A confluence of different sources has brought similar thoughts to the front of my mind today:
I had lunch with someone working to create a niche local web community and we were discussing the hard work of gathering, curating and maintaining relationships with content partners. I remarked, almost involuntarily:
“Free content is the most expensive kind.”
I’m not talking about robotic aggregation, obviously. That’s done. I’m talking about rallying people to create and / or curate unique, relevant information.
Checking in on the Twitters, my friend Howard Owens said this yesterday:
It’s very hard to do a local news start up from 50,000 feet above ground.
Then, today’s entry in Nieman Journalism Lab‘s excellent 2011 preview series featured some common sense from Dave Winer (love the RSS; hate the Winerlinks) on how to make news pay in the era of the Interwebs. The money quote:
“Become more focused on the commerce of your communities, and the opportunities to make money will become more apparent.”
That sounds like plain common sense. But I’ve seen (and been involved in) myriad schemes that involve getting a big audience from a lot of little communities and then selling their eyeballs to McDonalds or the overseas purveyor of the latest diet fad. How many print publications have whored themselves to the least common denominator to ensure enough eyeballs to sell national ads while missing out on the millions of tiny transactions in which their increasingly disinterested subscriber base participates?
An audio capper on this thought, which popped up in my drivetime mix this morning: