completed a business plan, that’s called the vision.
Does this make sense to you?
I wrestled with this question for some time, I mean the whole idea of charging for my content was foreign to me when I started running my first site. In studying the trends of online commerce, and the Open & Free Business Model, it was clear that many people were asking the same question, what should I be writing about and what content should I be charging for.
In working with local business owners, they aren’t even paying attention to what’s really going on, online commerce is just a nice to have rather than a strong component of their business. Meaning, they think it won’t get much bigger than another advertising medium or to just make a few extra dollars. They still practice the price & item approach, the control business model is what they know and trust. My goal is to help as many local businesses understand a different way, and to see the tidal wave that is coming, to pay attention and change the way they think.
A simple exercise is to walk through following:
1.) What is your CORE business about? The first question I usually ask is, what does your business do? Normally, the answer coming back is a description of what the person does or a very high level answer. I would say I am a Technology Strategist, that really doesn’t tell you much does it? You have to ask that question differently two or three times before you get to an answer that gives you a much better understanding. Keeping asking yourself until you get to the real thing that you do.
Knowing what your CORE business is about, helps you with your content, it will help you focus on what the free part might be over the paid part. This seems overly simplistic but it’s not, working through this is much tougher than I’m writing it.
2.) What’s your vision? This is the WHY, why are you doing what your doing and where are you going. That’s pretty simple isn’t it, not really, there is a process to working through what your vision might be.
3.) What is your Mission? Again, something that seems simple but really isn’t. What’s your mantra, your war cry? You want everyone to know it and to be shouting it throughout your organization, even if it’s just you.
You might ask these questions in reverse, whatever makes sense to you. Someone once said recently, keep it simple, simple is hard enough, I try to keep it simple by asking simple questions to tough problems.
These three questions can help you, and it can help you determine what will be free and what will be paid. Keep in mind, there are only three ways to get paid…I pay, you pay, they pay.
This is one way of figuring out what should be free, if you are a writer, write! But write about the thing you are passionate about. Write short stories for free and offer paid for lessons on how to write short stories properly, or writing construct, get creative. Hold writing workshops that are paid for and offer writing tips for free on your blog or newsletter, help your community get what they want, and they will help you get what you want.
This is just one small part of the Open & Free Business Model, the framework is actually straight forward but the details are much harder to figure out. The sooner you start, the better your Blogging experience, and knowing what content should be free makes your blogging life alittle easier.