Follow the Money

Want to give yourself a rude wake-up call about the harsh reality of brand value on the modern web? Try this: Make a personalized web page at Google or MyYahoo! composed of all the major RSS feeds from your site along with the feeds from content brands you consider competition.
By - November 2006 Issue, Posted Nov 14, 2006
When Burger King was looking for an edgy way to promote itself among the coveted (nay, fetishized) young male demographic, it did the only thing a sensible old fart of a corporate entity can do when it struggles to be hip: it handed the camera to someone who really is, well, hip.
By - October 2006 Issue, Posted Sep 26, 2006
By the time you read this, Sprint Nextel customers will be getting their first taste of free mobile TV, and thus also tuning in to the real future of wireless content. The young male-oriented “Fast Lane” channel will have on-demand clips of tech reviews, poker tips, stand-up comedy, and all the other usual Spike TV/Maxim oafish male fare. It will also have ads, usually tucked as mid-roll breaks of 15 seconds or so. Yup, the free, ad-supported TV model is coming to mobile, and my guess is that it will proliferate quickly and accelerate the use of ad subsidies across all handset content.
By - September 2006 Issue, Posted Sep 05, 2006
All due respect to Wired editor Chris Sherman, but the currently hot topic of the internet’s “long tail” has been with us at least since I started writing about digital in 1995. To be sure, Sherman deserves the credit for bringing into focus for the post-bubble world the notion that the web makes viable niche markets and remnant inventories that could never find buyers in “real world” distribution and marketing systems, but this model has been part of the web equation since day one.
By - July/August 2006 Issue, Posted Jul 11, 2006
As our content divides, sub-divides, and disperses like so many amoeba into the new digital mediaverse, anxiety must be running high among media companies. Ad dollars visibly drained from network television and print this past year, and most media budgets are fully in play now. Advertising allegiances are fluid, as big-brand accounts flip daily from agency to agency, and chief marketing officers warn the whole ad business that they better start coming up with answers to this growing problem of how to focus the scattering eyeballs of a fragmented landscape and deliver measurable results. Many in the media and ad industries are predicting doom, gloom, or at least a long passage through chaos.
By - June 2006 Issue, Posted Jun 19, 2006
Until I heard that preacher fart, I was never much of a believer in user-generated media. I don’t mean garden variety user-generated content (UGC), which embraces blogs, a few digital photo postings, and the endless scrolls of reader comments. I’ve always believed that community interaction is a more important part of the online mix than most traditional publishers admit. I’m talking about the more ambitious amateur media making, that vox populi revolution the Internet was supposed to spark. I was here in 1998 to see the crash and burn of so many attempts to organize garage bands and personal Webcam shows into populist big media rivals. The eternal democratic fantasy was that accessible digital media and free distribution would at long last unleash the people’s (always, the people’s) creativity in personal media-making.
By - May 2006 Issue, Posted May 02, 2006
After so many lean years and post-bubble disgrace, it is hard to believe the gusher of ad dollars and profitability flowing to some segments online. A year ago I wrote about the industry’s need to wake up to the reality that the Web bounce back was for real. Now even I am a bit amazed at the sustained double-digit ad sales growth we are seeing. In fact, some sites are butting up against the limits of their own success with a problem most publishers would love to suffer—sold-out inventory
By - April 2006 Issue, Posted Apr 03, 2006
Sometime before the big Web bubble burst, a men’s media brand splashed itself online with an enormously ambitious content-rich portal. Prescient of the au courant mantra of “content, commerce, and community,” it innocently invited its beer-sodden, breast-gazing readership to participate in online forums. Well, within days all hell broke loose. The message base became a mosh pit as the readers extended the smirking, bawdy spirit of the host brand to misogynist extremes, making way-inappropriate comments about ex-girlfriends, models on the site, and women, generally. The site editors retreated quickly and simply shut the message boards down entirely within a few weeks.
By - March 2006 Issue, Posted Mar 03, 2006
Two words: video podcasting. Go ahead and snicker, because a couple of months ago I would have smirked right along with you. Then I got me a video iPod. From a revenue perspective, what is most interesting about portable video is that, unlike other trendy forms of recent years (audio podcasting, blogs, RSS feeds), it arrives with a built-in revenue model. The advertising is already here.
By - January/February 2006 Issue, Posted Jan 20, 2006
It is now a tradition in the annual EContent 100 issue that we climb way out on a limb and anticipate promising new sources of revenue for the coming year. Even as 2005 closes, it is already clear that boatloads of money are about to start racing online, especially from big media TV and radio brands desperately chasing audiences that are fragmenting into smaller niches of personalized, on-demand media consumption. In past years, advertising drove many of the trends online, but this coming year much of the energy will be coming from the media industry itself as it tries to retool for an on-demand future.
By - December 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 16, 2005
Back in the day (in Internet years, that’s 1998) the term “coopetition” became one of the keywords of the dotcom revolution. The uniqueness of the Web link, the sheer interdependence of one site with another to push and pull eyeballs around this vast new terrain, made it imperative that rival publishers of content partner share traffic and often ad revenues. All boats will rise, they said. Fallen out of favor in the post-bubble years, “coopetition” is exactly what I see evolving in the complex search/content economy.
By - November 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 01, 2005
Admit it, you’re jealous. The massive bounce-back in online ad revenues in the past two years has been driven—nay, commandeered—by search. For all of the talk about the branding value of the Web, the fact is that highly targeted, performance-oriented, direct marketing at Google and Overture/Yahoo! has been at the heart of the boom. To be sure, contextual ad partnerships with the major engines offer content providers a sip from this revenue gusher, but it’s not the same thing as drinking directly from the new fountain of high-priced cost-per-click advertising. Pay-per-click search ad pricing is so high because the major engines are so close to the consumer’s purchase decision. From what I am seeing in the online ad market lately, fear and envy breed creativity.
By - October 2005 Issue, Posted Oct 10, 2005
The people who underwrite content (a.k.a. media buyers) speak about audience and media “fragmentation” as if it were nuclear proliferation, an insidious third world plot that needs to be contained or outsmarted. As eyeballs scatter to on-demand sources (DVRs, VOD, RSS, podcasts) and user-generated niches (blogs, social networking) the big question becomes how to “re-aggregate” these audiences with things like blog\pod\RSS ad networks that blast the same old message into these dispersed archipelagos of interest. The answer is...
By - September 2005 Issue, Posted Sep 12, 2005
If you are old enough to recall the crashes and burns of TheDen and Pseudo.com, then you must join me in smirking at the current mania for Web video. A perfect storm has formed around the platform; media companies point to a “critical mass” in broadband penetration and anecdotes of massive video stream numbers, while advertisers desperately chase eyeballs as they flee primetime TV. But have we learned anything meaningful about Web video as a media platform or thought through the revenue models enough since that first disastrous run at Internet TV?
By - July/August 2005 Issue, Posted Aug 10, 2005
I have urged major publishers to consider distributing content to the emerging mobile phone platforms. For all of the hype surrounding wireless (my own included), however, 2004 was not exactly the breakthrough year some had expected for mobile content. The fact is that U.S. customers are just getting their feet wet in premium mobile content compared to the faster buy-in from Europe and Asia. Part of this is a technology problem; but carriers and publishers also need to cultivate users more effectively than they have. Mobile content needs a jump-start.
By - June 2005 Issue, Posted May 10, 2005
I have always admired online dieting company eDiets.com, in part because its success underscored important principles about how content makes money online. With 200,000 paid members at any one time (1.8 million total over its history), eDiets.com demonstrates that consumers will pay for sites that make content a service. By crafting genuine “plans” for dieting and backing them up with encouragement, 24/7 support, advisors, peer forums, and a ton of editorial, eDiets.com is more of a community than simply a site. The company hits all of the right e-revenue-generating notes. So I was taken aback when eDiets launched a series of online magazines.
By - May 2005 Issue, Posted Apr 06, 2005
Let’s take the most lucrative sector of Web content during the last five years—search engines—and flip things around. Instead of using a search engine to sift through years of old data to find the piece you want, what if the data you need was searching for you? The concept of pushing timely, relevant information to a user is not new, of course. CBS MarketWatch and others have developed some excellent systems for notifying subscribers of breaking news, mainly through email and increasingly via RSS feeds for a kind of personalized wire service. Nevertheless, until now, most of these alert mechanisms have been brand-specific, limited to one delivery mechanism, or delivered only unwieldy gushers of headlines.
By - April 2005 Issue, Posted Apr 18, 2005
I have been putting off writing this column for months, but I think it is time to come out and say it. Now is the time to ready your content for cell phone delivery. What seemed like a pipe dream of mobile telcos a year ago—getting people to draw down data and entertainment through their cell phones—is now close to the proverbial tipping point, and it is time for any recognizable content brand to stake a claim on the mobile phone frontier.
By - March 2005 Issue, Posted Mar 23, 2005
Content providers had better keep their eyes on this rapidly evolving sector. Search is becoming a lynchpin both of the Web economy and the way users navigate to your content.
By - January/February 2005 Issue, Posted Feb 23, 2005
I take pleasure in looking forward to the more promising new revenue streams (and trickles) of the coming year.
By - December 2004 Issue, Posted Nov 29, 2004
You may have heard me drone on that people will pay for content that facilitates connecting to others. Well that same principle is now being played out in another content area: online gaming.
By - November 2004 Issue, Posted Nov 10, 2004
There is no safe place left: Marketers chase our famously fragmented attention spans with whatever vehicle our eyes and ears might settle on, if only for a few moments; even the desktop is fair game.
By - October 2004 Issue, Posted Oct 06, 2004
New communication technologies interact with cultures in subtle ways. Publishing used to be a fairly top-down affair. But the Internet and email have permanently transformed that familiar relationship between readers and editors.
By - September 2004 Issue, Posted Sep 06, 2004
Just about every two years or so in the short, happy life of the Web we get word that the local online ad market is about to take off...no, really this time.
By - July/August 2004 Issue, Posted Aug 11, 2004
For some reason, everyone in the industry is loathe to admit what the numbers clearly demonstrate: Web content—or at least some important sectors of the digital content economy—has waged a quiet but remarkable comeback.
By - June 2004 Issue, Posted Jun 08, 2004
Yes, companies have begun to see that premium must-have content will sell. But increasingly, consumers are starting to pay up for compelling, well-packaged “wanna-have” content.
By - May 2004 Issue, Posted May 11, 2004
Early adopters of these behavioral tracking systems are discovering several ways in which the next evolution of ad technology gooses the bottom lin
By - April 2004 Issue, Posted Apr 16, 2004
Some lessons need to be repeated no matter how obvious they may appear. When it comes to online advertising effectiveness, the perennial lesson is that context is everything.
By - March 2004 Issue, Posted Mar 22, 2004
Psst! Wanna make some quick cash? Here, take these search engine text ads and run them next to some of your own relevant content.
By - January/February 2004 Issue, Posted Jan 01, 2004
The EContent 100 issue with the most important, influential, and successful companies in the content industry seems like a good spot from which to project forward a bit and “Follow the Money” into the content industry’s likeliest revenue streams in 2004.
December 2003 Issue, Posted Dec 12, 2003
It all sounds so familiar. If online users won’t buy content in the usual offline model of subscribing to individual titles, let’s try aggregating a number of top offline brands and sell ’em all for one low monthly price.
By - November 2003 Issue, Posted Nov 11, 2003
Online micropayment is an idea that just won’t die…nor will it quite come to life. While growing seven-fold in 2002, they still represent a mere 1% of online content revenues.
By - October 2003 Issue, Posted Oct 02, 2003
Gaming companies may have a thing or two to teach content companies about diversifying revenue streams and keeping paying customers satisfied.
By - August/September 2003 Issue, Posted Sep 08, 2003
The fact is that, especially in the U.S. market, wireless carriers are being extremely tight-lipped about how much even early adopters of next-gen cells are paying for premium content.
By - July 2003 Issue, Posted Jul 18, 2003
Now that household broadband penetration may be approaching 20% and much of at-work Web access already comes through fatter pipes, an old argument is being made anew: all media brands need to get a video component. Well, maybe.
By - June 2003 Issue, Posted Jun 19, 2003
Gathering market intelligence at a content site is one of those unkept promises of interactive publishing, a missing piece of the online business model that site owners like to speculate about but rarely pursue…until now.
By - May 2003 Issue, Posted May 19, 2003
We just might…just might, mind you…be turning the corner on the fee-based content model. Americans are starting to take to a fee-based online model, but not because Web publishers somehow succeeded in “retraining” users to “pay up.”
By - April 2003 Issue, Posted Apr 25, 2003
Along with online pet food sales and the paperless office, push technology was one of the Web’s early laughingstocks, but not so fast; the idea of feeding content to the desktop is worth another look.
By - March 2003 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2003
While much of the content community continues to chase sponsor dollars by making ads bigger, louder, more animated, at least one provider understands the alternative Zen way: be there to deliver when the user needs you.
By - February 2003 Issue, Posted Feb 01, 2003
In what must be one of the best testaments to the enduring power of the much-maligned banner, Classmates.com purchases five to ten billion ad impressions a month…a strategy that works.
By - February 2003 Issue, Posted Feb 01, 2003
Audible has been prescient in understanding the inherent limitations of the Internet as a medium for consuming content.
By - October 2002 Issue, Posted Oct 01, 2002
Sarah Chubb has a unique "problem"...the sort more Web executives would like to have. She is running out of ad inventory. And the solution is simple, but few Web sites have been willing or able to realize it; the Internet allows publishers to sell advertising against users, not just against content.
By - September 2002 Issue, Posted Sep 01, 2002
The Web is transforming the traditional publishing paradigm in a number of ways. Chief among them is the idea that online content has to become more service-oriented.
By - April 2002 Issue, Posted Apr 01, 2002
As other revenue streams dwindle for content publishers, many are revisiting the idea of selling branded merchandise via their sites, but this time they are going beyond slapping logos on coffee mugs and hoping for a sale.
By - March 2002 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2002
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