The Link Economy is Ruthless

Jeff Jarvis explained why our current media machinery does not fit the web:

Every minute of a journalist’s time will need to go to adding unique value to the news ecosystem: reporting, curating, organizing. This efficiency is necessitated by the reduction of resources. But it is also a product of the link and search economy: The only way to stand out is to add unique value and quality. My advice in the past has been: If you can’t imagine why someone would link to what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. And: Do what you do best and link to the rest. The link economy is ruthless in judging value.

Part of making sure that what you create counts is creating something great, but another (often overlooked piece) is to content for the right markets. Links alone won't make you money. Some websites want to limit exposure.

Geocities, which was bought for $2.87 billion (in cash) will close before the year is out, as Yahoo! looks to cut costs and focus on their core business. Many new sites are blocking exposure in low earning markets:

Last year, Veoh, a video-sharing site operated from San Diego, decided to block its service from users in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, citing the dim prospects of making money and the high cost of delivering video there.

It is far easier to program something like Chartly than it is to create something that generates millions of needed daily page-views to become profitable. Even if you pick the right markets (and are building off a big network) there is no guarantee you will be profitable, which is part of the reason why many media companies will start building more interactive sites with more tools on them. The media needs to shift from being a spot you read the news to a spot where you interact with and discuss the news. Perhaps even a spot where you help share and create the news.

Don't get me wrong, I love amazing content like this, but it just doesn't make money.

Published: April 27, 2009 by Aaron Wall in business


April 28, 2009 - 12:09am

Surprised that nobody has commented on this post. CPM/CPC/CPA monetization is dying a not-so-slow death.

The new business models are definitely along the lines of applications and content that satisfy a niche need of some sort.

Heck, I was just eating dinner with my wife and somehow ended up looking for "wedding" related apps on my iPhone. And sure enough, one of the popular results was an app that pulled up photos galleries of good looking Russian brides (for a $.99 fee)

And I bet that the developers of that app are making more money than a large portion of the publishers out there still trying to make a buck out of CPM advertising.

April 28, 2009 - 3:29am

Yeah, it's time to get innovative these days. That video you got up there aligns too much with art and less with market. It's cool but what lasting value am I getting out of it?

April 28, 2009 - 7:02am

I saw this video a few days ago via - shows how "viral" some videos get :)

Some amazing stunts on there, love Band Of Horses too.

And just as you say : so what if I loved the video. I haven't spent anything or clicked on any ads. I loved it, then moved on.

Which brings me to links. Here's how I see it : you write amazing content NOT FOR LINKS - but to convert people to customers on your site, and to turn customers into repeat customers, and to turn repeat customers into your sales team via WOMM (these ain't always links, but more personal stuff like emails/tweets to friends etc). "Customer" can simply mean they do what you want them to do on your site.

You have to be "proactive" (I always use this euphamism) about links. If you believe Matt Cutts, all you'd need to do is write "kick ass" content and watch those link pour in. Problem: it doesn't happen. Not if you're selling garden furniture, not if you're an electrician, not if you're selling bed linen, not if you're a self-employed decorator, not if you're selling printer cartridges.

Not every category online lends itself to linking. Nevermind that the site that sells bed linen has a perfectly good product, has a great "home improvement" blog with the site, and has good service/price points. This kind of site will NEVER gain the volume of links commensurate to the quality of its content.

And so just do this: write great content, and eh, get "proactive" with gaining links.

April 28, 2009 - 7:54am

That is right.

I just wrote up an article recently about this as well... Sure enough "content is king" but TRAFFIC IS ACE at the end of the day.

You have to produce the *right* type of content and with a purpose.

They say content is king.. But traffic is ace!!! WTF does all of this really mean though?!

It's kinda long :)

April 28, 2009 - 4:52pm

I would suggest aggressive use of sub-headings, ordered & unordered lists, and pictures to help break up the content if you are writing something that long!

April 28, 2009 - 2:24pm

"Don't get me wrong, I love amazing content like this, but it just doesn't make money."

It doesn't make Google money. But what about the bike shop that gets its plug at the end? What about the biker, who could attract sponsorship as a result of his internet fame? That video isn't just content, it's also an advert.

When the content is also the advertising medium, then of course Google won't have much luck charging people for it. Imagine if they got tough and classified everything with a plug in it as commercial, and allowed the uploader to buy impressions.

April 28, 2009 - 4:48pm

The guy who made the video was already at the top of the game before he made that video.

Will that video help him make more? Absolutely, but for every video like that there are millions of videos that are net money losers.

The people who sponsor that video like to think they will make great money, but it will likely be a small jump. I think the will it blend/Blendtec people only increased their sales by about a factor of 8, and that is going from ***complete brand obscurity*** to becoming ***the default video case study*** used as an example of successful viral video marketing.

April 28, 2009 - 5:07pm

Aaron, funny you mention the "will it blend" viral "meme". It's the one a lot of SEOs tell me when I mention things like "how do you make a website that sells cushions exciting?". They roll out the "will it blend" anecdote, but I can't help but think that viral isn't something that's repeatable for the millions of small businesses out there. Nor is it always desirable. It's horses for courses. That's the trouble with some SEO people- they think it's a case of applying the same formula for each case.

April 29, 2009 - 2:10pm

Take pieces of your product line.
Apply Liquid Nitrogen.
Will it Shatter?

April 28, 2009 - 8:59pm

Totally agree, AndrewL - hyper-customizing the SEO approach is where it's at for many of the small businesses I have seems to me, formulas that are easy to replicate are usually just as easy to find and negate as well. Just wish Google would stop rewarding spammy-scraped crap so the success rates of formulaic replication became a bit more difficult to achieve.

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