Right now, it's extremely difficult to make money directly out of content on the Internet. That doesn't mean that content on the Internet lacks value. In fact, content is the foundation upon which the vast majority of web activity is built.
In Scotland, nobody wants to pay directly for water. That doesn't mean that Scotish people don't think water is valuable. People either feel that they pay for water already through their taxes or that water is such an essential resource that it should be free. The way people think about content on the web is a bit like that. However, turn off the tap, take away content from the web, and the web would dry up.
A recent study by UCLA indicated the importance of the Internet as an information resource. Forty-seven percent of Internet users surveyed considered radio an "important" or "very important" resource for information. Fifty-three percent considered television to be of the same importance, while 67 percent thought the same of the Internet.
That the Internet is a key information resource for the consumer is becoming evident in a wide range of industries. A recent study showed that while four percent of Americans actually buy cars online, over 40 percent use the Internet to gather information on what car to buy. In the recent Firestone tire recall, the Internet played a central role as an information resource. A report by Investment Company Institute found that investors are now using the Internet as their research tool of choice.
So, quality content is invaluable to those of us who use the Internet. The question is, how does an organization derive revenue from that content? Some day - and it's not all that far away - people will pay for content on the web. I have absolutely no doubt about it. If you give me the right content - content that teaches me, entertains me, or helps me do my job better - I will pay. (Unless, of course, I can find such high-quality content for free somewhere else.)
Today, however, people are not in the mood to pay upfront. Therefore, the way content achieves value is by becoming a context for commerce. In fact, the fundamental difference between commerce and e-commerce is that in commerce you sell with people, but with e-commerce you sell with content. Basically, on the web, content helps you sell stuff.
This is all well and good, but quality content is very expensive to create and may simply not result in enough purchases to cover its cost. Keeping this in mind, the organization should seek to avoid, where possible, having to create too much original content.
There are a number of alternative content strategies. You can add to your content offering by re-organizing and/or summarizing content that already exists on the web. In this way, you are creating new value out of already existing content with the minimum of cost.
You can barter with other web sites, giving them content that's useful to their customers, while you get content that's useful to yours. Another strategy is to use syndicated content.
Whatever the approach, the difficult reality today is that while consumers demand quality content on the web, they are only willing to pay indirectly. This demands an inventive response from all those whose business rests on a web of content.