where "word of keystroke" begins

November 4, 1999 -- Selling content/getting paid for content on the Web

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, November 4, 1999. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM US Eastern Time (GMT -5) every Thursday.

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Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggestions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

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Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants


Richard Seltzer -- All -- We'll be starting in about 8 minutes. Our topic today is selling content/getting money for content over the Web. As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- as you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. We are expecting guests from, ION Systems, and iSyndicate.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- I'm Bob Zwick, an independent consultant from the Dallas Texas area.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Sudha and Bob.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard, i just came back.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello Sudha - Long Time not chat

Sudha Jamthe -- Bob: Good job with the D.E chat. I keep passing your contact/URl to my colleagues at Harcourt.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome SamD. Please introduce yourself and let us know your interests.

anthony alvarez -- Hi Richard!! How are U?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Anthony. Thanks again for setting me up with my webcam.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome TDolan. Please introduce yourself and let us know your interests. For reasons as yet unknown, the invited guests have not shown up yet. But we have a good group of people assembled, with a common interest in what can be done to turn content into cash or other business benefits. So this is a good time to share insights.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Bob Fleischer, Please introduce yourself for those who don't know you.

Bob Fleischer -- I'm a knowledge management and collaboration technology consultant with Compaq Services.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Superfreak, BillSmith, and Ednoke. Please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. We're talking about turning content into value on the Web.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- please dive in. We only have about 15 minutes left. There are about a dozen people connected. I don't want to monopolize the conversation. (Though I do have a few things on my mind that I'm enjoying saying :-)

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Maurice Parisien from ION Systems -- unfortunately this is the end of our chat hour. I guess the time zone difference was confusing. We go from noon to 1 PM Eastern Time. I believe you are in St. Louis and on Central Time. Is there any chance that you can join us next Thursday at this time? We really would appreciate your perspective.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Quan09 -- You've joined us just as we are ending. (perhaps the change from daylight savings time to standard time led to confusion). Please join us again next Thursday. And feel free to send me comments by email for inclusion with the transcript. For the transcript check in a few days. 

Three styles of content: spontaneous, crafted, and engineered

Richard Seltzer -- Over the last couple weeks, chatting about selling content and getting paid for content, it has occurred to me that there are three kinds of content on the Web today, each with its own economic value -- spontaneous, crafted, and engineered.

Richard Seltzer -- Spontaneous content is impromptu, extemporaneous, as in this chat session and in forums and email distribution lists. Crafted content involves some extra thought and effort, with more than one draft and probably more than one person involved (editors as well as writer).

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - can you explain the 3 types a little?

Richard Seltzer -- The third kind of content is engineered. For this I'd point to (here last week, and I hope returning today), and also ActiveAnswers at Compaq. In this case, large quantities of interrelated content perform a significant function, acting as a whole -- the whole if far greater than the sum of its parts, because it's engineered that way.

Richard Seltzer -- I see the main value of spontaneous content being its marketing value -- when captured and posted as plain HTML pages on the Web and added to search engine indexes; and also when heavily advertised, the large volume of content tending to attract visitors, and the threads of discussion drawing them back again and again.

Richard Seltzer -- Spontaneous content can be turned into crafted content, by editing and rewriting. And crafted content can both attract traffic and can also in some cases be sold.

Richard Seltzer -- Engineered content involves considerable investment and time. It might be supplemented with related spontaneous content, and some crafted articles may be a part of it. But it has a significant business purpose, generating revenue either directly by sale/syndication or as an important value-added element in a much larger business (as in the case of Compaq). Does this model ring true to you? Do you think it might be helpful in evaluating content-related opportunities?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I see the engineered type as huge relational databases for eCommerce and informative content. Most of the on-line trade mags use this to store and display articles. Extranets ( bus to bus ) will definitely use this type.

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, Bob. The huge relational databases clearly fit in the engineered category. In many cases, the starting point might be the content of a magazine -- lots of single crafted articles. But properly assembled and accessible, they can serve a much larger purpose -- helping a site/business serve as a major source of information/answers, rather than just a place to go to read a few articles.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Right Richard, archival and research applications will come of this type of data. Plus, finding the content you are looking for is much easier when your content gets large.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Zwick -- Yes, it is interesting to think about the variety of ways in which large quantities of information can be organized and made accessible, creating interesting new businesses on the Web. In the pre-Web days, there was an optimal size for content -- the article or the book. There were the rate engineered-content instance, like an encyclopedia or an isolated dial-up online database. But now, the more the merrier. It is no longer as daunting a task as before to make lots of information work together in interesting ways and be readily accessible to the novice. That's an interesting high-end opportunity; just as there are interesting opportunities in the area of dealing with spontaneous content and finding ways for it to generate revenue, as well as attract traffic, as we learned last week from ExpertCentral.

Bob Fleischer -- Although we mustn't limit our thought to older ways of seeing things, it can often be instructive to compare new concepts to traditional ones. Richard, would there be any analogues to your three classes of content in traditional media?

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- in traditional media, I'd see spontaneous content as being like the dialogue on radio/TV talk shows. That content draws audience for those shows, and it is relatively low cost content generation. But aside from TV reruns, it is generally just cast aside afterwards. (That's almost always the case with radio). On the Internet, conversations like this one can be saved, archived, maybe lightly edited (like I do) and made searchable by search engines, with very interesting results.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- Crafted content is very similar in the traditional world and on the Web. In both cases it is article-size stories, intended as finished, polished, standalone pieces. But whereas the printed magazine article quickly becomes obsolete regardless of the enduring value of its content, simply because few people save back issues, on the Web the date of posting need not have any effect on its accessibility and hence its ongoing usefulness.

Bob Fleischer -- Networked information makes it much easier to create meta-content, or content about content. Search engines and directories are one example. Comparison shopping is another. There are tremendous opportunities in collecting and aggregating. Some of them are financial, but there are also political, social, and philosophical opportunities. In a way, a collection represents a point of view.

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, Bob Fleischer -- metacontent, in the sense of search engines and directories are one form of engineered content. The search engine derives its content (index) by automated processes (crawlers), and the directory is typically handconstructed (perhaps with a technology boost) as for instance the Open Directory, which reportedly now has thousands of volunteers categorizing Web page content, and already includes over a million pages. Some of it is also aggregating -- as financial, real estate, shopping, and other commerce oriented sites now often do. It's a matter of assembling enormous quantities of information (encyclopedia size and beyond) and making that information readily accessible, sometimes as text and sometimes in the form of tools -- like configurators and decision guides. 

Turning content into cash and other value

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - so far we have talked about types of content and how they are stored and delivered on the web. anybody have some ideas of how we can turn that content into revenue?

Richard Seltzer -- Have any of you seen this subject approached from such a perspective before? I know that there are many sites of the engineered content style. I just haven't seen them discussed that way. And the spontaneous content opportunity seems to be just now becoming visible and important (with the expert-matching style business models like ExpertCentral). Hey, you may have noticed that I like chat, and now that style of content (at least in this framework) has a home and a definition and a clear potential value.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Zwick -- Good question. Last week and the week before, we heard from ExpertCentral about how they provide an opportunity for ordinary folks putting on an "expert's" hat can pick up some money. We also heard from how they plan to syndicate their engineered content to generate cash (and that they are looking for freelancers to provide the underlying content). I was hoping that today we'd be joined by ION Systems, which has interesting ways of getting money from crafted content.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Zwick -- to continue that thought... There are a few fundamental problems in trying to generate cash for crafted content. It is typically relatively small and easily copied (book size and below), unlike massive repositories of engineered content. So if you want to generate money from it (as opposed to using it as marketing collateral, drawing traffic by way of search engines to your site), you have to be concerned about copying and protection and rights -- factors that I prefer to ignore, but that are very important in this arena.

Richard Seltzer -- As I understand it, (and I wish the representative from ION was here as anticipated to explain this directly), ION Systems has technology that enables sellers of electronic books and publishers to make their material available in electronic form for a price that they can easily set and change, with protection levels that they can set and change. See the site of one of their first customers (I believe they also have the option of print-on-demand -- sending you a printed and bound copy of any electronic book they have on file.)

Richard Seltzer -- If you have written articles or a book, the ION Systems method would allow you to publish it online and get paid for it in a variety of ways (to be chosen by you) -- per read, per page, for the right to read the whole thing, for the right to print it once from your printer, etc. But there has to be a middleman, a company like Netbooks that sets up a site based on this technology. (You probably wouldn't want to do everything yourself.)

Richard Seltzer -- I know that they are trying to make deals with major online book stores to make electronic books available through their format. If they succeed, that could make this model all the more interesting. (Though I continue to have a strong bias toward making content of that kind available for free and getting value from it in other ways, through the traffic and the reputation that it can generate if handled well.)

Bob Fleischer -- Well, if we had an established and widely adopted micropayment system (such as Millicent), lots of crafted content could carry tiny little price tags.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- Amen. Millicent or similar technology (which we discussed a few weeks ago) could help open up this marketplace, making it so smaller units of content (not just books) could be bought and sold economically.

anthony alvarez -- what is the URL for millicent?

Bob Fleischer --

Sudha Jamthe -- I recently came across a company "ref anytime" which offers content download with encryption

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I'll take a look at ref anytime (what's the URL?). Thanks.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: I'll connect the Ref anytime folks with you, I don't have their URL , sorry.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I'm particularly interested in selling education as content. More and more course hosting sites are poping up every day. They make it nice and easy by handling all of the administrative aspects ( registration, collecting fees, etc) which leaves course delivery as the ONLY content that an instructor needs to be concerned with.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Zwick -- thinking of selling education as content or educational content (and by the say, all, please join in on Bob's distance ed chat tonight at 8 PM here at web-net), I see a complete curriculum or a degree program as another example of engineered content.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- I'd like to see a micropayment model for a degree program. In other words pay as the content is delivered. That way if the professor doen't suit you you're not out the entire tuition and fees.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Zwick -- I'd like to see distance ed paid for on the basis of results. You sign up to learn a language. Your payment entitles you to unlimited use until you pass the test that certifies you competency at a certain level and qualifies you for the next level.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Exactly Richard, it's about time that we make educators and companies accountable for RESULTS and money back if not accomplished. 


Richard Seltzer -- Sudha, you had a couple messages that you wanted to get across. Please post them now, before we run out of time.

Sudha Jamthe -- I appreciate input from folks who can talk to me about E-company valuation. I also have a friend looking to hire Business Development folks in Internet startups.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- please say something more about what you mean by e-company valuation.

Richard Seltzer -- All, we're getting near the end of the hour. On the one hand, I'm sorry that the invited guests were not able to show. On the other hand, I got a chance to play with some ideas that have been percolating in the back of my mind for a while. I hope that you found this useful. I also hope that you'll join us again next week. I'm going to try once again to get these folks to join us. I think there are other aspects of selling content to be explored. In particular, does anyone here have a contact name at Northern Light? I'd like to hear more about their model and how it is working.

Richard Seltzer -- All, the hour is up already. As usual, I'll post the edited transcript (sorry I've been slow about that lately, but I do eventually get to it). Check Please join us again next week to continue this discussion. Also, please post your email and URL addresses before you signoff. (Don't presume that the software captures it.)

Richard Seltzer -- All -- thanks very much for joining us today. I'd welcome your feedback, comments about what we've said today if you'd like to send them to me by email. 

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

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