Is it just me, or is CONTENT making a comeback on the Web? I’ve been reading a lot of
the Web 2.0blogging and I sense,
even from across the other side of the world, that the Web is entering another bubble of
optimism. Frankly, I wish I was over in America soaking it up. I’ve been thinking of a
plan to bring that to fruition… I want to write a biography of Web 2.0. I want to
travel around the States and visit all the people and places where the action is. I’ll
chronicle it all and immortalize the people and places and products that make up Web 2.0.
The future of fiction is non-fiction (and vice versa). I’ll explain that in a minute…
Or do I even need to be in the States? I read Marc Canter’s Weekend
rustlings
post just now, in which he wrote:

“So the possibility of running a completely virtual business –
structured entirely virtual – enables me to dream about living in Vancouver, Trieste or
Amsterdam – while working with world-class experts around the world.”

Hmmm, he wants to get out of USA – and I want to get IN! The grass is always greener,
eh 😉

I liked the way his post finished:

“I wonder since the VCs now appear to accepting open source, social
networking and personal publishing – that they’d consider funding a completely virtual
company – which lives off of it’s own dogfood.”

It’s a good time to push the boundaries and ask questions like that. The VCs are
interested in the blogosphere (at last!), people on
my blogroll have started start-ups, bloggers I read are earning more than $5,500 in
a month
off their blog content (US dollars!!), Wired ran an article about how The Long Tail is where
it’s at (I’m part of The Long Tail!)… it’s all very promising.

Content Now Pays

Remember the days when portals were The Big Thing? It was only a few years ago.
Portals were all about aggregating content from different sources onto one website – the
idea being that all the content providers would make money and the portal owner would
live off the commissions. Well when the bubble burst, suddenly we were all told that you
can’t make money off CONTENT on the Web. If you’re a content provider wanting to publish
on the Web, just don’t expect users to pay for it buster – it’s gotta be FREE on the Web.
And so that’s been the situation for the past few years… until Google Adsense showed up
in 2003 and suddenly the A-List bloggers and a few other topic-focused types started to
earn some dosh on the side.

When I found out that Paul Scrivens earned “over $5500” in the month of September
2004, from his network of blogs, I nearly fell off my chair. $5500!? That’s ‘Quit The Day
Job’ levels, in my book (especially since it’s US dollars and the NZ dollar is only worth
about US$0.65). Scrivs did say that September was an out-of-the-ordinary month in terms
of money earned… but then he also sounded quite positive about keeping up that level in
the coming months. Scrivs is relatively popular in his blogging community (the design
crowd), certainly more popular than I am in my communities. But he’s gotten popular due to a lot of effort
on his network – and it’s paid off already.

Advertisers Come To The Party

So in this World of Niches, the land of The Long Tail, can normal people actually
start to earn money on the Web? From their (gasp!) CONTENT? Jeff Jarvis seems to
think so
:

“…the mass is out; the mass of niches is in. That’s what media is
about now, in this world of ultimate choice. The audience is adjusting to it and
advertisers will next and they will see that though it’s difficult to put together a mass
of niches, it’s more efficient and effective. So ad dollars will leave broadcast for not
only cable and now satellite but also the Internet.”

It must’ve been something in the Web 2.0 conference coffee (maybe it had bubbles?). PC
World ended one of
their Web 2.0 articles
with this quote from a Web survey company executive, Gian
Fulgoni:

“The upshot, according to Fulgoni? “Online advertising should be getting
a greater share of total ad dollars,” he told the delighted conference attendees.”

Google AdSense was the first mover in this vision of advertising bucks for the “mass
of niches” on the Internet. And now that people like Scrivs have proven (to me at least)
that it’s possible to actually earn a living from blogs, well it’s time for me to wake up
and smell that coffee!

Richard’s Road Trip and Big Idea

So where do I fit in in this new advertising-fueled content renaissance on the Web (if
that’s what it is – and not just another bubble that will pop)? I mentioned at the start
of this post that the future of fiction is Non-Fiction. What I meant by that is that
(IMHO) the most interesting writing coming out of the literary world these days is
non-fiction. Michael Lewis is perhaps the best example – he’s one of my favourite writers
and his most recent book
Moneyball
was very insightful, not just about baseball but about PEOPLE and LIFE.
That’s what the best literature does. Tom Wolfe is another of my faves and he really
started the ball rolling in regards to using literary techniques in non-fiction. He
termed it New Journalism and it has been one of the key influences on my life.

So my Big Idea? Well I’m ruminating on a few of them actually… also on KM, eBooks,
and some other stuff. But my Big Idea in regards to writing and CONTENT is this: I want
to write a book about the people and places – and social life – of Web 2.0. I want to
visit all the bloggers and developers who are Making It Happen – and write a narrative of
it all. If I manage to attain the level of Michael Lewis or Tom Wolfe or Po Bronson, then
this will be a seminal book for the industry. Allow me to be arrogant for one moment – I
believe I have the Talent to pull this off.

To do this, I’d need to take a couple of months off The Day Job and travel over to the
US of A, maybe even parts of Europe too. I have a wife and child, so they would come with
me of course. And that’s what the biggest hurdle is for me. I’d need to take my family
across to the other side of the world, which is a Big Deal. The other hurdle is (what
else) money. If I could get a publishing contract, or even be sponsored by a blog-friendly VC? I don’t think it’s a silly idea… I
tell you now – anybody who invests in my content won’t regret it. Actually, that’s
what I should be telling *myself*!

Postscript: This post is an exploratory one on a Sunday night… I’m exploring my own
motivations and dreams. I’m not losing my marbles 😉 Because I know my CONTENT is
worth something. Maybe not yet, but it will be… Maybe the valuable CONTENT is still
stuck inside me – it will burst out of my chest one day like in Alien

So: a book chronicling Web 2.0, written by Richard MacManus and featuring a cast of
familiar blog characters – would you buy it?