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The Firings at AOL Patch: A Study in Corporate Myopia

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Which would you prefer? Reading an article by a reporter who may be visiting this block or meeting these participants for the first time or one by a person who lives on the block and is neighbors with the participants?

The Internet blog has restored us to the powerful person-to-person communication that has always been our primary source of important news (until very recently), a powerful centerpiece of every culture on earth. It is the modern-day version of the "community circle" except that, with the Internet, the circle can comprise millions, even hundreds of millions, of people.

The mystery isn't why people choose that circle over something like Patch, it's why AOL doesn't seem to realize it. But that may not be so surprising. Corporations look at the Internet and don't see it. What they see is a huge potential market to be lured in squares of demographics -- a market that ignores the idiosyncracies and realities of people's lives. For corporate executives, the Internet isn't a massive town square of shared reality; it's a huge crowd gathering under a building's news ticker. Corporations can't comprehend the fact that people would rather talk to each other about their lives than look up to read some reporter's story about them.

So they will keep doing these projects and, while a few may succeed, most will fail. The problem will always be that the corporate Internet won't understand the reasons for failure and success. They will refuse to grasp that projects like Facebook succeed because they empower users, allowing them to dictate (even to a minor extent) the content being exchanged, while those that spoon-feed information to users will fail because most users no longer trust corporations to tell them the truth.

How could a guy like Tim Armstrong admit to himself that billions of people, most of whom don't know him, don't trust him or the other execs of Internet information companies? It would be admitting that the technological innovation that pays him his huge salary was actually developed by the human race to make roles like his extinct.

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Alfredo Lopez is a member of the This Can't Be Happening on-line publication collective where he covers technology and Co-Chair of the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link.

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Excellent and interesting article, Alfredo. This i... by Howard Schneider on Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 at 2:07:33 PM
the company that took over Huffington Post just ma... by intotheabyss on Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 at 6:56:45 PM