On.. Paying for users and moneytising the web.

I’m not one of those people that looks backwards too much, however I’m one of those people that longs for the time when money wasn’t such an equation on the web. People built websites because they wanted to, rather than looking at what Google Adwords paid the most. Up until recently the best thing about the webs current configuration and focus was the fact that community driven sites like del.icio.us, digg.com, wikipedia etc. were all doing it because they felt compelled to. However as has been reported widely, Netscape.com has changed that by taking Digg‘s top posters and paying them to contribute to Netscape.com.

I don’t know if I should be disturbed by this trend of welcome it. On the plus side it is showing that companies are taking users seriously as source of content. On the negative side it is showing that companies are taking users seriously as s source of content. Will it mean over time that start up community sites can’t start as easily, because they are competing on an uneven playing field. Is that a bad thing? A few years ago some people would have said that there is no point in starting up a search site because AltaVista and Yahoo had it all sewn up, then Google came along. So long term someone with a compelling idea will be able to break into the market, what it will slow down is the advent of “me to” community sites.

Or is it just someone buying their way into the market? What is in it for them? Advertising revenue. Is that what the web has become, just another advertising media. Has it become a place where, like TV, sites will compete for the most popular content. Will it then descend to catering for the lowest common denominator. The temptation is there, it’s easy enough you look at Tecnorati’s popular page before you decide what you want to write then make sure your entry is hitting some of the top 5 searches. Or you look at pages like NicheGeek and find out what is paying or you check out Google Zeitgeist and see what’s popular. Make sure you’ve got ads on your page, sit back and rake in the money. Apparently.

The web couldn’t continue in a blissful un-moneytised manner it was 10 years or more ago. The worry is that community sites, weblog sites and link sites will just be full of whatever is popular right then, becoming a media that reacts rather than one that leads. Where as it has always been previously the leader in trends, the place where you went to see what was new. Those lovely lovely marketing people are already able to manipulate or influence communities and the wider web. The advent of blog and linker cliques it is possible for them to buy up, direct and manage what gets said, or at least what gets prominence.  Or is this already an established method of exposure?

It all reminds me of the Penny Arcade discovery earlier this year of EA employing the Hype Council. Essentially The Hype Council has users identities on many forum who interact with the forum over a long period of time, then when required they can start talking up a game, with one employee having many identities they can appear as a group of real people getting really excited about a release. By buying up star linkers and posters Netscape.com is opening up the doors for groups like The Hype Council to buy up their top linkers and start influencing Netscape.com’s selected links.

Is this the maturing of the community web? Or just a one off bullish move to get a lot of online press and thrust forward a service. It all depends on if someone else repeats the move. What happens if someone buys up Netscape’s top posters, are we then looking at professional posters and linkers? Do they already exist?


2 Responses to “On.. Paying for users and moneytising the web.”

  1. 1 M. September 13, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    It’s far too early to tell whether this idea of “professional posters” is going to fly or not. Looking at Alexa, there’s no indication that Netscape is soaring in terms of new traffic and page views. And I believe they are paying $1,000 a month to top posters… and how many do they have right now? Do we know?

    If it’s 10, that’s $10k per month they are spending for something that others were doing – and are STILL doing – for *free*. This puts NN at a heck of a competitive disadvantage.

    In addition, there’s no indication that Digg has suddenly imploded, losing traffic and revenue.

    If ANYTHING, it will ENCOURAGE more people on Digg to work harder, with the thought that “maybe they will be bought out, too”.

    Just because some opinions have turned around regarding this doesn’t mean there’s signs of it being a successful move.

  2. 2 buzzsort September 14, 2006 at 8:42 am

    That is an interesting point about weather or not it will be a success, I guess time will tell. I do think a precident has been set though. Although it may not be a success for Netscape, someone may take the idea of paying posters and make it successful, a move they may not have considered if Netscape hadn’t tried it already.

    As a marketing hit for Netscape.com $10k a month for a few months isn’t too bad, based on all the press they have got, and the on-going press they will receive. I will be interested to see how long they keep these posters on for.

    The knock on effect of people working harder is only going to benefit everyone, but the question of quality vs. popularity is there then. Assuming its a successful strategy for someone, do people buying up posters buy up the ones that post the best quality, or the most popular links.

    I suspect it’ll be most popular, which would be a shame as it’ll push out the interesting links in favour of the most sensationalist ones that get more Diggs because people react to them.

    I’m keeping an eye on this one for sure, potentially it spells a real change for community based sites. Or it could be one of those things we look back on fondly remembering the insanity of the bubbl2.0 days…

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