The truth about social networks and blogs

Originally published at: GerardMcLean.com

picture-17I caught the Tavis Smiley show on NPR yesterday. Actually, I caught the few minutes of interview among him, Lesley Stahl and Liz Smith while running to my office to get some files.

I was curious, so I went to the Web site. It is just over a year old, but it has a full staff of contributing writers, a full inventory of ads (BTW, their ad placement of one advertiser per page is a compelling argument for how to accept advertising on a blog, but that is another post.)

From the wowOwow.com About Us page:

wowOwow is a free daily Internet website created, run and written by Lesley Stahl, Peggy Noonan, Liz Smith, Joni Evans, Mary Wells, Sheila Nevins, Joan Juliet Buck, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Reed, Joan Ganz Cooney, Judith Martin, Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, and Marlo Thomas.

Many of us have known each other and been friends for a long time. Liz, for instance, met Candy in the 1960s when Candy was new to New York and an unknown actress. Candy and Lily worked together on “Murphy Brown” and found themselves in a mutal admiration society. Mary Wells and Joni Evans became instant old friends when Mary was writing her first book. Lesley and Peggy met at CBS News in 1982 the day Dan Rather called in sick. Peggy wrote a daily broadcast for him; Lesley found herself subbing for him; they pitched in and a long friendship began.

The truth behind almost every successful “Internet start-up” blog is a deep off-line network that meets with on-line talent. The truth behind the traffic for the same blog is off-line media and promotion. The success of the blog is also rooted in a deep and wide off-line network of contributors who have their own network of fans and supporters.

I don’t know if wowOwow.com is going to be around in a few years, but I suspect it will be much the same way the “kitchen table” has held conversations for generations of families. WowOwow did not start up as a new way of having social interaction, but as an additional leaf in the kitchen table. And, if the Web site were to go away, the conversation would still happen among the friends who are part of the site.

The ugly truth about success with a digital social network is the messy analog human parts that have taken deep root long before their launch.

Afterthoughts that didn’t quite fit:
– Liz Smith had a comment about putting opinions on the blog were easier for her, but the journalists, like Stahl, found it hard to express opinion as hers had been “surgically removed.” I think Stahl made the comment about the changing face of television journalism that it is changing and you don’t compromise your principles for ratings, etc.

– Liz also had a comment about the Internet is the future. At that very moment, I recall driving by a Donatos Pizza and the snow cone shack next to Kroger, and remembering the horrible predictions of the horrors of the Y2K thing that was supposed to happen Jan 1, 2000. Didn’t happen. We are still around. Does the snow cone shack need the Internet? Donatos’s Pizza? Would my car still be able to drive down the street? Not much would change if the Internet went away tomorrow except we might talk with each other more, read newspapers again, have fewer “friends.”

– One last thing, I promise. The Internet is not the future. The Internet is our today. Tomorrow’s Internet is the future.

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