I have often thought about this issue and I think it has even come up on Global Geek Podcast. How are all these lovely looking “Web2.0” websites going to make money? At this present time most of these sites look great, they have minimal advertising; if any. They look a million dollars due to the sleek web design and neat Ajax applications that they are employing. Or to use what has become a social term: these sites look very “Web2.0”. But today I see that this is changing.
Shoutwire is what people would term a “Web2.0” site. It is an on-line community that works a little like Digg in that news stories are submitted by the community and are “shouted” or “liked” by the users. In this way articles get X number of “shouts” which promotes that story up the ladder. I guess that you could say it a form of voting. Users can submit comments and have discussions about the stories as well. Great idea, news that the community decides is important gets promoted and read by more visitors to the site. There is also an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for the front, page much like Digg. The site when I joined was slick, pleasing to the eye and easy to use and it was fun. Although being a new site at the time the community was small. I don’t know how big it is now but if they continue wrecking their “look” they are going to scare people off in droves.
I had not visited Shoutwire for a while and I had some time free so I decided to swing on over to their site. To say that I was appauled is an understament. Sure there were some sort of syndicated adverts along the top, making up part of the header. Fine, a lot of sites have that or something similar. But the wart on the face of beauty was an overly large, flashing, obnoxious, irritating, badly placed advert right in the middle of the submitted article pane, right at the top. Absolutely disgusting.
[Click thumbnail for bigger image] Not only does this make the once slick site look cheap; it was also probably one of the most badly placed ads I have ever seen, but yes, I noticed it. I hated it, I am not even sure that I want to go back and I most probably will not. In addition to that is the fact that the type of advert that the editors (or whoever decides this stuff) have used; just does not look like it belongs on the site. It looks like they were desperate for money so they stuck up whatever they were offered. I don’t care if this type of advertising works, if it was me making these decisions it just would not have happened. It would be like a flashy magazine like Vanity Fair placing ads that you might see in Picture Magazine (Australian soft porn magazine) in the featured story. I am not sure if they realise that is how the selection and placement of advertising comes across or not but I would be interested to find out what other people think. There is another “choice” advert along the right side of the main page but at least it is not in your face. But it is one that I would not have expected to see, it just does not fit with the “flavour” of the site.
That said I have always maintained that these flash sites that we are being spoilt with are going to change and some like Shoutwire for the worse. The services and the nice looking sites, to say nothing of the bandwidth do not come for free. Something has to give here for them to be able to continue to operate and maintain the services that they offer.
We are going to see some things happen. These sites that promote traffic are going to have to decide how they tackle the revenue problem. Decide to fall on their sword and die a dignified death. Or they advertise. The only other alternatives is to charge a subscription to be able to contribute to the site or perhaps to even enter it. They would have to be pretty confident of their product for that to occur. But I can see the advertising thing happening. But please do it with class and good taste, Shoutwire is a great example of what not to do.
One nasty trick that some companies might be considering is that of building a user base that is highly involved and somewhat reliant on what they offer, like Odeo for example, then start to charge people to use it. I am not saying that I have heard that Odeo is considering doing this but I must say that if I would suspect a site for maybe doing it, it would be Odeo. You ask why I hear. Well; what Odeo are doing is transferring heaps of data in the form of podcasts and sent odeo messages to their user base and anyone else that wants to just listen to podcasts. That aspect alone would be costing them a lot of cold hard cash. Up until this point in time I have seen no advertising, except for themselves. But then again they might get their funding from somewhere else I don’t know.
Another site that comes to mind is YouTube, again huge bandwidth, big dollars, huge active user base and to top it off they are as popular as you might be able to get. Are they loosing money? I know they were for a while but they might not be now.
I would pay for both access and use of a site if a few conditions were meet. One is that I would have to rely on the service that they were offering and it would have to be good and reliable. Or alternatively I would have to very much enjoy being a part of that community. Secondly, I would expect that a subscription was payed in lieu of having to put up with obnoxious advertising. For example, if Odeo said to me that I would have to pay to be able to recieve Odeo messages into my inbox for the podcast, I would agree to it. The reason being is that the service is a great one, it works, it is reliable, it is of high quality. But I would expect this fee to be reasonable as well, I won’t pay through the nose either!
So it remains to be seen if companies and websites will maintain the look and feel of their websites while meeting the need to raise revenue in order for the site to exist. I can see the need for both. But what I do not see the need for is the example of Shoutwire. It will be interesting to see what route these companies take over time as the pressure increases with more competition. Given Shoutwire, I am sure some will opt for cash and capitalism over content. In the meantime I am going to Newsvine, they look like they are doing something right.
Obligatory Non ConformismJune 22, 2006 — The Rooster
Today, well yesterday Sebastian posted a story on his blog. The post was essentially about Skype spam. Anyway the story got put up on Digg and ended up on the front page. Sebastian has experienced a pretty big jump in traffic on his blog, to say the least. For Sebastian this has been a big confidence boost, there is however, more to the story than that.
If I were him I would be shit scared about what I would write next. To that end I ask this question; does the idea of social networking and peer review put undue pressure on bloggers, authors, writers or anyone that produces any sort of public content, to follow everybody else and produce what people want to hear because they get noticed.
This is such an easy way to respond to "being noticed" or to have something admired by others. Or to have someone of influence say that you have produced something of value. Do I appease these people and everyone else or do I just keep doing what I want to do because that is what I am enjoying doing? Tough questions, for me I think it would be hard. We all look for confirmation, acceptance and respect within the world in which we live, and definitely within our peers and those people that we regard as our "audience".
That caused me to think about how this type of notice generates this kind of pressure and what type of "surfer" is the average "Digger". The only way I can judge that is to think about the way which I look at articles posted on Digg. I look at the catchy title of the article, if it takes my fancy or I think it is news worthy, I click it. I might read the whole thing I might not. I then click the back button (I might Digg it I might not). It might have just be morbid curiosity that caused me to click the story in the first place and not even wanting to Digg it in the first place. Or it might have been the comments on the story that made me have a look. More so the article title may have caused an emotive response in me that made me read it, nothing to do with who wrote it or what it was about or how well it was written.
So is the average Digger a discerning surfer? Maybe some are. Those who are will go back to those sites that are worth a second look. That is the challenge that confronts the Dugg. "I am playing the big leauge here, I will have to write something that will be popular enough so that I keep these readers coming back". So with the pressure that is exerted by the average in-discriminating Digger he or she leaves in their wake a blogger (or whatever) who is feeling the heat somewhat. Therefore, is the average Digg turning our Blogosphere into a tabloid dynasty that has zero content? Does it then become tag city that loses it's way, battling over the meager offerings from the few Digg etal. sites that are out there? I think that this entirely possible due to the peer pressure factor. However, I think that there are those that will stand out once the bubble has burst. That means that we need to learn to write for ourselves, as Sebastian would say we need to "be the ball…".
I do not promote my blog much. For me the whole thing is for enjoyment and because I like it. Occasionally, I get a good story that talks about some new idea or news and I get a few more hits but nothing that special. But I know that more people read my blog today on a day to day basis than did a month ago. For that I am very grateful. I am happy to just blog when I want to, about whatever I want to, when I want to. For me that is enough.
How would I cope with "attention"? I really could not tell you because it is not something that I think will happen. For that reason I am not sure what I would do, say or write. Don't get me wrong I would absolutely love it and enjoy the experience especially the bit where your hits go up by the hundreds every couple of minutes, that would just be cool to watch if nothing else! Yet I would like to think I still had an obligation to blog about what I wanted to and still compelled to report that which had merit, regardless of pressure or the need for acceptance.
It may seem like I am flamming Digg in all this but in reality there are people, blogs, content, news items, videos [add mediums here] that should be aknowledged, admired, respected, and commented on within this community. Due to the very nature of the community and peer review this can not be censored, vetted or moderated and that is the way it should be. But the character of the person is tested to the limit in the wake of being Dugg in a big way. The challenge then is to conform or to be an Obligatory Non-conformist.
Because fireworks are wonderful, but they don't happen every day. True fulfillment comes from the tree that you planted as a seedling that is now big enough to hang a swing from for your children.