The recent bloodbath among online content peddlers and digital media proselytisers can be traced to two deadly sins. The first was to assume that traffic equals sales. In other words, that a miraculous conversion will spontaneously occur among hordes of visitors to a web site. It was taken as an article of faith that a certain percentage of this mass will inevitably and nigh hypnotically reach for their bulging pocketbooks and purchase content, however packaged. Moreover, ad revenues (more reasonably) were assumed to be closely correlated with "eyeballs". This myth led to an obsession with counters, page hits, impressions, unique visitors, statistics and demographics.
It failed, however, to take into account dwindling efficacy of what Seth Godin, in his brilliant essay ("Unleashing IdeaVirus"), calls "Interruption Marketing" - ads, banners, spam and fliers. It also ignored, at its peril, ethos of free content and open source prevalent among Internet opinion leaders, movers and shapers. These two neglected aspects of Internet hype and culture led to trouncing of erstwhile promising web media companies while their business models were exposed as wishful thinking.
The second mistake was to exclusively cater to needs of a highly idiosyncratic group of people (Silicone Valley geeks and nerds). The assumption that USA (let alone rest of world) is Silicone Valley writ large proved to be calamitous to industry.
In 1970s and 1980s, evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins and Rupert Sheldrake developed models of cultural evolution. Dawkins' "meme" is a cultural element (like a behaviour or an idea) passed from one individual to another and from one generation to another not through biological -genetic means - but by imitation. Sheldrake added notion of contagion - "morphic resonance" - which causes behaviour patterns to suddenly emerged in whole populations. Physicists talked about sudden "phase transitions", emergent results of a critical mass reached. A latter day thinker, Michael Gladwell, called it "tipping point".