How to make money in the new internet economy

Current rivalries between Apple’s Ping and Sony’s Qriocity provide clues to the future of digital marketing and content monetisation, says Mark Friend, Capgemini’s lead for the media & entertainment sector.

The web is dead, suggests a recent article in Wired magazine, before discussing how it is giving way to smartphone apps and “semi-closed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display”.

Reports of the internet’s death may be premature but there is compelling evidence that the web as we know it is moribund. However, there will definitely be life after this death – and we have the power to help shape the afterlife. The question for digital content owners, and the digital marketing community, is what version of “Web 3.0” should we be working towards?

Several models are emerging. In one, players like News International are offering subscriptions to content stored behind paywalls. Asked “How are you going to make consumers choose your offering over others?” clients often reply, “Because of our great content”. But that’s only part of the answer.

For one thing, “great” is subjective, and free content can be pretty good. A more serious problem is that even if you have the trusted, relevant content consumers want, they can’t easily find it among the plethora of often dubious material on today’s web. Web 3.0 needs to be “less about the searching and more about the getting”, to quote Wired again.

So you need to bring people into your world instead of just hoping they’ll find you  but how? Although social networks can help, the current generation isn’t quite up to the job. I’m unlikely to accept a recommendation for an expensive purchase from a Facebook “friend” I haven’t seen since school. This is one reason why today’s marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, however “viral”, often disappoint in commercial terms.

Consumers, content providers and marketers alike need more sophisticated social networks. That’s where another model, complementary to the paywalled content model, comes in. Apple and Sony are aiming to establish closed communities: in that more exclusive environment, recommendations will be worth more. The heated early competition between Ping and Qriocity may signal the future importance of this concept.

Better Recommendations

Getting me recommendations I respect is part of a wider requirement for better personalisation. If someone only ever bets on football, offering them a flutter on the horses may be a turn-off. As well as the content, we must personalise the format and the platform: some people will want football news as a podcast on their phone while others will want it on an internet-enabled TV. Customers will pay for a service that’s intelligent enough to serve up the content they want in the form they want it throughout the day: it saves time and makes life easier.

Personalisation means managing the customer’s experience based on what you know about them. That includes customising the way you deal with problems: it’s especially important to interact with a dissatisfied subscriber over their preferred channels: telling them to phone or email if they like Twitter or text messages will just make them angrier.

End of anarchy?

While we don’t yet know exactly what Web 3.0 will look like, it’s a safe bet that to succeed there you will have to combine the right content and channels with the right social networks to give the right (personalised) customer experience. One more ingredient must go into the mix: marketing disciplines. Web 3.0 will require something of a return to traditional marketing after the relative anarchy of Web 2.0. You’ll need to segment and target consumers before you can give them the experience they want. A strong brand will help – a satisfying experience on a Sony PlayStation may make someone want to join Sony’s Qriocity.

Knowing this much, content providers and marketers can get to work on their monetisation strategy for Web 3.0 straight away. I suggest it is well worth doing so before your competitors do. You can begin by thinking about selection criteria for platforms, and how you will measure success.

There are already “Social CRM” tools to help. A client of ours has been using one to assess reactions to their content on different parts of the Internet. The results have positioned them to provide a better experience, so that customers will buy more. And that’s something most companies will want to do without waiting for Web 2.0 to develop rigor mortis.

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