Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Here come the big guns

WSJ reports about Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay Inc., and his interest in participatory media:

"People who grew rich in the Internet age believe that the best media opportunities involve new ways to attract millions of users at low cost, with only light guidance from a small team at headquarters. Their reasoning deserves a close look.

The obvious champions of this approach are upstarts like Google Inc. founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Google's $192 billion market capitalization is public. Facebook's negotiations to sell a stake at what might be a $15 billion valuation are being chattered about constantly. In those cases, the sheer size of those new-media fortunes comes across as a triumphant roar.

Mr. Omidyar is no shouter. At age 40, he has been retired from day-to-day duties at eBay for years, though he remains chairman of the online auction company. He lives in Henderson, Nev., where taxes are lower. We've chatted intermittently since 1998, and it's always mind-stretching. Mr. Omidyar may be a low-key engineer, but he likes to defy tradition if he sees a compelling opportunity.

In recent interviews, Mr. Omidyar and his new investment chief, Matt Bannick, explained why they want to build "participatory media" companies, in which vast numbers of ordinary citizens call the shots. To them, that's the future of media, even if it won't always be profitable."

Who and what Omidyar is targeting remains unclear. But it's very clear that the big investors are waking up to the opportunities in participatory media. We've not seen many innovative ventures or niche agencies that focus on conversational marketing alone. I'm sure plans are in the making and there will be major shift in focus from Web 2.0 to Participatory Marketing. It's about time.

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