The light goes off: social network business models could use some imagination

A huge problem for innovative social media companies has been that they turn out not to have been innovative at all, not where it matters.

Sure, they are (a) innovative technically, and they (b) know something about marketing (either that, or they recognize what is energizing users to grow the network, and they do smart things to nurture and enable those patterns of use).

400428874_e087aa720d_zTo date, however, all the big players have failed miserably when it comes to innovating a new business model.

As Jaron Lanier is quoted as saying in a Joe Nocera column in the NY Times this week, "If Google and Facebook were smart, they would want to enrich their own customers.”

So it's really satisfying, and inspiring, to see Fred Wilson's post today, and the comment thread, Mutual Companies.

I don't know if a mutual company form of organization and ownership is the right solution for the problem, but to float the idea at all is to break the automatic assumption that innovative social media startups should be shoehorned into tired, duplicitous and, for the digitial age, regressive business models of the 20th Century.

Here are some earlier posts that reflect my thinking on the topic, and the insights that my friend Mark Byrnes shared with us:

 Photo: grendelkhan / Flickr.

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