This morning I received some key facts and figures from one of the emerging major players in the world of collaboration. What is striking to me is how much they look like the key facts and figures of a traditional media company: active users (read: readers); paid subscriptions (read: circulation minus comps); some stuff about annual rate of return and employees; and then the obligatory Silicon Valley “10x” growth in the past 12 months.

Traditional media companies, when putting out these kind of numbers, are appealing to investors and advertisers. In the past, newspapers used to use these numbers to try to influence readers too, with the red-tops in particular having front page banners on how many copies they sold as a way to legitimise their product (a common trick in FMCG too – Britain’s Most Popular Toilet Cleaner!).

This sort of social proof is important, but in the world of collaboration tells us nothing about efficacy; a billion people use Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that Facebook is the best social network, just the most popular (other social networks are available). When spouting these mass media numbers, I presume that the collaboration platform providers are appealing to investors first, and then through social proof potential customers second. But if you are looking to the software providers to get an indication of how to measure the success of a collaboration platform implementation, well, they’re probably not the right people to ask.

This should be of concern to potential customers because, long term, if the supplier is guided by reach not utility then their is a distinct danger that they will fall prey to the instant messaging tipping point of functional uselessness. They are fighting for a mass market and as a result will probably compromise their product at some point through feature bloat.

The hunt for platform providers who focus on user outcomes continues…

One thought on “Mass media collaboration

  1. The comparison with traditional media companies is an apt one in that both they and the social media companies share the similar business model of serving two radically different groups – consumers and advertisers. The media consumers are the product served up to the advertisers and as such, the reach metrics are of primary importance to them (and of some importance to the consumers as well – a superior platform isn’t much good if those you wish to interact with aren’t on it).

    It’s a delicate dance. Your point re: the tipping point of feature creep is valid – FaceBook outages are now not just personal inconveniences, but actual business-significant events for those relying on the platform for eyeballs, etc. On the other hand, there seems to be a need to maintain some novelty to keep the “product” coming around.

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