The Goldilocks scenario for connectivity

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Publishers are at the centre of a particularly vicious storm right now, writes Steve Thompson

They face twin threats to traditional revenue streams from the digital publishing revolution that is gathering pace and the growing brand fragmentation associated with the exponential growth of social media. They are in danger of being swamped.

What is happening in the digital world is a split between ‘hyper-connectivity’ and ‘hypo-connectivity’ with publishers stuck in the middle, unable to capitalise on the potential of the
centre ground. What they need, and need fast, are ways of generating new revenue streams while at the same time protecting and developing their brands.

The solution for publishers involves a return to ‘collective intelligence’, the original idea behind the Internet (as created at DARPA, the US Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and developed by scientists, for scientists, to link together to share expert knowledge and mine collective intelligence). This movement has been dubbed the ‘Second Curve of Internet Development’ and is at the cutting edge of the new ‘sharing economy’.

As the desire for, and benefits of, the ‘sharing economy’ increase, so the recognition that this applies as much, if not more, to the ‘knowledge economy’ is growing.

To enable publishers to be at the forefront of this rapidly growing market they need to move to the sweet spot between the equally disadvantageous areas of hyper- and hypo-connectivity: the Goldilocks scenario.

Hyper-connectivity, or over-connectivity, reflects the noisy social media dominated sphere of the digital world. In a recent article in WIRED (‘Data oversupply is unplugging our brains’) Samuel Greengard wrote: ‘The overload of data…..spawns ever-growing confusion about what’s beneficial and what isn’t so good. Amid all the confusion, we throw up our hands and give up’.

Also writing in WIRED, Ian Leslie (‘Don’t let curiosity be killed by cats’) pointed out that: ‘A few years ago a Reddit user posted the following question: "If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?' The most popular answer was this: 'I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers."'

Being connected shouldn’t be thought of as an end in itself, it should be a means to an end: discovering new information through expert responses. The ability to search for answers, usually through the extremely efficient and ubiquitous Google and Wikipedia, isn’t necessarily generating the type of expert response required to further the breadth and depth of collective intelligence.

The level of distraction and competition these tools provide simultaneously threatens the traditional revenues of publishers while not actually providing the same level of expert knowledge. Their sheer scale and speed is preventing publishers from getting their message across, even though they are the ones with the higher quality information. The immediacy and scale of the threat needs an innovative and rapid solution.

Hypo-connectivity, on the other hand, reflects the fact that even where publishers have valuable resources they aren’t utilising them to anywhere near their full potential. The resources in question are the pools of experts at the very heart of their organisations.

Traditional corporate structures and business models seem to go out of their way to make these incredibly valuable experts largely inaccessible and undiscoverable. To give publishers the ability to survive the digital onslaught and thrive in the new world order requires a digital platform that can both quieten the noise of the web and leverage their experts in a way that only knowledge networks and communities can achieve.

This will position publishers at the centre of the Goldilocks scenario for connectivity. With reference to the age old tale this is the area that is not too hot or too cold, not too big or too small, not too hard or too soft. The Goldilocks scenario for connectivity for publishers is making their experts more discoverable and accessible to each other and to their customers while protecting them from the excessive noise of social media.

Enabling this in the most efficient and effective way to allow a return to the initial principle of collective intelligence and knowledge sharing is what they need and this is what Zapnito’s Experts as a Service platform gives them. Putting experts front and centre, getting their voice heard by an ever increasing audience. Allowing new revenue generation through access to expert knowledge while reversing the brand fragmentation encountered by customers.

Publishers are clearly at the very centre of this model, but it provides a universal solution to any organisation with experts at their core. By deploying a smart interface publishers are helping make the pool of knowledge available to more people. Bringing it to life and allowing it to grow in an efficient, effective and meaningful way. Decreasing the noise and distraction of traditional social media and increasing productivity and creative engagement.

This enables publishers to leverage the value of their expert communities, mine collective intelligence, reclaim their customers’ focus and boost engagement, helping their audiences to learn from their experts in a more powerful and efficient way.

In their article for the GuardianForget the internet of things – we need an internet of people’ Jenny Judge and Julia Powles raise a number of interesting points that reflect the need to re-engage with, and increase access to, experts.

Of particularly relevance is the following quote: ’We need to stop obsessing over “smart” objects, and start thinking smart about people.’

They also pose this question towards the end of their article ‘[I]t’s hard to see what this [internet of smart, empowered people] would look like, exactly.’ I agree, but I’m confident it will by powered by Zapnito!

Steve Thompson is a researcher at Zapnito.