Why content is the tin cup of the professions

 On the Internet, no one knows you’re a professional, nor cares enough to pay 

Internet analyst Henry Blodgett wrote an op-ed piece that was courageously printed by the New York Times in August. In that article, Blodgett assumed that the Times converted entirely to digital distribution, losing most of the 90 percent of revenues it currrently earns from print. He reduced expenses to a lesser extent, then boosted online income but not by much because content on the Net is plentifully cheap. His conclusion was summed up in his title, “Running the Numbers: Why Newspapers Are Screwed.”

More recently, Henry Copeland, founder of the Blogads network, made two utterances that were noted by reporter David Kaplan in an article published by the industry e-zine Paid Content:

 “only “dozens” of the 1,500 sites he (Copeland) works with can can sustain their sites solely with ad revenues. Then, he said that the only blogs that attract significant brand advertising are those that can keep the ads separate from comments, which tend to make marketers uneasy with their unpredictability.” (emphasis added)

So big content and little content are both screwed by the Web. It is so easy to publish and aggregate content that few brands, not even those as powerful as the New York Times, can command a premium on the Web as evidenced by the Times’ decision to quit charging for access.

Last May the BBC summarized a global study of attitudes about news sources that said in part:

“The most trusted media outlets around the world were large global news organisations such as the BBC or CNN.  Internationally, 48% said they trusted the BBC, while 44% backed CNN. Younger web brands were also shown to have won significant public trust: Google (30%), Yahoo! (28%) and Microsoft/MSN (27%). “

Google, which employs no journalists, has become in a little over a decade the world’s third most trusted brand for news! McLuhan said the medium is the message and when it comes to content the message of the Web is clear: you can find it all here; it’s all the same and it’s all worth about what you paid for it,  which is nothing, so feel free to heed or disdain this item before you click to whatever strikes your fancy next.

So not only are newspapers screwed but content in general is screwed. This is remarkable considering that most of the time people spend online revolves around content. Or so says Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers Association, in summarizing the most recent in a series of surveys conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings of the time-per-month spent on the Web’s four key activities, Content, Communications, Commerce and Search.  In a MediaPost article Horan writes:

“In the last four years, the share of time devoted to viewing Content online has experienced the greatest growth, increasing from 34% to 47% of time spent, outpacing all other activities. “

So why doesn’t content feel the love?