“There’s somethin’ happ’nin’ here…”

“…what it is ain’t exactly clear…”

Things are moving at lightning speed in the new media world, and it’s an increasing challenge to keep up and an even bigger challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In some ways and in some segments, it reminds me of the bubble days, and there is, in fact, a sort of bubble world developing in the Web 2.0 space. Hundreds of new, VC-funded applications are coming down the pike — many duplicates of others — and we’re starting to see the old “start-ups advertising on start-ups” strategy that popped the bubble five years ago. Steve Rubel has a warning for those companies:

Quietly, an entire Web 2.0 economy has blossomed. The Web sites and blogs that cover Web 2.0 — sites that I really love — are largely supported by ads from startups that also are hoping to capitalize in the rising interest in online advertising.

…startups advertising on startups spells trouble. You can’t sustain momentum. If the economy hits a speed bump it will upset the apple cart enough to cause the Web 2.0 advertising economy to sink.

…The solution, just as with investing, is to diversify.

There are raised eyebrows over some of the transactions we’re seeing too. Here’s the headline graph of a story today from Online Media Daily:
Sony Entertainment Pictures is paying $65 million to acquire video-sharing site Grouper Networks. The site’s modest user base–around half a million visitors last month–led to raised eyebrows about the purchase price. “I think this one borders on the unreal,” said Tolman Geffs, managing director at media industry investment bank The Jordan, Edmiston Group.
“There’s a man with a gun over there…
…tellin’ me I got to beware…”

Meanwhile, there are some genuinely exciting things happening and one in particular that I think puts the others in perspective. As I wrote about yesterday, Dave Winer’s new passion has profound ramifications for the news business, because if you can far enough downstream on it, you’ll understand that it eliminates the need for a middlemanesque platform. No TV signal. No newspaper. No Website.

Doc Searls understands this and has written a MUST-READ entry on the subject. Please, folks, do yourself a favor and spend some time pondering the metaphors that Doc uses, for this is his gift (and he’s one HIGHLY gifted fellow). It’ll help you see beyond all the headlines about this and any other new development that comes down-the-pike. Here’s a sample:

“River of news” usefully combines three metaphorical frames: place, transport and publishing. Using all three, it proposes an approach to publishing that respects the fact that more and more people are going to want to get fresh newsy information on handheld Web devices.

The River of News metaphor not only speaks a new kind of sense to the NYTimes and BBCs of the world. It speaks to a new blog sensibility as well. I’m starting to think about how I might want to change my blog to be more Webphone-friendly. Can I live without all the junk on the left and right margins, for example? (Probably. They’re worse than useless to readers with Treos and Blackberries.) Alternatively, should I have a special feed just for Webphones?

Whatever the answers, I’m not thinking about my blog, or what it does, as a “site”. Meanwhile, that’s how most big publishers think about what they do on the Web. That’s why their sites are often so chock full of… stuff. They’re all about being sticky and holding your eyeballs inside the sitewalls. That might be fine on a computer screen, which is big and placelike in the sense that it usually isn’t moving around when you’re using it. But a Blackberry or a Treo or a Nokia 770 is different. It’s mobile. It’s going somewhere. You use it in a much different way.

So don’t be sucked into the argument that Dave’s new thing is really old. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. What’s new is where this will lead, because the more that minds like Doc’s examine Dave’s new passion, the clearer the disruptive force of the innovation becomes. We all need to stay tuned on this one.

“Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going ’round.”

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