Not sure how to monetise your eyeballs?

While newspaper and magazine owners are still trying to decide whether or not they should aim for eyeballs or paywalls, there are several other companies who are happy to take up the challenge.

For instance, online social media publisher Mashable has signed a deal to syndicate content to Thursday editions of Metro in the U.S. Mashable founder Pete Cashmore is already a regular on CNN in the U.S, and Mashable and CNN. Plus Mashable has partnered with CNN for the Mashable Media Summit 2010.

It’s interesting to see that mainstream publications and online publications are increasingly merging, but the ‘digital natives’ seem less worried and more sure that they’ve already got the monetisation aspect under control.

One reason is that by the time the likes of Mashable and Techcrunch have reached their current scale, they have already had to answer the questions of how to fund an online business. But as they grew from relatively humble beginnings, they’ve tackled it as they’ve grown without having to worry about legacy systems and overheads.

And by the same token, if you look at the staffing levels – Mashable lists 20 staff, and Techcrunch lists 21.

Compare that to the epic lists of staff at most magazines, for example, and you can see a big contrast.  There are print magazines run by smaller teams, but none that have the scale of the leading blogs (Or at least what started out as blogs).

So how do you produce so much content with a small team across all our properties? Simple, count the guest posts and the open offers to submit work to the likes of Mashable and Techcrunch.

Then consider a quote from the 2010 PPA Conference from the Chief Executive of Future Publishing, Stevie Spring:

“Advertisers are scared of the prospect of seeing their ads next to user-generated content. This won’t change. All it takes is one bad example to put brands off.”

That’s why sites which benefit from user-generated content are filtering and curating that content to get value out of it. There’s a reason why there are successful businesses based around user-generated content, but 4Chan isn’t one of them.

Bit late in sharing this brilliance – perfect for a Friday

I’ve seen this posted elsewhere (Hat tip to Rax and Dave) but it’s too good not to share on the off-chance you haven’t seen it.

It’s a lovely Flash app monitoring stats on social media compiled original in September by Gary Hayes, and is very good, entertaining, enlightening, and potentially scary if you’re nervous about what’s happening in digital. Make sure you also check the Mobile and Gaming tabs…

And it ties in brilliantly with a recent quote from Leo LaPorte’s Net@Night Show (I always listed to This Week in Tech, but missed this episode of Net@Night, so rather glad Euan Semple picked up on it)

‘he (Leo) quoted the fact that YouTube has ten hours of video uploaded every minute of every day. He then quoted Theodore Strurgeon who claimed that “80% of everything is crap”. As Leo said, even if it is worse than that and 99% of everything is crap then this leaves one per cent of excellence. This means that every minute there are six minutes of excellent video being made available – more than we would ever be able to watch!

Just apply the same logic to the stats Gary is providing, and then use them to slap anyone that claims Blogs/Youtube/Twitter/Facebook/The Internet (insert your own popular media target/linkbait subject) etc is just a load of rubbish.

About the community, by the community

Here’s a good example of changing the way we do things, by the always interesting Neil Perkin at Only Dead Fish, from an idea by the also always interesting Herdmeister. And like most good ideas, it’s blindingly obvious when you see someone else do it!

Basically Neil was due to present at a conference on the subject of community. So he crowd-sourced it. And ended up with 30 slides submitted by a range of people (including myself). And a rather good presentation.

You can see his thoughts on crowdsourcing a presentation, and then presenting it, plus his words which accompanied it.

Due to my choice of blog template, you might need to click through to slideshare to be able to read the text well. It’s worth doing to subscribe to Neil’s presentations, like the one I previously recommended.

Max Gogarty and The Guardian – From mistake, to farce, to learning

I was ready to lay into The Guardian again, as the whole Max Gogarty controversy seemed to be missing the basic point of blogging. Besides the issues of nepotism, and class, the controversy would have been much less if blogging had been explained and implemented properly, criticism had been pro-actively responded to, and it The Guardian hadn’t decided to sulk and stop readers commenting.

We’ve had a response from the Travel Editor which concentrated on the hiring and class struggle. We’ve had a story detailing the ‘hate mail hell‘ Max has gone through. And throughout it all, there seems to be a lot of surprise about the responses to the blog, both on The Guardian, and throughout the internet.

Thailand pic by Flydime on Flickr.

It went viral because someone decided to close comments. For the same reason that someone banned from their local pub will probably go straight to their next nearest drinking hole, and sit their complaining about the ban. If you want to discuss something strongly, and a website won’t let you, you go elsewhere.

It got complaints because it wasn’t honest and open. Disclosure isn’t an unfamiliar concept to journalists or bloggers, so I’m still amazed it proves so difficult for corporate or company-approved bloggers to understand that hiding things are pointless. You should be honest,
to the point of stating why you can’t discuss certain topics on here. I wouldn’t blog about someone I didn’t like at work, for example, or a top secret project, because they’d be biased, or damaging to that project.

It got complaints because the only response was to close the comments. In later stories, you saw responses from someone claiming to be Max’s dad, Paul Gogarty, and also Emily Bell. And even though there was still blame on the ‘nasty bullies’, and a time limit on comments, you can already see that the nature of the comments changes slightly when there is actually someone listening and responding.

But, it seems like there is some valuable learning. Emily Bell, The Guardian’s Director of Digital Content, wrote a piece on the value of discourse yesterday, which did acknowledge the value of participation.

There is one line that worries me when she writes about ‘representative insitutions’ and mass participation : “we can shepherd refinement into this new partnership”.

Why would we want or need refinement? Do we want shepherds herding us around like sheep? Or do we just want to feel like our comments matter?

Contributing to the internet for more than just recognition…

I’ve had several conversations about user generated content with my colleague and fellow blogger David Cushman (and you can read his take here.)

Any online submission or rating system needs to have some reward to make the time invested worthwhile. And most of the current models use recognition as that reward, including Digg and Del.icio.us.

But the idea of payment is most definitely spreading. For a while bloggers could monetise their work either with advertising on their site – or by submitting articles to sites like Blogburst. Or even by writing content for sites like Helium.

But the options are growing every day. (Note, I’m not vouching for the earning potential, or payments from any of the sites in this post)

You could earn by using a social network like Yuwie.

Or you could submit links and comments to social review aggregator (and Digg clone), Ximmy.

Or by submitting videos to the likes of Revver.

Or you could even submit pages of search returns for Mahalo.

What’s interesting is how these sites will fair, and how the payment system evolves. Is payment enough to tempt enough users to make Yuwie or Ximmy a viable alternative? Because currently the payment system is definitely aimed at keeping payments as an optional bonus rather than a viable reason to justify the time involved.

Mahalo, meanwhile, takes a more valuable view of the content provided – as it should if it will challenge the likes of the Google search algorithm. Whereas Yuwie or Ximmy offer miniscule amounts for micro actions, Mahalo pays a huge amount, by comparison. But it also expects a lot more work, and applies a rigorous judging procedure.

But the main risk I can see for any of these new business is that their success could easily pave the way for competitors to attack them in a simple price war. And that could lead to a lot of false promises and unmade payments until finally the payment equilibrium puts a fair market price of user submissions, participation, and content.

That’s why I wouldn’t advise anyone to build a system around payment alone. But increasingly payment is becoming an expected part of participation and has to be factored into any social plan. The only variable is whether 1000 links to articles is worth $10 of my time for Ximmy – or a page of researched and picked search returns is worth $10 of my time on Mahalo!

This is just the start of my research into the online user economy, and economics isn’t my main skill, so I’d be really interested in opinions, comments, and anyone’s experiences with using paid UGC sites of any type…

(For the record, I’ve signed up with almost every site mentioned, but I’m still working towards any actual payments!)

Getting paid to play… social networking for cash…

A new social network site is offering to pay users for taking part. Yuwie aims to reward users for activity and referring more friends to the network, taking inspiration from old-style pyramid schemes.

You get paid for changing your profile, posting content, and when users look at your profile and content. And you get a share of everything from anyone you introduce, and anyone they introduce, up to the 10th level. So far, so multi-level marketing.

As for the actual site, it’s OK. It’s no Facebook beater for functionality, but it’s comparable to Myspace etc, with more focus on connecting and gaining views than actually on your profile appearance. Not surpising for something which is about getting an absolute shedload of connections in an attempt to grab some cash.

The scheme itself gets detractors picking up on the pyramid nature of the scheme, the high input versus low reward, and the encouragement to spam everyone you’ve ever met in the quest for a few more cents. And I think they’re all valid points.

If you do still want to try it for yourself, obviously I have to advise you to use my referral url: http://r.yuwie.com/badgergravling

I also have to say that so far, any commentary on the site gives rise to spam posts from Yuwie fans/employees/bots, so I look forward to 20 comments on this post tomorrow. And then deleting them all.

The interesting thing for me is how many people will be enticed to take part in the experiement. Most Long Tail and UGC fans promote the idea that the prosumers in the long tail aren’t doing it for the financial reward.

I’d strongly and heavily debate that someone spending hours creating videos, songs, apps and blogs isn’t looking for some type of reward, and that it’s a lack of opportunities to be reimbursed currently which has meant a focus on reward from social recognition and status etc. Sharing and exchanging ideas and knowledge improves the standing of everyone involved, but that tends to be more readily accepted by those who can afford to do it.

And when something like Yuwie comes along offering the chance to combine financial reward with social status and recognition it’s an interesting case study.

As of tonight, Yuwie is claiming 183,448 users, 78,471 this month, and 2697 today. That’s a fairly good curve to be on for the short term. How the business idea and interest pans out will be more interesting, as more people will be spreading the word about their good and bad experiences, and others could adapt the business model.

Interestingly Alexa shows a huge growth for Yuwie over the likes of Virb (which is a far nicer networking tool for design etc), although obviously it’s far smaller than most of the established names at present.

If not, there’s always the low paid, labour intensive prospect of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Or Deviantart for artists. Or for musicians, how about Amie Street to upload and sell your music for a web 2.0 crowd set price.

There’s a lot of options for the talented but financially uninterested. And the one great thing about the internet is that if you invest the time and effort, you can hedge your bets by going for more than one outlet…

Now that’s a Long Tail…

Don’t swap journalists for users quite yet…

User generated content (UGC), citizen journalism, blogging. I’m a huge fan of all three when used correctly, but they all need to be handled with care by traditional media companies, whether it’s not serving them properly, or, in the case I’m going to hypothesise about, overestimating their effect.

Way back in June I quoted figures which put submissions to Youtube at 0.16% of users, while Flickr submissions were at 0.2%. Wikipedia was the involvement leader with 4.6%. Which should be one worry to the people I’ve spoken to who believe traditional journalists will be replaced by users in the near future.

Putting this to one side, along with discussions of trust, I think there is a further concern which anyone should consider before cutting journalists in favour of UGC.

And that’s going to be a growing rise in the need for payment for UGC. The oft cited example of OhMyNews already pays for submissions, and some bloggers are now being paid to produce work professionally. At the moment, these are exceptions rather than the rule for User Generated Content.

But there’s an established global market which already handsomely rewards creativity, and which will have an effect on any creative efforts produced. Users of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Rolepaying Games), or users of Xbox Live will already be familiar with the concept of creating virtual items, Forza Motorsport car liveries, or a wealth of other content, and being reward in game currency, or via online auction sites in real money. And then there’s Anshe Chung, the Second Life millionaire

As increasing numbers of people are playing online games, and are familiar with the concept of virtual capitalism, then they won’t be satisfied with the fame of having their content published on a large website, and will increasing expect fair recompense for their efforts…

And to get the best UGC, to make it worthwhile, you’ll need to be making your site more financially rewarding…

And the worst part will be that your submissions will now come from people who aren’t tied by a contract or a notice period. Instead they’ll be free to submit to any site which appears overnight with a more attractive offer…

(None of this is meant to dissuade you from using UGC on your site… But as with anything, it’s one aspect of the future of online publishing, not the only answer…)

Three web 2.0 sites. Three opinions.

I’ve been playing around with a few sites recently. Here’s some quick off-the-cuff thoughts.

www.mahalo.com : Human powered search engine. It’s a nice concept, to get search results filtered by someone that actually knows the subject. But at the same time it’s just too limited for the things I want to search for. I like going and seeing what’s been logged so far, but when I’m looking for something for work and pleasure, I need to know I’ll get a result quickly. And that won’t happen with most of the search terms I need, as they’re always too niche to have been covered early on.

http://www.pownce.com/ : Social network file sharing. Seems like a good idea, if you have an allergy to ftp sites, or file upload sites. But the real problem is that I now have to get everyone I’d want to share a file with to sign up and download the application. How many people are going to do that? And how many times more likely is it that I want to share files with a general audience, or people who aren’t a connection?

http://www.iminlikewithyou.com : It’s a new take on old fashioned dating sites. Not sure I see the point in dating becoming even more hard work!

Users vs Editors: A case study

Rather than actually conducting a case study, there’s a rather easier way to compare ‘pure’ User Generated Content with some that has been edited, and the effect on accuracy, trust, and audience figures.

Most people are familiar with the famous (or infamous) online, user created and edited Wikipedia.org.

But last October (2006) a new, almost identical in design, wiki started. Called Citizendium, it’s founded by Larry Sanger (Co-founder of Wikipedia), and it also accepts user submitted content.

Except with Citizendium, UGC is subject to moderation by experts who have to provide proof of accreditation and qualifications.

Bearing in mind Citizendium is nine months old, whereas Wikipedia has six years behind it, it’s unfair to start comparing traffic figures etc at this stage. But it’s certainly interesting to take a look at the Editors of an area you have an interest in, and see if you’re more reassured by their watchful presence. Let’s just hope noone is able to dupe the system