What Could AOL/Huffington Ever Want More Than To Have Us Sucking On Their Media Aggregation Website?

On Friday I was watching CNN's phone interview with Wael Ghonim in which he praised Facebook for its help in bringing about Mubarak's ouster. Here's a link on Huffington Post about it. Why Huffington Post? I Googled "wael ghonim cnn facebook" and that was the first link that came up.

Here's what Huffington Post says he said:

I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him […] I'm talking on behalf of Egypt. […] This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started […] in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I've always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet. […]

Jen and I were watching this together and she sort of poked at me when he said this — like, "See?" I shrugged. I know her argument.

As background, a continuing debate between Jen and me — and whoever else I can corral who will listen to me — is over stuff like Facebook and Twitter and other social media. I sort of understand the usefulness of Facebook (connect with friends!) and other sites (upload your band's demo to MySpace!) but something I never understood was Twitter. I've mentioned before that I feel strongly that it's unwise to provide content for other people. If you have thoughts — any old thoughts — then those are yours — control that. Don't let Twitter build an empire from your thoughts, no matter how mundane you (and everyone else) think they might be.

Jen disagrees in part. If you don't have your own website, Twitter provides a platform that you would otherwise not have. If you do have your own site, then Twitter provides a platform that gives you access to more people. Besides, Twitter helps sell stuff, especially if you are an established commodity. And she notes, more and more it seems that Twitter is helping overthrow repressive regimes.

Fine, I understand that — #jan25 helped bring together disaffected Egyptians. The people who started Twitter should feel proud that their invention helped bring about something remarkable. That's like their pro bono work for the year.

So anyway, Jen and I go back and forth on this, but in the end I always feel more and more resolute about my position: I don't want to supply content for Facebook or MySpace or Twitter. I'm happier creating my own content, even if "the reach of my brand" is more limited. In my very small way I feel like an indie band that never signed with a major label; In my mind, I am my own Ian MacKaye!

The Times' David Carr has a column today about some of this stuff, mostly in the context of the recent AOL/Huffington Post deal. Although his takes tend to focus on the effect of the Internet on print media outlets, some of what he says today points to the idea of controlling your own content:

The Huffington Post, perhaps partly in an effort to polish the silver before going on the market, did hire a number of A-list journalists, but the site's ecosystem of citizen bloggers and its community of commenters represent some share of its value. (How much is open to debate, as Nate Silver pointed out on the FiveThirtyEight blog.) Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Quora have been positioned as social networks, but each of them hosts timely content that can also be a backdrop for advertising, which makes them much more like a media company than, say, a phone utility.

. . .

Last time I checked, I had written or shared over 11,000 items on Twitter. It's a nice collection of short-form work, and I've been rewarded with lot of followers … and exactly no money. If and when the folks at Twitter cash out, some tiny fraction of that value will have been created by me.

The Nate Silver link he mentions — it's there on the online version, but missing from the print version — is interesting and useful, but I think part of what his analysis overlooks is that Huffington Post benefits from being a platform that many people use — an indispensable part of one's Internet mental space — that helps strengthen the overall site, even if many of the smaller blog postings don't receive much attention. In other words, Twitter is only useful to the big Tweeters because everyone is on it; if you're on it at all, you're helping strengthen its presence, both in terms of Search Engine Optimization and the more elusive concept of Internet mental space. I think the online community at Huffington Post works the same way.

If you're interested, here's the CNN link from the link above. You might want to choose one over the other. Sort of like choosing "debit" over "credit" when you're asked which one you prefer.

Posted: February 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Broken Link | Tags: , , , , , , , ,