Cash for Content: RateItAll to Share Revenues

Garrett French at Search Engine Lowdown writes about review site RateItAll sharing AdSense revenue with its members. The revenue sharing program is built on a Google AdSense API. Garrett explores the potential implications in his post:

The AdSense API (which Yahoo and MSN will follow suit with for certain) will enable a whole new breed of publishing site and begin to monetize that longtail of amateur/hyper-niche content creation by users, fans and reviewers.

Note this story from ClickZ today: Pew: Nearly 50 MM Americans Create Web Content.

The AdSense API (and resulting APIs from other players) will drive this increase in content generation by "the masses" through a major increase in the trend towards paying users.

I'm not sure this will unleash a flood of new content creation, driven by financial incentives. Of course some number of people will jump on the bandwagon. But putting aside whether such a program will create any meaningful cash for individuals, my anecdotal sense is that most people are creating online content because they want to or have something to say/add. Human beings are fundamentally creative and opinionated and I think that's where most of the user-generated content is coming from.

In fact, this program on RateItAll might be seen as a reflection of weakness about the state of content creation on the site (or a reflection of frustration with its pace).

Sites like InsiderPages, Judysbook, Tribe.net and others have tried incentives to generate content from time to time. Those schemes have been effective to varying degrees, but mostly to jump-start reviews in certain areas. Once they hit "critical mass" the reviews and content creation develop their own momentum. And I believe that all the operators of those sites would tell you that the best content isn't "incentivized." Yelp has had great success by creating a sense of community and not by offering financial incentives. To my knowledge, MySpace and Facebook haven't offered incentives for participation.

I certainly could be wrong, but I believe the most sustained and vibrant social networks won't be the ones that pay users. It's perhaps slightly different if the program shares ad revenue with users vs. motivating them to create content for cash. But in practice that may be a distinction without a difference.

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