Is Web 2.0 a legitimate trend or merely a catchphrase - and a soon-to-be dated one at that?
The tech renaissance is providing second chances for many in PR, the media, the venture capital community, and workers from Silicon Valley to Boston burned by the dot-com boom and bust. And this time around, nobody wants to screw it up.
That means anything that reeks of overhype, including the Web 2.0 label, is increasingly being viewed with skepticism.
"A lot of people don't like the term, in part because a lot of companies are being pulled into the category when they're not necessarily the same thing," says Dave Black, cofounder and director of Voce Communications. "From a PR perspective, what I hear is phony money."
Part of the problem with Web 2.0 - both as a trend and catchphrase - is that no one's quite sure what it means. Former Industry Standard editor John Battelle is generally given some credit for coining the term Web 2.0 when he helped launch a conference of the same name a few years back.
But now Web 2.0 is being used to label virtually every new tech venture. "It's a catch-all phrase, but there are now such a broad range of things being put under it that certain editors are getting tired of it," says Atomic PR CEO Andy Getsey.
Joel Dreyfuss, editor-in-chief of Red Herring, agrees, adding: "I tried to fight it at the beginning and told my reporters not to use the term. Because if somebody calls me and says they have a Web 2.0, they haven't told me anything yet."
Elizabeth Shea, principal with SheaHedges Group, says the benefit to giving a company the Web 2.0 label is it serves as a hook for the investment community.
"I do see VCs getting interested if there is that label because, just like everything else, they want to be on the early side of a trend," she says.
Few outlets have actually gone out and created Web 2.0 beat reporters, but most tech reporters tend to follow the money and, therefore, are familiar with the financial potential of Web 2.0 companies.
"The media love labels, so this is a story for them, and with that comes the question of whether it will crash just like the dot-coms," says Black. "So it's a term that can come with a lot of baggage.
Dreyfuss advises using the term with great caution because, like all trends, it can quickly become old hat. He adds, "Some people are already referring to Web 3.0."
PITCHING... Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is already triggering some media backlash, so don't be in too big of a hurry to attach the label to your tech clients
Different parts of the country define Web 2.0 in different ways, so be sure that both you and the reporter are on the same page if the phrase comes up
Web 2.0 may become passé, but the tech trend is real, so avoid any hype, and concentrate on helping your clients seize the current opportunities