The Internet has brought huge benefits to society. Few will disagree with this.
There have been some losers though, in the rise of the digital era.
Publishers and news sites have seen their power and businesses eroded by a range of phenomena. They've taken a kicking in fact, with new models - like BuzzFeed - muscling in too.
Customer loyalty has radically decreased, expectations of free content now dominate and fleeting consumption and instant sharing occurs via many channels and devices, often outside of the control of the publisher. Within these trends most publishers have ended up giving away their data too, without realising the true costs - to social networks, search engines and a plethora of free application providers.
Yes, free apps have proved useful, but as they say: 'when the service is free, you're the product'.
Today, however, the emergence of new technologies is helping publishers check the bleed of data and control, potentially also enabling them to deliver a better experience to us readers too.
Game changing improvements in tracking social sharing
Even though the earliest forms of sharing online were often one-to-one private messaging - I remember my first experiences with MSN Messenger - tracking sharing into these private, or dark, social channels has until recently proved problematic.
During the Internet 1.0 and 2.0 eras we were only able to track sharing in open, or light, social environments, but this is only a third of social sharing activity.
Recently, entrepreneurs and tech firms have begun to launch applications which track the copying and pasting of small and large exerpts of text and URLs too, into dark and light social channels.
This is game changing for publishers. And, it's often free.
RadiumOne's Po.st tool is one of these emerging technologies, enabling publishers to track sharing into dark social channels in a range of ways.
Publishers can now track far more of their social sharing, see where their links end up and better optimise content stragies for customers they understand more about.
New technology is beginning to light up the dark.
Halting the leak of valuable data
Previously, also, much of the tech and tools used by publishers to enable sharing of their content was free, but valuable proprietary data was handed over as part of the trade.
I reached out to Rupert Staines, European MD at RadiumOne, who was hugely generous with his time, explaining that: 'This valuable data was often packaged up, sold on and ended up on ad exchanges and external private marketplaces'.
After investing huge amounts in content, community and stimulating readership, data was leaking through the fingers of publishers all over the world.
To then enable the sharing of their content, publishers were losing their hard earned data.
This is all set to change.
Recent developments in the market for sharing tools has seen new providers emerge, offering similarly free tools that crucially enable publishers enjoy new control of their audience data and leverage it more effectively.
The aforementioned Po.st's sharing buttons are an example of this, whilst Po.st's URL shorteners also keep publishers' data private, in contrast to services like bitly, commonly seen in Twitter feeds. GetSocial and others also have interesting services in this space.
The appeal of such new sharing technology providers seems logical. Rupert Staines, reports popular demand for Po.st, estimating growth in this part of their business of 15%, month on month.
That's impressive growth. Even for a pure play startup.
Welcome news for the little guys and major media
Publishers today can enjoy access to increasingly better tracking of their shared content and links disseminated via copy and paste, noting the channels and recipients.
The nature of Google and search engines has been pushing all sites to become publishers - hence the explosion in content marketing globally - so these developments are not just helpful for large media companies. Publishers ranging in size from Mom and Pop business, to the Daily Mail, stand to benefit.
Publishers are thus enjoying somewhat of an empowerment, after 18 years of decline.
Not only can they see further into the gloom of dark social - and better provide for these sharers and the resulting traffic driven - but they can enjoy newly improved control over their audience's sharing data.
With new innovation to come, are we seeing an arrest in the decline of publishers online?
Stay tuned for part II and how owning their audience data is bringing exciting new growth opportunities to publishers of all sizes.