Walled Gardens and Business Models in the 21st Century

Walled Gardens. Defined as media properties utilizing privileged access to provide information services or content to a user. The classic example of a walled garden was AOL, before they opened up most of their services. Users paid $23.95 or whatever the access rate was and got access to the “AOL Network.”

Then there was Facebook, the walled garden social network that restricted access to college and high school students, and businesses who had a Facebook presence. In all these cases, the confirming matter was a legitimate email address issued by the legitimate university, high school or business.

Web 2.0 drastically changed the way we do “internet”. No longer do people expect to pay for these services, they simply don’t. AOL recognized this fact a few years ago when then CEO Jonathan Miller suggested to the board that AOL should drop its subscription model and open up. AOL decentralized and became an open platform, including their very popular AIM service. AIM, a formerly closed protocol, now is run via Open AIM, a service which has allowed the interoperability between Google Talk, Jabber, and .Me, to name a few.

Facebook opened up big time. They decided to let the world see what was behind the curtain and were wildly successful. Though Facebook is still a walled garden in some respect to data, the walls keep falling with Facebook apps and Facebook Connect, announced last week.

As a final example of a traditionally closed walled garden throwing all caution to the wind and embracing the open internet environment, I give you the New York Times. NYT excessively applies metadata to all of its content, opening up the door for others such as Blogrunner, a Techmeme competitor which is actually owned by NYT. More notably to the traditional media norm, the registration requirement (which is almost always free at online newspapers) to view articles was removed giving full access to NYT content.

No registration. No hoops. Profit.

The challenge, as Seth Godin is probably about to find out, is when a business model is built around paid access (or even free but registration required). I’ve toyed with the idea of premium content for RSS subscribers only here. Though I won’t promise not to try it again, I can say it did not work. There was no increase in subscribers. There was even better content and resources, yes. But it does not work.

That said… one of the things that the open content movement seems to be bringing to light is single sign in. Facebook Connect, for instance, allows users to gain access to dedicated non-Facebook resources, free of charge and without forcing yet another account.

This doesn’t solve business model. I think the Pay per Play model is flawed inherently and though some people are successfully making money on older models, I don’t think the honeymoon can last.

That’s just me, though. Curious to hear what you think the best method of monetizing premium content is.

Comments About Sarah Lacy, SXSW and the "Apology of the Century"

Last night at the Twin Tech Party in DC, Sarah Lacy of Business Week and I had a chance to meet for the first time. What transpired has been spun unbelievably out of control by attendees of the party. Phrases like “Battle of the Titans”, the “Apology of the Century” and labels of me being her “arch-nemesis” have been bandied around.

I personally think it’s all a bit much and want to explain what happened last night with a brief history on what happened involving Sarah and I at SXSW.

Sarah had the opportunity to interview Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder at SXSW. This came within a few months of the Facebook Beacon advertising and privacy fiasco which we covered here. Zuck is not known for public access and this was one of those few times where many in the room had an opportunity to talk to him. It wasn’t really planned that the audience would talk all that much. Handlers ensured that, if rumors are to be believed.

In the heat of the moment, and admittedly some egging on by folks on Twitter who know that I’ll say anything, anywhere (sometimes without thinking through ramifications), I heckled Zuckerberg with “Beacon Sucks“, the first of what would be many heckles from the crowd in that keynote. Get that, though? I heckled Zuckerberg.

This heckle lives on in infamy and everywhere I go, people laugh about it. “Oh, you’re that guy?”

I admit, it was pretty funny and I benefitted from the wave of infamy that went with it. But I want to be clear, I heckled Zuckerberg, not Sarah Lacy. Later in the Keynote, the audience turned on Sarah, but that was not me.

Last night, I spoke with Sarah one on one about the incident. A Flickr photoset was dedicated to the encounter, which I find slightly amusing.

Picture 8.png

Sarah was genuinely interesting, but she was naturally a little defensive when we first began chatting about the incident. I hope that the message I was trying to convey made it through: I was heckling Mark, not Sarah, and though I don’t apologize for the content of the heckle (Beacon does suck and still does), I do apologize for the unprofessional conveying of that message.

Personally, I hope that the entire incident can be put behind us. I don’t mind if the Beacon Sucks heckling incident never gets brought up again, but I may be wishing too much. In case the message didn’t translate, ” I’m sorry, for my part, in making you uncomfortable on stage, Sarah. While it was not the best interview, my message was for Mark, and not you. Hopefully you can forgive me and next time we see each other, it will be easier to laugh about the whole thing.”

And by the way, the Twin Tech Party rocked.

Update: Though it’s difficult to hear, here is a video taken at the event of this alleged “apology of the century”.

Update 2: Sarah says, “I do” – Umm, as in, she forgives me. :)

How Has Social Software Changed Your Life?

This is an open comments style post, so I want your comments.

The thing about my “beat”, as they’d call it in the newspaper business, is that I’m not really all that interested in “the news”. I’m not trying to cover all the stories, nor am I trying to cover most of them. I’m not trying to “break” anything or peddle products. I want to understand how social software affects my life. And yours.

Text comments will be deleted in this thread as I want video comments. ;) Click on the Sessmic Video comments link below. If you don’t already have one, grab a free account over at Seesmic.com.

This is what I want to know. How has social software benefited you? This is open ended and I want you to define what I mean by this. Some example questions might be:

  1. How you got a job using LinkedIn
  2. How you found an old crush on Facebook
  3. How blogging helped you gain support for a good cause
  4. How you used Flickr to communicate to your family on the other side of the world
  5. How you used Brightkite to track your migration habits
  6. How Twitter made the World Series special for you
  7. How you had a brilliant entrepreneurial idea from a discussion on FriendFeed
  8. How you used VC portfolio companies to attract the attention of a VC and get funded
  9. How you made a career by offering advice on a blog

These are easy examples. I want you to offer your own insight on how, sometime, somewhere, social tools have enhanced your life. Tell us your story on video. If you don’t, I’ll look like a complete idiot for this format – but I’m okay with that. :)