With today’s news that the FCC would allow further deregulation of the media industry, effectively allowing fewer companies to own more media properties, it’s interesting to note a similar, if ironic trend, going on with the Web.
It’s conventional wisdom (for whatever that’s worth) that in traditional media, the fewer the companies the worse the user experience. For example:
- Clear Channel owns thousands of radio stations, therefore only a handful of watered-down, corporate-approved songs make it into 60% of the nations radio market.
- AOL/Time Warner owns several TV networks in addition to its movie studio, meaning that simple economics dictate crappy bomb movies will be shown over and over again on Comedy Central and TBS simply because they’re cheaper to buy and air repeatedly.
- ..and you get the idea.
The irony here is that this situation- the few owning the many- is in the best cases a very good thing for the Web. Notice:
The best companies on the Web are focusing on the user experience, and they’re winning. There’s only a small handful of them right now, but it’s no coincidence that three of the top 5 Web companies are also three of the most popular, well-known Web sites in the world.
Amazon has expanded its simple, powerful interface to a new Web index, Alexa, which is still taking off. The biggest mystery of all is why the parent hasn’t reshaped their child IMDB.com in their award-winning image, considering it’s easily the best, most widely used and referenced movie & TV database online.
That’s not to mention the offline and online retailers who have moved under Amazon’s banner, and not the reverse- including CDNOW, Target, Toy’s R Us, and many others.
Google, the most popular search engine, is revolutionizing the online news habit with it’s , a smash after less than a year in existence. Though Google doesn’t own any subsidiary companies of note, they are a monopoly on search, the most user-centric tool on the Web, and they’re creating new usable ideas almost every week, from the news to text ads.
And there is one recent purchase of note that has made Google a parent company- Blogger, the first ever Weblog tool, was snapped up by Google last February. Though the once-leading Blogger is now sagging far behind the much more confusing, elitist MovableType software, it still says a lot about Google that they made the purchase, signaling an important trend towards the categorization and indexing of the disparate, dynamic blog culture.
Finally, there’s Ebay, the online auction site. Setting the pace with a clean, text-based design heavy on content and superior features for free, eBay strattles the lowest common denominator in an accessable way that attracts power users and alike, clearly the key to its brilliant strategy.