Looking to the wrong Web paymasters

We seem to be searching for revenue in all the wrong places on the Web. The money is there, but it's likely not in consumers, the way it was in the Web 1.0 world.

A recent post on Techdirt offers provocative food for thought on how to monetize media in the digital world, but the implications run well beyond journalists scrapping for a living.

Using Mark Cuban's suggestion that sports leagues fund journalists (instead of newspapers funding them), Techdirt makes the following observation:

In truth, this is often what has happened anyway, with local companies buying ads in the paper and expecting coverage of the local sports teams, even when there wasn't a direct need for it.

Making it more explicit, while also making the editorial controls clear, doesn't seem so unreasonable. In fact, it seems like it might make a lot more sense than the old way of doing things in that it gets everything out in the open.

The underlying implication? That perhaps we've been looking to the wrong paymasters on the Web.

Dave Rosenberg joins a long line of people searching for a way for Twitter to make money, but perhaps the money isn't in Twitter at all. The money is likely in people getting paid to post to Twitter, or in search providers like Google getting paid to skim intelligence from the Twitter data cloud, but Twitter as the technology provider? I'm beginning to think the money just isn't there, and that it's absolutely the wrong place to be looking.

Or consider phone calls, the economics of which have dramatically changed in the past 10 years. The Guardian takes on the concept of "free" phone calls through Skype and finds--get ready!--that there's no such thing as a free call. The money you pay simply shifts to your Internet service provider (paying a premium for better bandwidth), your headset provider, or other add-on services. You save money in one place; you spend it in another.

For Twitter, I believe it needs to stop thinking about individual consumers and start thinking of the companies that could derive value from it. Indeed, I'm beginning to think that much of the content in Web 2.0 is going to be funded by corporations trying to be heard on the cacophonous Web, not consumers clicking on advertisements.

The Web not only changes the economics of distribution, but also to whom we should be thinking about distributing and, hence, charging.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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