How We Consume The Web Today

Inside: how social media and publishers are driven towards fake news, cats and other fluff.

“keep the clients on the Ferris wheel” Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna in Wolf Of Wall Street. Copyright by respective production studio and/or distributor. Intended for editorial use only.

How We Got This Far

In the beginning the web was a list of pages. Then bulletin boards were the way to discover new pages. When the web grew too big, search engines came to make it easy to find what we want. Today social networks provide entry points into the web. Their streams of content are the equivalent of watching cable TV. They have become our primary tool for web discovery, curated by your family, friends and coworkers — and their algorithms.

Via Commission Baby!

The relationship between the web and social networks is fragile, yet united by the same mission: to serve as many ads as possible. Both of them want to maximize their share of your time. While the web brings content to the table, social networks bring reach or better yet potential virality.

Keep Them On My Ferris Wheel

Social networks don’t actually want you to click away to the web and if you do click, they will want to keep you in their environment. The best scenario for them is for you to get a preview of the content so you can like, upvote or retweet it without actually leaving. This is why your stream serves you the most ‘engaging’ content: fluff, cats and sensational headlines (fake or not) which are easy to judge.

No, Keep Them On MY Ferris Wheel

When you do get to the actual website you clicked, you are in the hands of the publisher. Usually, you will see related content because they also want you to spend as much time as possible on their domain. Much of the content out there has been reduced to 30 second reads with catchy titles, for that same reason. The revenue machine goes: click, serve ad, present content, suggest follow up.

Let’s Keep Em On Both Our Ferris Wheels

What publishers usually lack is well built social interaction. Sometimes they include a comments section. Very few take the opportunity to offer like, upvote, or other approval actions. Almost none have the ability to chat. Why would they — it doesn’t serve their revenue machine. In stead they enable social sharing to leverage your social network. Publishers assume that once you’ve consumed a piece of content, it’s spent and they need somebody else to visit that content — it’s a cheap 30 second read anyway. Their hope is that you copy/paste that content back into a social network and the dance continues.

Make It Real

  • The advertising business model incentivizes social networks and publishers to focus on fluff. We are all missing out on that golden blog post by a true expert.
  • Source and context are stripped away giving lead to prolific fake news.
  • The published web is a social desert and provides no way of communicating with people who share my interests.