emeburn will on Wednesday publish a fascinating two-part interview with prominent internet commentator and Wired Magazine editor, Chris Anderson. Anderson was named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most 100 influential people.
He is due to speak at Discovery’s Leadership Summit in Sandton with other luminaries such as former US Deputy President and prominent environmentalist, Al Gore.
The Wired editor is most known for popularising two key ideas that have helped shape internet thinking today: The Long Tail and Freemium. Companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix are longtail companies, using the internet’s ability to reach a wide, varied and niched audience at fractional costs. Freemium is the idea that if you give 95 percent of your business and sell just five, you’ll be more successful.
On Open vs Closed
In the upcoming interview Anderson speaks about the technologies shaping our future. Anderson discusses the shift away from the wide-open web to closed platforms and the contradictions they pose: “I love closed platforms as a way to build a business, but as a consumer I prefer open platforms”. But just look at Apple. For Anderson, a closed system “in the hands of a visionary genius, is a beautiful thing”.
“The success of closed is that you have the traditional form of command-and-control organisation, so that a clear vision can create a good product without having to jump through all sorts of hoops in inventing new organisational structures. In the open source world if you have a clear vision that’s not enough, you also need to create an organizational structure that incentivises all these volunteers to follow your vision. In a company it’s really easy, you pay them and you tell them what to do. So I would say that leadership and vision is easier to execute in a closed system than it is in an open system. But in those rare cases where you have leaders with both vision and organisational skills, an open system can get you there faster,” he says.
Google+’s appearance in the current saturated social media environment solves a number of problems we see on Twitter, says Anderson. One of Twitter’s problems is the “lack of a secondary engagement stream and the notion of comment and of being able to engage in a conversation with people that doesn’t have to be broadcast to all of your followers.”
“Google+ is a more contemplative or thoughtful place than Twitter,” he says. “Google+ feels less newsy and ideas are more fleshed out than condensed into snippets like Twitter, but by the same token it feels less urgent.”
On HTML5, and the shortcoming of the web
The web is letting us down says Anderson. Just take a look at your iPad or iPhone to see what it could be.
“We love the web, but let’s face it — the web was not a high resolution design platform. It’s really difficult to create beautiful predictably rendering design on the web.”
The openess and chaos of the web has made it difficult to enforce standards.
“I hope HTML 5 can advance on this, but I don’t think it’s going to be the silver bullet to solve all of our problems. Right now it’s pretty simple: it’s an Apple world. You develop for iOS and Android — and you’re done.”
On the future of media
Anderson clarifies his feeling toward journalism saying: “I don’t have a problem with journalism. I have a problem with our vocabulary. I think the vocabulary of media, news and journalism was created over a hundred years ago and it hasn’t evolved. I think we need new words, I don’t think we need new professions.”
“Right now on Facebook I am hearing that my son’s ultimate Frisbee team is going to be playing next weekend and who they are playing against… that’s important news to me. If my daughter skins her knee on the playground or was pushed, that’s important news to me. It’s not going to be reported by the New York Times and it doesn’t count as news in the traditional definition, but it’s more relevant to me than an earthquake in Siberia. So social media is a way of putting small-end news in the same medium, that is the internet, as big end news. This has challenged the definition of what news is.”
Read Memeburn Wednesday for the full interview, or come back here later for the links.
Image: Roo Reynolds