July 26, 2006
@ 07:55 PM

Every couple of months, I see a blog post from someone wondering whether websites that traffick in user-generated content should be rewarding their most valuable users financially. A few months ago it was Anil Dash blogging about this in his post The Interesting Economy which wondered whether Flickr users whose photos are determined to be 'interesting' should be financially rewarded. Anil's post elicited a passionate response from Flickr's Caterina Fake entitled Economies of Interest which basically boiled down to "There's more to life than money". Her response rang hollow to me but I didn't really comment on the topic at the time. 

Robert Scoble also wrote about this last month in his blog post The screwing of the Long Tail where he complains that sites that traffick in user generated content such as Digg, photo sharing sites, Craig's List and social bookmarking sites "are gonna take all your content AND take all the money that the advertising generates".

Earlier this month, Jason Calacanis wrote a blog post entitled Paying the top DIGG/REDDIT/Flickr/Newsvine users (or "$1,000 a month for doing what you're already doing where he wrote

Before launching the new Netscape I realized that Reddit, NewsVine, Delicious, and DIGG were all driven by a small number of highly-active users. I wrote a blog post about what drives these folks to do an hour to three hours a day of work for these sites which are not paying them for their time. In other words, they are volunteering their services. The response most of these folks gave back to me were that they enjoyed sharing the links they found and that they got satisfaction out of being an "expert" or "leader" in their communities.

Excellent... excellent (say that in a Darth Vadar/Darth Calacanis voice for extra impact).

That is exactly what bloggers told Brian and I three years ago when we started. Given that, I have an offer to the top 50 users on any of the major social news/bookmarking sites:

We will pay you $1,000 a month for your "social bookmarking" rights. Put in at least 150 stories a month and we'll give you $12,000 a year. (note: most of these folks put in 250-400 stories a month, so that 150 baseline is just that--a baseline).

Kevin Rose of Digg responded today with a blog post entitled Calacanis where he writes

Ya see users like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and Flickr because they are contributing to true, free, democratic social platforms devoid of monetary motivations.  All users on these sites are treated equally, there aren't anchors, navigators, explorers, opera-ers, or editors.  Jason, I know AOL has given you access to their war-chest, but honestly, take that money and invest it into site development.  Listen to your existing community. Think of what your loyal Netscape users must think - you're essentially telling them that they aren't good enough and that you have to buy better users. You can have the best submitters in the world, but if your community doesn't support you it will never work.

Jason Calacanis responds quite nicely in his post entitled Kevin Rose cracks (or "how to know when you've won the debate") where he writes

The top ~50 members on these services are responsible for over 50% of the top stories--that's a straight up fact and Kevin knows it. That seems to scare the heck out of him, and it shouldn't. I've created a market for these users, and others are about to jump in and do that same (I know this for a fact). So, if there is gonna be a market for community leaders, why not just join the party Kevin? You raised a ton of money and you can raise more. You're making money from advertising and you can easily afford to pay the top 12 users $1,000 a month each--share the wealth dude! Why not carve out 10-20% of your revenue for users?

I agree with the spirit of what Jason Calacanis is trying to do, revenue sharing is the way to go. I don't buy arguments from Kevin Rose and Caterina Fake that it's all about charity and generosity especially when there is money to be made [by them but not their users]. After all, the only thing better than doing something you love is doing something you love and getting paid for it. ;)


Categories: Social Software
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Wednesday, 26 July 2006 21:16:05 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I posted my thoughts comparing this issue to the house elves situation in Harry Potter at http://mayur.spaces.msn.com/blog/cns!BEDCD2CF51385E52!248.entry?_c11_blogpart_blogpart=blogview&_c=blogpart#permalink.
Wednesday, 26 July 2006 22:27:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
word is bond.

they need to put their money where their mouth is...and it appears that the mouth of these sites is with that n% of top users.
Thursday, 27 July 2006 07:37:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"""After all, the only thing better than doing something you love is doing something you love and getting paid for it. """

True but only in our society. Money is also a vicious burden as you become dependant on it and if what you do to pay the bills is you passion money can move the passion away from you.

What I don't get though is how those sites make money anyway. I mean I never click on any advert and I don't think I even notice them. I actually haven't clicked on any advert for years. So how do they make any profit is a mystery to me.
Thursday, 27 July 2006 12:56:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Is he correct that the top 50 members are responsible for 50% of content?

What does that mean anyway. I produce a lot of content on del.icio.us but a large proportion of my content is only linked to by me, or only linked to by a small number of people.

I suppose that means my content is not especially valuable. Whereas the content that is valuable is linked to by many.

Do these 50 members do the first links of 50% of the material that is the in top 50% of material by popularity? What is that worth?

What about this blog post? What if you write a post and have, as part of your blogging software automatic bookmarking built in? Do you get money from the bookmark service. What if you have ads on your site? Do they get money from your ads for sending people to you.

Actually it sounds nice, but it also sounds like bullshit to me (to be frank.) It is a sad condition of the business world that much which sounds nice is bullshit, or (to be gentle) not well thought out.

Bryan Rasmussen
Thursday, 27 July 2006 12:57:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
note by 'Content' I mean links to work of other people, not links to my own work, at least in general.
Bryan Rasmussen
Thursday, 27 July 2006 23:52:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare are you a budding media whore like Calacanis? Jump off a pier.
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