The New Community

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

This one’s for us. All of us. We’re talking about the building of networks and communities on the Web, not least because we want to keep ours alive and growing. We want to do it a lot better than we have to this point.

Our guest in the studio, Larry Weber, is the town crier of the Internet transformation in the world of commerce. I call him the World Wide Weber. He was in on the “marketing” of Tim Berners-Lee’s big idea when it first took root at MIT in 1989. And he’s stayed on the frontier with companies like Lotus Development, RedHat and Hewlett Packard, among many others.

Larry Weber’s new book, Marketing to the Social Web, fortifies his authority on the moving edge of the frontier, and it recounts in a lot of great stories how companies like GlaxoSmithKline have formed expressive affinity groups around dieting pills; how Stonyfield Yogurt has cultivated environmentalists on its site and added a page called “Ask Our Nutritionist”; how Jones Soda in Seattle has built a community conversation that’s much more valuable than any use of mass media.

But Larry’s interest is marketing stuff. Ours is non-commercial conversation.

Maybe my main question for him and others is: how’s to translate the brilliant success of eBay, say, in reconfiguring the process of buying and selling (authenticating the parties in a transaction) into the realm of political and cultural gab?

We’ve known for years now that “mass media” is over in the Internet age. Newspapers keep shrinking and TV network audiences keep dwindling. Yet Larry Weber reminds me that advertisers still spend nearly $100-billion a year on TV ads — no matter that a third of those commercials are Tivo’d into oblivion, a complete waste of promotional budgets.

So when does the “tipping point” reach the public forum — the change that announces some sort of cultural and institutional conversion to a new regime for voters, listeners, readers, citizens, the rest of us.

We’re taking this personally.

Larry Weber

Chairman of W2Group,

author, Marketing to the Social Web

Ethan Zuckerman

Founder, “Global Voices Online,”

fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society,

blogger, “My Heart’s in Accra

Daphne Kwon

CEO, Expo TV

Related Content