All this time has passed and we are still in the “sheep v goats” definition stages of online market development. My easily irritated duodenum flared on this in this morning’s MediaGuardian (never to be taken in any case without antacid);” Facebook is absolutely not an AOP  (Association of Online Publishers) member. We wouldn’t recognize Facebook as a content producer and they would not define themselves as one”. (Lee Baker, Director of AOP, MediaGuardian, 27 September 2010). Since AOP also excludes the BBC, but includes News International (and thus My Space as well) it could be defined as the Society for the Protection of Old Media against Intrusive Business models (SPOONFED). But for my current purposes the issue is not quite that: why, I want to ask, is it permissable for “old” media to be given time, and often protection, in order to rebuild their businesses for a networked world, when that time and investment have largely been used for strategies of ill-informed diversification by acquisition as a hedge against change. Or for market strategies designed to slow change and push the market, largely unsuccessfully, towards halfway houses in which the format to be protected is prefaced “e” in the hope that this will prevent a strike of lightning. Thus, eNewspapers a la Murdoch, eMagazines and eJournals … and, alas, eBooks. All doomed halfway houses.

So what is to be done? It has now been clear for a decade that the media needs to re-invent itself in terms of network grounded communications. Adaptation has to flow from a real understanding of how virtual users behave, and that this behaviour is crucially different from that of the same individual in a real world environment. Publishing platforms that create and hold content must be neutral to end use, and marketing has an enhanced editorial role in defining those usages. We need to recognize that the word publisher may have lost its utility, that anyone and everyone who creates content in the network may be one, and that to exclude the world’s largest networker of user-generated content  from the definition of an online publisher is sublime. Jonathan Swift would have been proud to own that fantasy. It belongs in an imagination that could envisage two nations fighting over whether it is correct to open a hard-boiled egg at the sharp or the rounded end.

In consumer publishing it is really hard to find examples of players once great in print who are now able to operate in network terms with a similar facility. But in broadly-defined B2B and professional information activities some players are beginning to turn their whole culture around towards the network  in ways which underscore what needs to be done. I would have said that this was harder for the bigger players, but the example given by Thomson Reuters ( last week contradicts that prejudice. This, the largest player in the market, demonstrates real committment to the networked user by redefining its focus in a critical area from Financial Services v Law, Tax and Regulatory to Governance, Regulation and Compliance. Why is this important? Because it is saying that the ancestral divisionalization of this huge company must also be subject to the client bases of both sectors being utilized to satisfy an appetite for horizontal information to inform the workflow of compliance officers and a great number of managers who have regulatory responsibilities but who are not lawyers.

How do we know that this is serious and not window dressing? When the group’s chief strategy officer steps down to run the new business unit. And the acquisitions of recent years (Paisley, Complinet) which represent a response to these market developments, are built into the foundations of the new division. This sends messages throughout the organization, for while Reuters was always, in its post news agency years, a trading environment in an electronic world, the esprit developed in its titanic struggle with Bloomberg might have produced insularity. And Thomson Legal’s roots lie in eighteenth century law books at Sweet and Maxwell, and mid-nineteenth century law reporting in the US at West. These two outfits, when they came together, were also placed with an ancestry in portfolio brand ownership. The old Thomson view that interconnecting group holdings was wrong if it went to a point where elements might grow together (and thus be harder to sell separately) has certainly gone into retreat with this announcement.

I expect many of Thomson Reuters’ competitors to look at this announcement and then at their own portfolio holdings and wonder about current strategies. I also feel that the portfolio days of B2B have drawn to a close. Investing in disparate service elements in niche markets no longer adds sufficient value to be justified, and if the future really is around workflow emulation, as this column has been suggesting, then the niche positions do not cut it without a great deal more content and software. That content and software will most often come through third party deals and alliances, which also means that the industry must drop its long term aversion to strategic alliances. That is the problem with change: it changes everything.

Everytime I settle down to write this piece Unintended Events intervene. As a result a piece intended for late August is being typed in hospital in mid-September – and I am even being evicted from the safety of this refuge tomorrow. So, enough about explaining how the title got on this piece.

But the Light in question is still bright in my eyes, and it derived from reading the August 17 Wired article by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff (“The Web is dead, Long Live the Internet”) ( at the same time as Technology Review’s article about the crisis facing the porn industry ( I have a great admiration for Mr Anderson, since I think his finger is close to the pulse on most things. And his argument now is compelling, though perhaps its factual base is less secure than we think. He is saying that Web usage on the internet is now dwarfed by peer-to-peer file sharing and video downloads, that despite growing use of the Web (if it is in fact growing), its shrinkage as a proportion of internet usage is the trend to watch, and both he and Wolff are arguing for a world where apps rule, and users are happier with pre-prepared service environments a la Jobs and Zuckerberg, even if, with greater effort, they could construct the same effect for themselves – for free.

Meanwhile, we must note with sadness the passing of a porn industry whose works are now being widely pirated, where peer-to-peer is as great a danger as it was to the music industry a decade ago, and where streaming video now ranks sites like PornHub and Xvideo in the top 60 sites on the Web. Even though these tubes are free video environments that undermine the rest of the industry while claiming to be dealing in “user-generated” (aka “liberated”) content.  And what a joy it is to report porn industry associations pleading for better intellectual property protection, and bemoaning the lack of effective industry statistics.

So what exercises me about all of this? Well, in the first place I used to advise clients in the 90s, when we had less experience of anything, that the porn players were wonderful role models for viral marketing, copy protection, the ability to keep pricing and sales perpetually refreshed, and mapping behaviour and purchasing patterns. And maybe they were, but the problems of the Web still caught up with them. Yet some of my best friends are only, even now, arriving at the Web and trying to re-create themselves as Web 2.0 orientated business and professional information environments. How am I going to break the news that the Web is dead, and even the porno rats cannot make a living?

The clues come in the last few lines. The Web may be dead as an info/entertainment resource, but as a community it probably has a long life, and there is ecommerce to be done within that community. We do need to revert to stricter definitions of the Web and the Internet, and more clearly see the former sitting on top of the latter, and not allow them to elide in common parlance (I plead guilty as charged). And we must acknowledge that the emerging world of active information solutions is an Internet activity, not a Web-based one, just as the emerging world of apps seems to belong more in mobile networks, not the Web. Yes, the Web will help us sell all these things, but they are not rooted there. The major workflow projects now afoot which will wholly transform B2B, and professional information, into services and solutions in the next five years are creatures of the Intranet and the Internet. They may draw content in part from Web discovery, but the Dark of private subscription contract services in the non-entertainment sectors already outweighs the commoditized content of the Open Web, even if it uses that material and adds private value to it.

What we are not getting our heads around is the relationship of the mobile network, mostly owned and controlled by third parties, and the Internet. It is a real issue, and one that must be tackled before access and tariff barriers become the real issues. And the Web will go on operating much as it does today for a very long time. A bit like the world of print. Amongst all of this we are slowly learning that not every tool can be used for everything. The Web is 18: by the time it comes of age as a medium we may know much more precisely what it is (not) for.

A final note. To the kind reader who asked whether I had given upwriting for August, the answer is clearly “No”. Having disposed of the Search economy, Google, and the Web in my last two posts, I feel entitled to a productivity award. And a reminder of Chris Anderson (who is, I think, actually an Englishman raised in North America). I had the pleasure of speaking just before him at the Google Unbound conference some years ago. As he replaced me at the podium, he remarked in a kindly manner “If I had that accent people here would think me 15% more intelligent than I am.”  My response – “does that mean that without it I would be 15% less intelligent than I appear?” – was mercifully drowned by the reaction to his remark. But I still regret saying it.