A lot of people have been interchanging the terms "social media" and "Web 2.0" for some time - without drawing any meaningful conclusions on the viability or the promise of either term. Twitter recently announced that it added 100 million new users in 2010
, and against Facebook's 500 million-deep audience the social media story has largely been told in numerical terms.
And the numbers have attracted investment - reflected in the recent dollar figures posted in the US digital market's outpace
of the collective newspaper advertising business. So, the takeaway is that bigger numbers attract bigger dollars.
This is the equation that publishers operating in the digital space have worked and reworked.
Bigger = Bigger.
And since there is a great deal of truth in this equation, news publishers in particular - many of whom are carrying the weight of traditional operations in print or television mediums - have been working to ensure that their specific environment receives its appropriate share of visits from the herds of internet audiences humming along the cyberscape. To a measurable extent, news publishers have been successful in corralling the right visitors
- and the composition of quality visitors has offered a pleasant buck of the bigger equals bigger equation.
But advertisers - often encouraging the bigger equals bigger equation - have struggled in the telling of their stories, regardless of the size of the audience before them. Many corporations have a long-form story to share, and it is one that cannot readily be told in the machinations of a digital square or an expanding digital rectangle. And since money drives innovation, we are now experiencing the implementation of new definitions.
Corporations are becoming publishers. They are shooting distributable long-form digital videos and they are producing distributable and consumable text vignettes. They are grooming corporate communications specialists that are tasked with straddling the line between traditional public relations and advertising. They are effectively transforming their web site operations from a static digital presence to a content production facility.
This transformation requires corporations to have a workable understanding of digital distribution channels. The old strategy of pulling internet consumers to a given corporation's web destination has largely been replaced with a new strategy of pushing intelligent and digestible long-form content into an appropriate ecosystem artery. By feeding the ecosystem with informative and valuable content, the corporation is able to share its many stories.
These redefinitions of destinations and of ecosystems have cascading applications for information producers across the news and commercial spectrum.
Destinations - news properties and commercial environments alike - must continually produce high-quality content that is desirable enough to be carried off into the ecosystem favored by the destination's audience. This becomes a relevance matter - and in order to remain relevant, destinations must be comfortable with their product and confident that these roaming audiences will return to quench their varied interests in the content produced by the given destination.
But destinations need to also be comfortable with the flow of ecosystems.
"Social media" has become an antiquated term - replaced quite eloquently with the "ecosystem." Twitter and YouTube and Facebook roll well in the ecosystem tide - encouraging the internet herds to leave information nuggets behind, sourced nuggets that have been produced elsewhere in the infinite cyberscape by destination properties that are eager both to contribute and to further detail.
This is a symbiotic and participatory environment - and one that has redefined the idea of interaction. Destinations feed the ecosystem with relevant content, and the ecosystems feed the destinations with audience. Syndication models are replaced with ecosystem feeds - and audience acquisition is best achieved through thought leadership in content and in the intelligent dispersal of content.
So, while the equation of bigger equals bigger remains true, the more cooperative and interactive dynamic of the destination/ecosystem relationship offers a considerably more modern and fruitful balance where the numbers are concerned.