Archive for December, 2009

There are Biz Models for All Content

Paul Kedrosky’s recent post on “Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail” really highlights some important issues over the quality (or the lack thereof in some cases) of the information that can be obtained through Google.  However, what struck me most was his conclusion which in effect is the point of why publishers indeed have the possibility to generate meaningful revenues if they provide genuinely valuable content.  Specifically, Paul says,

“In this case I ended up paying for a Consumer Reports review of dishwashers — the opportunity cost of continuing to try to sort through the info-crap in Google results was simply too high.”

What I would submit to Paul is that there was a time where hunting and pecking through Google results didn’t exist and hence the alternatives for researching a dishwasher were few and far between so Google still offers a ‘better than nothing’ solution.  The solutions pre-Google generally entailed visits to the local department stores and spending lots of time asking questions.  Sure, Google’s *spam*-like results may be overwhelming, but if you don’t want to pay for the information and have the time to click around, you may actually be able to find enough tidbits to piece together a picture against which to base a decision.  If you don’t want to waste the time, then paying Consumer Reports gets you what you want faster. The hunt & peckers however, would never have paid for content and at least now have a service that helps to an extent better than having to trudge out to a bunch of stores to shop.

Google is algorithmic in how it makes its decisions and with that we should understand that it will always have limits to the quality threshholds it will reach.  These will meet users’ needs for certain purposes, but not all.  At the same time, quality publishers will always be in vogue when they produce high quality content and if they understand when and where these users need them most, they’ll find that users will be willing to pay for their product.  Chris Ahearn, president of Media at Thomson Reuters recently made a point along these lines before the FCC.  Thomson Reuters has always been good at taking their news content and understanding where it’s most actionable and where and how it can be best monetized. 

More publishers need to think like this.  I’d submit that the newspaper companies that are whining these days should stop thinking of the newspaper industry per se, and instead focus on where and when their content has the most value to each likely constituency and monetize it there.  Those places exist, but they just need to think about it a little harder.