Fortune 500 target Social Web: investing millions in 'boring' Internet

For Mark Cuban, “The Internet is Boring. Its old news.

For Mark Cuban, “The Internet is Boring. Its old news.” For America’s Fortune 500 mega-corporations, however, today’s Social Web is the “coolest” thing around.

As I discuss in “Corporate marketers to 48 million Internet users: 'share your stories'”:

Web 2.0 Social Web start-ups, move over. From hotel chains to sports broadcasters, established top tier corporate marketers are aiming for the Social Web.

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is no longer a hotel booking site, it is a “global community” where travelers can “connect with others.” In the Fall, the sports fan will be the “center of ESPN’s universe” with “tools for fans to create profiles, contribute to sports blogs, post opinions and link to favorite articles” at its Sports Nation property.

Cuban says today’s Social Web user-generated content plays are little more than souped-up versions of 1990’s lackluster free Web page services:

If GeoCities had created a script to add dated journal entries and gotten rid of those ugly floating ads that made everyone hate it, would this be posted on GeoBlogMaverick? And my goodness, if GeoCities had the foresite to add the Myspace concept of friends instead of rings and host people’s media files, would we call it a revolutionary social network? Or just a webpage and file hosting service? Which is exactly what Myspace and other social networks are.

Cuban has a point, the free-to-consumer GeoCities fizzled out.

I often ask, at this Digital Micro-Markets Blog, “Where is the money?” in today’s free-to-consumer Social Web networks.

In my “Social Web or Business Web: where is the money?”:

What does leadership in the Social and Business Webs return to investors?

MySpace may have “surpassed Yahoo! Mail as the most visited domain on the Internet for US Internet users,” but Yahoo is the company that is making its shareholders money from its Internet traffic…

An “established” player in the Business Web, Salesforce.com, has yet to provide satisfactory shareholder returns.

I present the “monetization by advertising” quandary MySpace and Facebook face in:

“Will new Google CPA ads and GBuy online payment system turn the Social Web into a marketplace?"

"Facebook cedes equity stake to ad agency and gains advertising dollars”

“Monetizing you and your friends: The Social Web seeks social brand dollars”

YouTube, MySpace, Facebook…are undoubtedly frustrated that their enviable user base assets are not generating commensurate financial returns.

Efforts to increase monetization, however, are stymied by both advertiser and user resistance; Advertisers are wary of the uncontrolled environments and users are deemed to be keenly sensitive to corporate “infiltration” and ready to bolt from the sites if they become unduly commercialized.

The free Social Web will face even greater challenges in securing corporate sponsorships as corporations, themselves, are turning social, as I posit in “Corporate marketers to 48 million Internet users: 'share your stories'”:

As corporate marketers embrace the Social Web to directly interact with their brand constituencies, “veteran” Social Web players such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, are gingerly attempting to make their properties more attractive to corporate marketers through social branding strategies.

At the end of the day, all will be competing for the "attention" and the "contributions"of the same 48 million Internet users generating or contributing content online, and hoping to monetize those users.

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