Invest in lines, not dots.

(Mark Suster, VC & entrepreneur)

Technology moves quickly.  If you spend too much time looking at the present you’ll miss the next big shift.  There’s no such thing as too big to fail — just ask the publishers, record companies, Blockbuster, bookstores, and other businesses that have been blown to oblivion by radical shifts in customer behavior.

I’m keeping this page as a notepad of changes that appear on the horizon.  I’ve been at this long enough to notice lines, but past performance is not an indication of future returns as they say in the investment business.

With that in mind, here are some things to watch:

1) Tear down this wall.

Web sites turn to brand journalism to pay their bills.  

For years journalism has respected a formal “Chinese Wall” between editorial and advertising.  In order to find a business model that’s going to work — in other words pay for salaries, benefits, buildings and other things we normally associate with a healthy business — this wall will become permeable.  Already top publishers such as Forbes.com are experimenting with “native advertising” and “brand journalism” which are two of the terms being used to describe the blending of editorial and advertorial content.  Although some dyed in the wool journalists will see this as the end of the world, it’s not a bad thing.   The reality is banner advertising sucks.  Mobile advertising is even worse.  Something has to change to cover the cost of content creation and traditional journalism.  For a media company to make money they need advertising to work. The only avenue left is to commingle commercial messages with editorial content.

Here are some examples:

– a company pays to be interviewed by a recognized journalist.  The questions can be preauthorized and “softball” in nature, but the rest will be freeflowing.  The expectation is the company will end up with content that can be used in their marketing efforts and the publication will have a source of revenue without compromising their editorial integrity (a spokesperson from a company reacting to a question is not the same as ad content).

– guest articles.  This is already taking off and is the basis for Forbe’s “BrandVoice” program which is a fast-growing part of their ad-sales.

– Here’s an except from Dvorkin’s latest post:

The facts are clear: display advertising, those boxes and banners the news media has come to accept, don’t command the premium prices they once did. They will be extinct sooner than you think. Different types of advertising that give marketers a new kind of voice can’t prevent any credible news organization from performing the essential role of journalism — to observe, collect and interpret information. In fact, the revenues from those new ad products can only help provide a profession with the funds it needs to serve audiences more hungry than ever for what they do.

– ghost writers for hire.  Newspapers and magazines cover news.  They have a staff of writers who are trained to quickly convey the key points from a breaking story.  Expect journalists to be assigned — on a for-pay basis — to cover product announcements and events.

2) Micro-Communities.

People seek more intimate groups as Facebook fatigue sets in.

Facebook is the 1000 pound gorilla and probably always will be.  Unfortunately most people have been indiscriminately accepted friend requests with assumption that more is better than less.  Now that these streams have grown in volume and frequency it’s becoming too much.  We’re being exposed to too many dimensions of other people’s lives.  We’ll find better nooks to collect within that serve different aspects of our lives.  A place for friends.  A place for families.  A place for musicians.  Facebook groups could serve this purpose and it’s possible that Facebook Connect could serve as a universal passport, but many people will want the find a more intimate setting for their personal interactions.  There’s already been movement in this direction with the success of Path which limits connections to 150 per person.  This is inspired by Dunbar’s number which supposedly is the maximum number of meaningful connections any person can have.  There’s also Nextdoor.com for people who live within just a few miles of each other and MyFamily.com for inter-generational family networking.

Note: 3/10/13:  related post from Dave Winer

What comes after Facebook?

It’s pretty obvious what comes next, via extrapolation — from past turns of the wheel in software.

What comes next is an easy way for the generation of people who grew up on Facebook to create their own social networks, accessible only by the people they want to share it with.

A somewhat easier to use version of what AWS is today will be the platform.

And Harvard dropouts of the day will create AMIs their friends will configure cleverly.

The art in this new way of doing things will be clever twists on “share.”