The New Cities of the Web


When I visit Toronto to spend time with my client partner, I see a very specific city. I see the downtown, right under the CN tower (that nifty needle in the picture above). I see a steakhouse called Earl’s. I see the occasional friend I know mostly from online, for a quick coffee in between my other business. If I had a few extra hours, I would probably go in search of very specific things: a bookstore, a movie theater, some cool event with the web types hiding amongst the steel and glass.

My “where” is quite different than yours. Maybe you traveled there with kids. Maybe you are a startup type of person. Maybe you’re an insurance person or a real estate person. The way you see the city is different than me. The way you travel through airports is different. When we check into hotels, we want different things (I could care less about the view. I just want lots of plugs).

The New Cities of the Web

Companies will have a really difficult time customizing the universe to our needs and interests. Any site dedicated to “your best view of Boston” can’t work. Why? Because it’s that site’s curator’s best view. It’s a vote-up’s best view. It’s the wisdom of the masses washed against data that fits the masses but not everyone, the same way we don’t all wear the same shirt size or shoe size.

So the opportunity is to connect with the people we feel understand what we like. If Jacq likes a bookstore, I’ll love it. If Justin or Joe recommend a restaurant, I don’t have to think twice about it.

The new cities of the web aren’t marked by physical boundaries, but by our connections and relationships. More so than bookmarks, the new cities are predicated on what we like, who we know, and what opportunities we can connect into based on these two items. Believe me, my New York with Jeff Pulver is very different than my New York with Matt, and I love both experiences very much. It’s different than New York as curated by Clay, and all of these are of value to me.

Our new cities are based on who, not where.

Your Business and Marketplace in This New City

In the way old days (and now), a billboard was a great place to gather attention. If you were headed in a certain direction, the billboard might remind you to get a $1 medium iced coffee at McDonalds. The radio used to be a great tool to build your place in the marketplace. We were all listening to the same thing. Newspapers and local television told you where to go, what to do, what might be happening.

How will your business be seen in this new city? I just gave you the secret. Through people. Not entirely. You can’t live by tweets and chit-chat on Google+ alone. But there’s a lot more to the “where should I go” question answered by humans you know (or meta know) and appreciate than you’ll ever accomplish with a straight-on advertisement.

Build your connections. Make them personal and personable. Make there be a reason why people will recommend you, and why you’re the first person they think of when someone asks where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to eat, what to buy to handle this or that. To me, there’s no hotel in Boston besides the Colonnade. There’s no place to eat besides Legal Seafood. In Milwaukee, you have to go to AJ Bombers and so on.

The new cities of the web are built on who, and your business will be the same. Ready? Go. Become known.

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