Sharing and ad revenue

Felix Salmon looks at new platforms that make sharing easy — specifically, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Reblogging, on Tumblr, is so easy that the vast majority of Tumblr sites actually create little or no original content: they just republish content from other people. That’s a wonderful thing, for two reasons. Firstly, it takes people who are shy about (or just not very good at) creating their own content, and gives them a great way to express themselves online. (As Arianna Huffington says, “self-expression is the new entertainment”.) And secondly, it acts as a natural amplifier for the people who do create original content — the average post on Tumblr gets reblogged nine times, and therefore reaches vastly more people than if it just sat on its original site waiting to be discovered by people visiting it directly.

He then argues that such sharing has the potential the break the traditional media model — hosting content and selling advertising. Basically, sharing appears to by-pass the original site and so deny them a return in the form of advertising. As we know, Rupert Murdoch has taken to twitter to express his displeasure at such movements.

Salmon writes:

Because when something goes viral, you don’t own it any more — it belongs to everyone, and no one.

I think this is going too far. In actuality, having referrals direct people to your site so that you can show them ads is a very blunt instrument. A more promising approach is the one Google have taken with YouTube. There, proprietary content can be shared and the owners can then take ownership of the revenue stream from ads. The problem is that we haven’t worked out how to do that for text and imagines. But this would be more of a technological problem than an economic one.

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