I'll get to the title in a bit, but first, if Google were a country, which country would it be? and so began the session hosted by Doug Weaver; The New Power Brokers: Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter & Beyond.
The answer to the that question was given by Scott Symonds from AKQA."India, for its great enablement of math and technology and ability to grow and create solutions." Shawn Carolan views Apple as a combination of Italy and China for its beautiful design, with a market ecosystem that is not quite a walled garden, but if you run afoul of its "rules" watch out. Molly Wood from CNET @mollywood handled Facebook, which she views as Norway. Which makes sense only when you realize that like Norway, from the outside it is beautiful; everyone is unusually attractive and sexually liberated. But they are also a monarchy, and have a secret dark side (Norway is the worlds 6th largest arms exporter... who knew?) Doug then chimed in with Twitter. The odd one out in this group. If Twitter were a country they would be the Cayman Islands if they were run by Iran. They are not motivated by others. There is a lot of secrecy. And we really don't know what they are thinking. But we really cannot afford to have a failed state of Twitter.
The panel was one of refreshing candor, and they answered questions as to whether Google is relevant in the walled garden world of Apple, Facebook, and Twitter (the answer is yes.) When you solve problems you grow the market, and then you build audiences which Google still does well. However, there is a darker side. It all keeps reverting back to freedom and access. The Flip camera did the same thing, only to announce today it was going under. Why? The same technology transferred to cellphones and it became a duplicate device.
For Google there is obviously a threat from the Social sites on the web. 25% of bonuses for everyone in the company will be tied to Google's Social strategy in 2011. 2011 bonus multiplier. Employees must test the social products. But as Molly really points out, 25% is tied to SMAMing your friends if you are an employee? Really?
She goes on to illuminate that Social is not about the kumbaya of people talking to each other, but of the recommendations that your can friend-source. That's why Social is important. It's about turning from Search to Social Search, and whereas Search indexes existing content, Social Search mines the brains of your network and allows you to crowd source recommendations from trusted sources.
To most on the panel it feels like Twitter is not as important because they have not figured out what to do with the data, but that is one of the reasons why it's such a powerful user tool. An interesting stat is 1 in 4 Twitter users is African American. And from a meme standpoint it the mirror opposite of Facebook. Facebook reinforces your view of the world, where Twitter brings in things from the outside.
What about that content that is brought in. The control of content and delivery of content will be the next battleground, but as Molly points out, what the New York Times is doing is asinine in the extreme. "You are going to charge me what? for what? Why would I do that? I have Twitter."
Is there a place for world class content? Yes, but it's like salt. Salt used to be this extremely valuable thing. But now it is on every table. "You cannot keep trying to sell me salt and charge me the price of the past. The idea of objectivity is over. I do not need you to tell me it is happening. I have Twitter. I need you to tell me WHY it is happening." The individual becomes the information. The publisher becomes the context and the skew.
And this is a lesson. The Power Brokers in our industry change, and change rapidly. Are we trading television dollars for digital dimes? Probably, but those who hang onto trying to continue to charge those dollars will find that they end up with nothing. And personally I'd take a boatload of dimes over nothing.