The Rise of the Interest-Driven Network (IDN)

Written on
Mar 10, 2016 
Winder Hughes  |

“The fundamental stumbling block of the social web to date is that it has conflated social graphs with interest graphs. But in reality, who you know does not always translate into what you will like.”
(“The Future of the Social Web: Social Graphs vs. Interest Graphs,” David Rogers, Columbia Business School).

As the social media-fueled mobile lifestyle has rapidly become the new normal, something unintended has happened along the way – it’s become increasingly difficult for people to connect with relevant content on their mobile devices.

It started out simple enough. New mobile platforms offered ways to receive personalized updates from our friends, family and work colleagues. But over time, something went wrong. The SMN (Social Media Network) newsfeed experience became a cluttered mess, with randomized content, largely unrelated to our interests.

Imagine if our conventional TV viewing experience was like our mobile experience, comprised of a single channel feed of randomized programs with no organization or contextualization of networks, programs or times? What if broadcasters began to remove some of our favorite shows to give us others that they wanted us to see instead? What if every TV network we watched required us to change TV sets to watch their program?

Mobile content consumers are faced with the daily challenge of how to effectively make their feeds more relevant to their interests. A world cluttered with single-use apps, updates and algorithms is taking over the mobile experience, wasting users’ time. Brands and marketers need to focus on establishing a new system to categorize, contextualize and present mobile content in a way that makes it relevant and easily accessible to consumers.

A Shift to the Interest-Driven Network (IDN)

Unlike the current SMN experience where users follow other users, brands or companies, the Interest-Driven Network (IDN) is a new ecosystem where people can instead follow user-curated interest feeds centered around topics, themes, conversations and communities based on their personal interests.

Going beyond just simply combining all of a user’s news, lifestyle and social media into one app, the IDN would maximize relevance and community through streamlined content. This network would allow for an optimal mobile content consumption experience, empowering users to instantly connect with what they care about and filter out what they don’t. A consumer is really only focused on what inspires them, and an IDN would allow consumers to connect within a community that shares common affinities and interests.

Different from the SMN, the IDN is built on the Interest Graph, not the Social Graph. The Interest Graph tracks what a consumer has expressed an interest in and allows insights to be made based on our demonstrated tastes, unlike the Social Graph, which maps who consumers know, and makes inferences from what they like.

In addition to being a more relevant method for discovering, organizing and presenting content, the Interest Graph reaches a larger, better qualified community than the Social Graph, offering relevance at scale. Consider how many people we know compared to how many people who are passionately interested in nature photography, west coast surfing and indie folk music.

Historically, all forms of mass media eventually evolved into an organized structure oriented around usability,
facilitating the user’s ability to locate their interests and control their experience. Radio and TV are organized by channels and programs. Books and magazines have tables of contents. Browsers organize the Web by folders and bookmarks. Shouldn’t our mobile media be organized in a way that provides maximum utility too?

The untethered freedom associated with the entire mobile experience rests upon the notion of instantly connecting with what we care about. As a result, IDNs will usher in a new experience centered on user-curated interest feeds, where relevant content meets targeted communities of shared interests. This network creates a win-win situation for brands and consumers; users connect around relevant content and community; content creators have confidence that their content is relevant to a target audience; and marketers can better reach an engaged community of their ideal target audience.

Bringing relevance and community to the forefront of mobile content consumption, IDNs can join the disruption driving today’s Sharing Economy and deliver the perennial benefit of “saving time.”

“The interest feed cometh. Straight killer, no filler…I love this feeling that it’s right around the corner, and it’s going to be huge!”

(Why I Unfollowed You on Instagram-The Social Network is Yesterday, the Interest Feed is Tomorrow,” Ian Rogers, former CEO of Apple Music).


Winder Hughes, chairman and CEO of HI•FI, evangelizes Order and Vision with great attention to detail alongside a nose for detecting danger. Driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, Winder has over 25 years of investing experience in start-up companies, and founded HI•FI as an outgrowth from his investment partnership, the Focus Fund. He is fascinated by what makes a brand become a global success and thus his lifelong passion has been to create a world-class consumer brand experience that favorably changes the human condition – he has found it with HI•FI. Winder graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a BA in Economics. #taketheknowledgeandleavethepain.

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