Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
Peter Kafka’s very interesting column in All Things Digital reveals that a number of media sites are seeing their referrals from Google decline while those from Facebook increase. Indeed, as a nice chart in Peter’s piece indicates, Google’s influence has diminished among 80 percent of the top media sites in the last year.
This isn’t surprising, and it makes perfect sense to me.
Using martial metaphors (how apt and appropriate these days!), media is the beachhead for Facebook’s entry into all Web browsing and all matching between visitors and what’s visited – and Facebook is quickly taking over that territory from Google.
Think about it.
Media is where it all starts, but certainly not where it ends.
Media sites are the most reactive to serendipity on the Web. And they’re the most “frictionless” of any product we consume online or off: The only cost is the click of a finger and a few seconds of load time. It doesn’t cost money to read a link; you don’t have to enter any shipping or billing information; you don’t have wait time while a freight company delivers it; and you don’t need a sharp implement to open it – or a place to put it.
The most viral media consumption is emotionally driven, too. And it generally offers high entertainment value, and is associated with some urgency because people want to be “in the know” in order to earn social currency. And, finally, like many products, it’s taste-based.
All of this helps explain why Facebook is gaining influence among media sites. And why, whenever Facebook offers a link to a media site that is worthy of consumption, there’s a very high probability that it will, in fact, be consumed.
Commerce sites are the next frontier for Facebook. As I mentioned above, commerce is harder, because there’s more friction, and there are more impediments that get in the way of buying / consuming.
But these are just degrees of friction.
As Facebook gets better at knowing me, who I share taste with, what products I need, and what people like – both people in general and people I’m likely to share taste with – it will be able to overcome that friction.
And, one can easily imagine Facebook doing everything it can to grease the commerce skids by facilitating frictionless login (Facebook Open Graph and Instant Personalization), payment (Facebook Credits), and more to reduce the underlying friction, so that commerce sites will follow closely behind media sites and start leaving the Google orbit.
Google is still driving traffic to many Web sites. But that is clearly changing. And Facebook’s assault is starting to succeed.