NewNet Q1: Content Farms and Niche Networks on the Rise

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Content Farms Stir Controversy
    1. Search Responds to Farms and Social Media
  3. Room for Special-Purpose Social Networks?
    1. Professional Social Networks
    2. Question-and-Answer Networks
    3. Synchronous Messaging Presages Battle for Unified Communications
    4. Will Color Create an Implicit Photo Network?
  4. Facebook Comments Face Established Competitors
  5. Online Media Monetization Schemes Proliferate
  6. Near-Term Outlook
  7. Key Takeaways
  8. Further Reading
  9. About David Card

1. Summary

In the first quarter of 2011, Facebook continued to weigh on the NewNet technology space (i.e., social media, real-time information, search). But this time, the social network’s impact was less about its own new initiatives than about how it reveals opportunity openings in places like social search, niche networks, unified communications and comment systems.

That said, so-called “content farms” generated the most debate in the quarter. The term covers a fairly broad array of low-cost, search-optimized content strategies. Demand Media’s IPO and rapid growth attracted attention and controversy, while many observers ignored useful lessons in content creation and syndication opportunities from Demand and established “classy” operations like

That’s because the technology punditry created a teapot tempest around the supposed effect of “low-quality” content farm articles on search results. Google is losing no market share, but it felt it had to respond to charges that its results quality was being diluted by real spam and less relevant content. It made a major change to its ranking algorithm and added social search features. Microsoft’s Bing and startups like blekko also dug into social search.

Facebook’s dominance in social networking, especially in the face of a perilous decline in MySpace traffic, raised the question, Is there room for more than one social network? The answer is quite probably “yes.” Networks based on specific functions and contexts, like professional networking and Q&A, are thriving, and synchronous communications like group chat caused Facebook to make an acquisition.

Some saw Facebook’s upgrade to its Comments service as the next big extension of its network platform outside its own site, akin to Likes or Connect. That’s certainly what Facebook is aiming to achieve, and it is winning adoption by sites that appreciate its ease of connection and identity authentication. But there are solid competitive offerings out there, and sometimes it’s good to not be known as a dog.

As with every quarter, online and social media companies introduced new monetization schemes. Paywalls rose and Quick Bars arrived — and left quickly. Twitter’s struggles to create consistent revenue streams annoyed segments of its ecosystem and user base, and the company experienced some awkward growing pains.

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