Content no longer rules, context is the new King

Two weeks ago Tom De Ruyck & I attended The Next Web conference in Amsterdam (NL), a conference inviting thought leaders and Internet entrepreneurs from all around the world to share their views on the future of the web.

On the first day Tom was invited for a Pecha Kucha presentation about brands & emotions, entitled ‘The Time is Now’:

The Next Web: Tom De Ruyck Pecha Kucha presentation – The Time is NOW! from Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten on Vimeo.

During the conference, we saw several other insightful presentations making clear that context is indeed the new king.


1. The context of data: Joe Stump, CTO of SimpleGeo, on the combination of ‘location’ & ‘real time’.

We are collectively producing massive amounts of data on the Web: according to Joe Stump data is currently following Moore’s law. Moreover, more and more data is shared in real time.

This data-explosion makes it hard to find really ‘relevant data’: ‘As the production of data increases, its inherent value decreases’. Hence context becomes crucial: knowing where, when & by whom the data is produced is vital. ‘Content is no longer king, context is king

Location information is the first logical step in adding meta-layers of information to raw data. Foursquare and Gowalla are doing a great job, but according to Joe Stump we need to take it forward, we are just at the front-end: ‘We need to move beyond the ‘check-in’ which is just a broadcast of presence. We need to start building a cohesive experience on top of that.’

For market research this implies that we will need to include more data-sources in the near future in order to get a profound 360 degree view on consumers.

Read the article in Wired to get inspired by what McLaren is already doing in this area.

2. The contextual framework: Robert Cailliau, Belgian scientist & one of the founders of the WWW, on the history & future of the World Wide Web.

Just like Joe Stump, Rober Cailliau, referred to the huge expansion of the web, increasing on a scale of X to the power X, rising faster than any exponential function, a scale never seen before in nature.

It was actually quite exciting to listen live to one of the founders of the World Wide Web. Robert Cailliau developed the Web together with Sir Tim Berners Lee at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, now 21 years ago.

And with the age of 21 come certain responsibilities. In his speech Robert Cailliau stated that it’s time to think about the way we are dealing with personal data, especially in the social scene on the Web.

‘The Internet has given us a lot of freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility, and we haven’t worked that much on this part.’

For market research this implies that we also have the responsibility to think about the way we are dealing with peoples data. BAQMaR recently started a discussion on this subject as a part of its 10 challenges for the research industry.


3. The human context: Mark Earls, author of The Herd, with an interesting talk on human behavior.

During his presentation, Mark Earls shared 3 interesting viewpoints that form the foundations of the ‘social scene’ on the Web:

  • Everything is social: absolute individual human behavior is very scarce; almost all human actions are basically ‘reactions’ on other people in our environment.
  • Copying rules: since the day we are born we try to copy everything we see around us. It’s hence more correct to rename our species to the Homo mimicus (as opposed to “sapiens” – the wise one).
  • Sailing on social soup: ‘abnormal’ behavior is not really appreciated in our society. People tend to conform and sail on the social soup that is surrounding them.

For market research this implies that methods like Ethnography & Community research are an important add-on to the toolbox of market researchers in order to fully grasp the ‘social context’ in which consumer behavior & consumer decisions are taking place.

It’s clear by now that this conference is not only a place for the pizza-eating IT guys, beautiful PR ladies and business men in white suits, but that it’s also the place to be for next gen market researchers who really care about the future of our industry. Hopefully we can meet up at the Next Web conference 2011!

Connect with us on Twitter via @matsjombo & @tomderuyck to share your thoughts.

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