Forget the protest rally and cyberpetition, the new activist tool is Facebook.
In an unprecedented action, members of the social-network phenomenon Facebook have launched a movement to save Business 2.0 from folding. Two Canadians launched a new group, titled "I read Business 2.0--and I want to keep reading!" late last week, and since then more than 1,700 members have joined the group. The list reads like a who's-who of tech and media insiders. But, like the thousands of signatures on electronic petitions protesting everything from the Iraq War to factory farming, it's unlikely to change the course of history.
However, the Facebook activism is interesting in many ways, one of the most obvious being the irony of new media being used to try to save old media.
According to The New York Times, which first reported on the pending pink slips at Business 2.0, subscriptions were up but ad revenues were down, prompting parent company Time to consider shuttering the monthly magazine after its September issue.
Basically, Web sites are sucking the ad dollars away from print publications. Business 2.0 isn't the first print publication to get hit; recently there were layoffs at the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, for instance.
I used to work at The Industry Standard, one of Business 2.0's rivals during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. Like the companies it covered, The Standard (as it was referred to internally) couldn't survive its own hype. It joined the list of business magazines attempting to ride the Internet wave that instead sank--including Upside and the original Red Herring (the Red Herring version 2.0 is also reportedly on its second last gasp), leaving Business 2.0 the last one standing from the old days.
I straddle both the print and online worlds. I was trained in the days of red-inked pages and typewriters. Now, the Web is one of the most important tools of my job. I don't want paper publications to die out. And seeing Business 2.0 go would be truly sad.
Business 2.0 Editor Josh Quittner takes a poignant and realistic look at the situation in a posting on his blog:
"Maybe we could organize a Million Geek March, but even at this rate, it would take too long to amass a mob. And I don't think that's the answer, anyway. What's happening on Facebook now may be a kind of answer. Increasingly, we're moving to a virtual world where most of the solutions are virtual. I know our benefactors in New York are watching the Facebook Revolt with interest. And I know that advertisers are, too. We should have turned Business 2.0 into a real social network long ago. Who knew that, secretly, that it already was one."