The Whales & The Bees

Today I will try to explain, visually, how Internet sites currently make money on content. I will then contrast that metaphor with a profitable mini media ecosystem. It boils down to the difference between the whales and the bees.

By the way, my word production unit is off (vocabulary has a union contract that specifies this as an “in-service” day). So management has put out this blog using images to drive home the point.

The money-making-model for big sites like Google and Yahoo is to create huge aggregates of content, which attracts millions of viewers, upon whom the site operator feasts much as whales eat plankton.

This is relatively assymmetric relationship that benefits the whale far more than the plankton.

But this is business and the aggregation model is a rich for the few lucky whales.

In contrast to this I would offer the mini media model which has some idealistic, perhaps even silly overtones.

Nevertheless I see a business model in nature that shows how to organize many thousands, even millions of amateur, semi-professional and professional niche publishers into smaller content aggregation units that could, collectively, form a rich end market. This model is quite simply the hive.

The hive has characters whom are recognizable in the publishing context, starting with the vision or voice that defines the publication. The personification of this is the queen.

Under the queen’s direction, many worker bees produce the product.

One nice thing about the hive model is that it can be practiced in thousands upon thousands of geographic locales.

But the hive model extends beyond the 30,000-plus zip codes in the United States. Imagine that you could slice content into a taxonomy of thousands of subject-driven categories. In this setting the hive model could create content akin to thousands of flavors of honey.

Of course I’ve left out the essential industrial element of this metaphor: the beekeeper.

I have some ideas for how to accomplish this beekeeper function but no time to outline them now. I must complete online traffic school (damn those red light cameras!) and cannot afford further distractions.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media