Web 2.0 and the Rise of Social Media

The concept of Web 2.0 surfaced in the wake of the dot.com crash of 2001 and discussions about what defined companies that were still prospering during the shake-out.

The term was first used in 2004 by Dale Dougherty in conversations with Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Publishing, John Battelle, author of the 2005 book The Search, people from MediaLive International that puts on trade shows, and others about planning a conference on the Internet. That led to the Web 2.0 Summit, an annual conference that began in Fall 2004.

In general Web 2.0  represented a shift away from software companies that tried to lock people into using their products and media companies that published static content for a passive audience, toward a digital culture of public participation, re-mixing by individuals of data and information, harnessing the power of collective intelligence and providing services, rather than products.

The rise of weblogs in the early 2000s was perhaps the best example of this emergence of “social media.”

For news organizations, Web 2.0 means moving away from using the Internet to draw a passive audience to a static publishing platform, and instead embracing the broader network, where communication, collaboration, interaction and user-created content are paramount.

Practically it means everything from engaging people on blogs, online forums and social networks, to promoting user generated content and providing more personalized content for mobile devices such as cellphones.

Many news organizations are now embracing the Web 2.0 approach. The Bivings Group, in a 2008 survey of the websites of the 100 largest newspapers, found that:

  • 58 percent accepted user-generated photos
  • 18 percent accepted user-generated videos
  • 15 percent accepted user-generated articles
  • 75 percent allowed for comments on articles (up from 33 percent in 2007)
  • 76 percent provided some form of a “most popular” list of stories, based on what readers were commenting on or emailing or blogging about
  • 92 percent allowed readers to tag stories for inclusion on social bookmarking or aggregation sites like delicious or Digg (compared with only 7 percent in 2006)
  • 10 percent utilized social networking tools

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