Day two of the ISOJ started off with a keynote by Bob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise, University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering.
He is behind Metcalfe’s Law, which states that a communications network is proportional to the square number of connected users.
Metcalfe set the scene by explaining how the internet has been disrupting industries for many years and posing a challenge for others such as mail and telephone.
The next industries facing disruption are energy, education and healthcare.
The internet is disrupting media and journalism in particular, and it is doing so by reaching more people at faster speeds, he said. But for him, the number of people that the internet is reaching is more important than the speed.
Metcalfe recalled that when he asked readers how much they would pay for his column for Info World, the average was 20 cents. But multiplied by a million readers, that’s $200,000 a week.
As an aside, Metcalfe noted that serendipity is a red herring. It is easy to program.
We need to find ways of getting people to pay, speaking of the potential of micropayments. To date, there has been friction about getting micropayments to work well.
But Metcalfe is optimistic these issues will be resolved and talked about micropayments of a cent of 0.2 of a cent.
We are going to monetise journalism once we get pass critical mass, he said. To do that, he explained, we need to think about virality.
Word of mouth is when people say they like your product but it is not as powerful as virality.
For Metcalfe, virality is when it is in the interest of your readers to get their friends to read it too.
For example, Facebook has great virality as you can’t see my pictures unless you are a member of Facebook, he explained.
So it is in the interest of a Facebook user to get their friends to join Facebook.
Metcalfe wrapped up by talking of the potential for disruption in education.
He concluded by comparing the disruption in education to what happened in journalism with the rise of blogging, and the initial dismissal of bloggers by professional journalists.