When it comes to all things Internet, I’d say the biggest headline of 2008 landed in my inbox last week. The words sat atop a Reuters wire story and read, “Porn passed over as Web users become social: author.”


What this story (from the school of bad headline writing) communicated was the work of an author who studied and demonstrated, based on search traffic, that social networking sites had surpassed pornography sites as the top attraction on the Web.


I’m not trying to be cute or clever here, nor am I suggesting that most of the social-network content on the Web is especially high minded. But you’d need to understand the history of the Internet and the scale of its back-alley traffic to recognize the watershed this story represents. There basically hasn’t been a time going all the way back to the Web billboards of the 1980s when the seamy side of the Web hasn’t been the dominant content draw.


What the story told me is that we are witnessing the convergence of two irresistible forces: the consumer/community driven emergence of Web 2.0 with all its implications; and the ongoing maturation of Web content management (WCM), the new high ground of Web traffic, especially as it applies to marketing.


I brought my factoid to last week’s DM Radio show, which was providentially on the topic of WCM and featured great guests: CMS Watch founder Tony Byrne; FatWire Software VP Loren Weinberg; Day Software SVP Santi Pierini; and Baynote founder Jack Jia.


Byrne also sees a convergence. “It’s happening in different ways for both intranets, which have been great drivers of Web content technologies as well as public Web sites,” he says. “It’s going against this old notion that we publish, you read. People want to interact.”


Any number of topics are falling out of this. “Operationally it has meant that interactive marketing people are playing a greater role in WCM and publishing, and many vendors are coming out with tools to manage site interaction. From the architectural standpoint we are seeing a substantial evolution with respect to the products’ abilities to handle content not just flowing from your Web site but content coming in from the world.”


The swinging door of interaction requires some reflection on content types as well as archival and retention policies, Byrne says. “We’re really just feeling our way right now. Most companies aren’t integrating their ECM and WCM systems and user-generated content is going to make that problem more acute.”


How should companies feel about the community model? If experience is my guide, it’s about letting go while doing a better job of managing brand and presentation across increasingly mashed-up content. Pierini’s company talks about the concept of brand protection, but sees the prime violators not on the Web, but inside the firewall. “It’s the people who aren’t using consistent logos or messaging. We have a concept called ‘freedom within a framework,’ which says, let the professionals be as creative as they need to be but also adhere to corporate guidelines.” A problem, Pierini says, is that social media, MySpace, Facebook and Wikis and blogs are not yet enterprise ready and lack versioning, backup and workflow.


Weinburg says FatWire’s position is to affirm that WCM is increasingly about enabling marketers and the outreach process. “To do that effectively you need to give those folks access to whatever content they need to be effective,” she offered. “Whether you’re dealing with digital assets stored elsewhere or documents or any other kind of enterprise content, Web managers can only do really well if they can access that.” When it comes to a live site, the ability to mashup content with outside resources is one key to success, Weinburg says.


Jia, who used to run ECM stalwart Interwoven, has a new startup in Baynote, which brings the Google notion of crowd wisdom to Web sites such as Expedia and Motorola. “Motorola has millions of pieces of content on their intranet. They have more than 1,000 applications built over time. How do you create an aggregation that reflects what the users need?”


I knew Jia in his old role at Interwoven, and just six or eight years ago, the answer was a portal, then another portal and then a widget. That model has already receded because the dynamics of the social and consumer markets no longer permit it.


Let’s get used to the idea that self-service, mashups and asynchronous presence (if not live interaction) are becoming new standards, not in email but in the community model. It’s a lot to consider, but even if you are building static marketing sheets, acknowledge that everything you’ll do going forward will be aimed at individuals, communities and marketplaces that won’t associate with your business unless you do the same.


This column reflects just a sidebar of what was discussed in last week’s DM Radio show hosted by Eric Kavanagh and myself. These shows are growing quickly in popularity and I hope you’ll give all our topics a shot in the background of your multitasking day.

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