A while back you could safely say that the content industries were television, newspapers, radio and magazines. Of course there were books but that was the long finger of content, stuff that took time. Music was something else, a bit like books but an industry that got more breaks on the TV.
The dynamic end of the business where people struggled daily to fill their content vats were confined to those four: TV, radio, magazines and newspapers.
Now the types of content have proliferated and in trying to understand where the web is headed we need to get a handle on the content. Why?
Because the technology is ten-a-penny stuff. YouTube is like a billboard. Microsoft is about to build out a "YouTube" but already there are 250 varieties of it. This is not the stuff of sustainable market advantage, though each can find a geographical or subject niche, which is what we expect to see happen across all content forms.
Content builds audiences and keeps them interested. We've allowed ourselves to think that the critical, all important distinction is between user-generated content and professional content, when in fact in the future content world there is no such distinction. A professional content producer is just a guy who does it well enough to connect with an audience.
So what types of content are out there and what is their significance? I've tried listing before but now I'll have a stab at saying what's important. For that reason this will be a three part post making a start today, hopefully continuing tomorrow and concluding by the end of the week.
I'm going to start with a controversial choice. It's not number one for any aesthetic reason but it does serve to illustrate a point. Content is weird.
1. Domain parking. Earlier this year Richard Rosenblatt, formerly of MySpace, launched Demand Media and raised $120 million to turn the domain parking business into a significant revenue stream. The Wall St Journal quoted one researcher and an analyst, saying Domain Parking takes "about 5% to 10% of search-engine revenue, putting the industry's annual revenue at about $600 million." "The profit margins are extraordinary," says RBC Capital Markets analyst Jordan Rohan. He predicts industry revenue could double to $1.2 billion within three years." another player, with a lead in the market is Marchex. YesDirect and REIT are also worth keeping an eye on.
2. The web free sheet - sponsored content. Domain Parking leads us neatly into sponsored content. Demand Media's write up in the WSJ is actually a sponsored page. It is accessible to the public because Demand pays for it to be free rather than behind the subscription log-in. That's a variation on the theme we've seen trying to log into sites like Salon where we watch an ad or we pay to read content. Is this really a separate type of content? I think it is because it's like the avertising feature or free sheet of the web.
3. Video uploads. The video search engine dabble reckons there are already around 250 video upload sites with MSFT entering the market soon. YouTube is the daddy of course. One of the noticeable uses of YouTUbe is as a kind of flickr. There are small entertainment sites that eliminate their own hosting costs by uploading video to YouTube and steering customers there to watch content. A smart strategist at YouTube would cash in. Niche sites like Viewdo cater to specialist needs or to the need for content on everyday practical tasks. Videojug is a viewdo competitor and both are in the space I'll call web-for-everyday-life.
4. Start pages. The Start Page, the first place you go to when firing up your browser has been contested in the past by your ISP, who used to have an unofficial monopoly to display its portal there, the browser, your online e-mail and google. Netvibes, pageflakes and webwag had the bright idea of claiming that space. That's giving them some leverage with content provivders who want to be on your start page and with advertisers who would like you to aggregate sites closely allied to them. Netvibes defaults Yahoo-owned Kelkoo on its page but still the potential is underdeveloped.
5. Blog aggregation is a big area and there are many, many players. From straight aggregators like blogdigger to niche players like elbows, to blog search engines like technorati this is a tenuous form of business, often dependent on contextual ads. Bloggers need companies out there holding up signposts, and aggregators who signpost well will get blogs signing up but few take the job seriously.