Calling all programmers! Help content avoid a car wreck!

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How come you can never find an algorithm when you need one? At the moment I’m thinking of how useful it would be for ceb web publishers to have a simple way to share the wealth from user-generated content. When there is an ad click or a sponsor for a given page ther should be some way to apportion the revenues among the contributors of the many, many user-generated inputs that have contributed to that success.

Such a “share-the-wealth” utility would be difficult to create and would involve many assumptions and judgments. But unless we intend to build web publishing on the free, for-profit use of donated labor we’ll have to come up with some way of sharing the fruits of success.

In fact, a revenue sharing program may be the essential ingredient to unleashing the full potential of users, because the best people will not indefinitely contribute works to the enrichment of others.

What brings this to mind is a conversation with Stephen Malaster, founder of the StreetIQ.com, a site that aggregates podcasts with a relevance to financial traders and delivers these links to desktop or mobile listeners. It’s a scraping and categorizing service. Over 400 publishers participate, said Malaster, who I met at the recent Paid Content mixer in San Francisco.

StreetIQ.com aims to become the one-stop destination for investors who want podcast intelligence on trades. As Malaster explained the podcast remains on the creator’s web site, so the publisher bears any hosting expenses. StreetIQ keeps any ad revenues it is able to sell on its own site. The benefit to the publishers, said Malaster, is to drive traffic to the host and if they’re able to monetize the download, then there is a symbiosis – StreetIQ benefits from aggregation; the publisher benefits from traffic.

This is a common model on the web so I’m not implying that Malaster is doing anything outside the norm.

I just think the norm sucks. This is the auto wreckers model of commercial content. You know how that works. When you’re ready to get rid of a worthless car you have it towed to a junk yard. The guy there takes it off your hands, usually with no payment to you. Oftentimes the wreck sits in the yard, rusting, until some mechanic in need of a spare part combs through the wrecks, removes the part and pays for it. The wrecking yard owner has contributed nothing to the operation except the aggregation of the hulks.

Web content should have a higher value than scrap autos, and there are software systems that could ascertain, for instance, the degree to which any given piece of content contributed to whatever overall value is developed by the act of aggregating content from different producers.

The exact formula would have to be the subject of thought and discussion and I’m sure there could be many variations on the theme. But just to start the thinking, how about some formula that weighs the volume of material contributed by any given publisher, against the number of times that publisher’s work is clicked through, as related to the overall click-thru or sponsorship rate of the site. And then put a reward to that. It could be “points” that would equate to psychic rewards — lsuch as membership in The Posters Hall of Fame and the t-shirt that goes with it. Or it could translate into dollars and cents for those sites make enough money that they should share.

But I’m not the math guy. I’m a concept guy. I need the math guys to develop the programs that will be needed to take web media where it needs to go — toward a marketplace instead of junk yard.

Any web publisher could hire programmers to build such a system. I borrowed the photo above from the Dutch firm, Microbizz, that apparently does such work-for-hire and had the sense of humor to depict their programmers as shown above.

But small web publishers lack the wherewithal to hire out such projects and there is, as yet, no clearinghouse where they can post requests and attract the attention of open source programmers who might try to develop such a utility and eventually turn it into a programming business, by customizing or supporting what would otherwise be a free program.

We need a safe place where the content rebels and the software rebels can converse. Any ideas?