Back from the holidays, and into the frothy turmoil of the Big Deal season. Verizon enriches every British pensioner and pension fund with a bigger boost via its Vodafone deal than the UK government has managed in years; Microsoft spends the equivalent of the GDP of Hungary as the lonely couple in the mobile phone corner decide to get married; and Jeff Bezos becomes a born-again newspaperman. Here is what he said in an interview with the Washington Post:

“I had to convince myself that I could bring something to the table,”
he said. “I discussed this at great length with Don (Graham). I thought I
could, because I could offer runway and some skill in technology and
the Internet and a point of view about long-term thinking, reader
focus and the willingness to experiment.”

Well, I am sure that he can deliver all of that, but it was the last words that caught my attention. You see, when newspapermen have experimented in the past it has been all about finding niftier ways of delivering the same old content in the same old format. Mr Bezos has been a prime mover in a different culture: you go back to the user and find out what combination of elements make him feel well-informed and give him satisfaction, then you go into beta and keep on experimenting and iterating and re-iterating… and you never finish. This is a world of work in progress. There is no “launch”, nothing can ever be left unquestioned. The quest is to become ever more essential to the user: like all great love affairs you have to keep working on it and never take it for granted.

Many of us are now caught up in the Amazon utility story (here is a test for his original customers: would you give up the ability to order or download every book whose review catches your eye if idiosyncratic bookstores who never have the book you want could be restored to the High Street?). But Amazon is a company with a difference. It will go on innovating, but once we are into same day/same hour delivery, the differentiating factors in ecommerce will start to diminish. Mr Bezos has wisely moored an escape craft to the roof of the building, like some James Bond villain of old, so that he can escape and look down at us from the Cloud – as owner of the storage that we all need to conduct our business on the networks. In my view this makes his model more robust, and the people I wonder about are the social media players.

I have heard more debate this summer about the future of Facebook than seemed imaginable a few years ago. And while I love LinkedIn (who would have thought when I first started using email in 1980 (it was called BT Gold) that one day my treasured congregation of friends would keep my rolodex up to date for me) it is becoming so big that it ceases to amuse. I am a very limited marketplace for “Four Great Thoughts of Bill Gates” or “Five Whimsical Notions from Warren Buffet”. And I have thought for a few years now that Facebook would burst under its own size pressure. The answer as I have always imagined it was a plethora on niche networks, but each of us would have an interface which collected all of the niches onto one screen, and allowed us to view them all and respond to friends without having to sign into or out of each service separately. The niche element would give greater security as well as the feeling that we are really inside a relevant community. There would be one for the immediate family, one for the golf club, one for the business sector, one for the village, one for the reading circles etc etc. And most of these are there or almost there already.

And this is a striking thought now, as we awaken to the thought that we do not really see the community element once we are much past a billion members, because I seem to be under siege at present from niche networking opportunities – and find myself signing up to them. Yes, I did join Slideshare (, because I talk a lot (yes, and often too much) and I am always interested in getting better ideas from other people’s slides. And I joined, like a nervous ingénue in fresher’s week, Charles Thiede’s clever new Zapnito network (, as a Micro Genius! There has to be a place for possessed visionaries to hang out and mutter darkly to each other. And, more seriously, there have to be better networks for sharing ideas and encouraging innovation; look at this piece about it on TNW: media&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Spreadus. I really hope this succeeds. And while I was at it, I signed up for the beta of, as a network of people with interests in private equity. We shall see what the yield is from these three, but meanwhile I would like a vendor to come forward with the niche networks integration software. You see, I have this other idea that if I had on one screen all the interesting news and inputs from all of my services, they would be, well, sort of like my personal “newspaper”. Now, do you think I could sell that to Jeff Bezos?


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