UPDATE 12/11/04: An interesting conversation has developed in the comments to this post, spurred on by Phil Jones who disagreed with my position. Joshua, Liam and Matt Scofield also contributed thoughtful comments that are well worth reading. I'd like to get other opinions too... do you think there is a future - finally - for writers on the Web? Or am I deluding myself, as Phil suggested (in a nice way!). [end of update]
In all this ballyhoo about monetizing weblogs, the one thing that it comes down to for me is this: CONTENT IS FINALLY GETTING VALUED! I shout that in capital letters, because it's fundamental to my own ambitions and philosophy.
Thanks to Susan Mernit for pointing to this great article from OJR entitled Hold the Froth: MarketWatch, Slate Sales Signal Online Rebound:
"...Talbot says that Salon is looking hard at bloggers as the next great talent pool of writers.
"Salon and any enterprising company has to look where all the voices are coming from to drive you in the future," he said. "We need to find a way to incorporate the best of them. Like everything, there's the good, bad and ugly, and we want to discriminate when picking them."
MSN's Moore also noted that user-generated content was the most interesting area for the future. He floated some ideas of ways that MSN might work closer with bloggers in the future without necessarily buying them out.
"If you're a blogger, MSN might come to you and say, 'We want to distribute you. We'll send you traffic and we want you to run these ads on your site, and you'll get a share of revenues on that,'" Moore said. "That's probably an offer that many bloggers are going to be interested in because they don't want to have to invest in creating that kind of infrastructure, and they would value the traffic.""
Rant Starts Here
My core skills are writing and analysis. And what are the two outputs of those skills? Content. Hopefully compelling content (if I'm any good).
People who've been involved in the Web for a while will know that making money off Web content has long been a dream. Print publishers make money off their magazines or newspapers. Television companies make money off their content. Radio stations make money off theirs. So it's only natural that Web Publishers want to make a living off their content.
Look, here's the thing... I'm not that good at programming and I'm merely competent at web design. I'm not extroverted enough to be in marketing or KM. What I am good at is seeing the big picture, analysing the little details, and writing it all up. That's my niche, but until now I haven't found a way to 'monetize' that - actually I prefer the phrase 'making a living out of it'.
So it heartens me a great deal when I read that major media websites are beginning to seriously look at blogging talent as a source of content for their large audiences. YES! That's what it's all about to folks like me, for whom content is our bread and butter - both philosophically-speaking and (we hope one day) literally!
P.S. I'm not expecting to be the target of a bidding war from any of these media companies (although that would be nice!), but it does give me hope that there is monetary value in Web content after all. Even if bloggers still only get nickel and dimes from the Salons or MSN's of this world, the increased profile and traffic will lead to other avenues of opportunity.
Does this make me a capitalist pig? Nope, just trying to make my way in the world doing what I love...