Publishing: Changing realities (II)

There is some wisdom in saying that when you are in the jungle and are faced with a hungry bear, you'd better be good at thinking on your feet. If you're not strong, be quick. This is also the case in today's publishing environment.

If you are looking at these ezine articles, you are either in need of content, or have just submitted your own article and are now seeing if it stands out from the crowd. Whether you are an upstream or a downstream customer doesn't matter, but if you want to survive in today's publishing environment, it is essential that you have a clear view of some of the intersecting points in this industry itself.

Any surface work quickly learns that 'free content' is among the largest intersections where editors and webmasters meet.

Many people wonder who facilitates all this sugar-and-spice world of content. How is it possible that whilst you pay good money for your daily newspaper, you can get whatever is written in the paper times 500 for free on the internet? The short answer is one word: distribution.

Distribution, or aggregation of content as a totally free commodity is quite a new idea but it started to become important seven years ago, when publishers became more and more enticed with the idea that advertising revenue based business models were overtaking subscriptions in terms of attraction. It meant quite a gamble, but when new titles showed the viability and profitability of this model, very many other publications followed suit. It was going to be the idea of the future and the advertising driven revenue model has dominated the internet publishing sector from its very start.

Free content has since evolved and is very likely here to stay, since new business models are adopting the principle and weave alternative income streams around it. As Jeff Jarvis from www.buzzmachine.com says; "This is the new distributed world. I don't know how anybody makes money in it but I do see how many people save money. As has been cited too often now, Craig destroyed -- did not transfer but destroyed -- an estimated $65 million in classified revenue in San Francisco alone. But Craig still charges for listing jobs. Indeed doesn't; it merely finds them."

Craig being Craig's list, a highly successful aggregator, first of jobs and now everything under the sun in the classifieds market and Indeed being a similar outfit. Jarvis goes on to point out that "aggregation is cheap. Aggregation is efficient." And he's right. I have yet to come across estimates of the value of the so called 'free' content market across the internet, but this is of less relevance than its new role. Companies looking to cut costs, turn to free content. This way, it is playing an incredible role in the economy. It is valued but as an economic instrument, rather than a commodity with a usual price tag.

Content is King and at a 'Kingly' fee. You might say that the tax exemption that most countries reserve for their royalty translates in cyber ventures as publishers' inability to use content as a control tool in the traditional way. "The technology won't allow that to happen. You can't "get to scale" that way", says Jarvis.

The open source idea of content makes all of us a little bit more amenable to outsiders. It is simply impossible for one player to have all the goodies on one particular subject. "You must be open to others owning pieces of the equation. You must let the users get the value of scale however they choose to create that scale. You must facilitate the creation of virtual scale", says Jarvis.

As we are being democratised by technology this way, we are likely to adopt a totally new idea of achieving economies of scale and critical mass. This term as such is slowly dying out. Scale simply don't scale anymore. It's over guys. Nobody believes in authoritarian pretense no more. There's always a fifth if not sixth opinion if you've managed to convince everybody you monopolise the first four.

"The old days of big players in the economy collecting consumers, audience, distribution, manufacturing efficiency, buying power, or capital in the grip of centralized control are waning. That used to be the way to find efficiency and size. That used to be the way to scale. But they are being foiled by our new distributed world. And they are being replaced by a more efficient means of finding size and efficiency," says Jarvis.

Aggregation is the new scale. To get through to target markets, you need to be simple and craft your message clearly, concise and on target. Aggregation in cyber space is similar to decentralisation in the rest of society. It's getting more popular. People all over the world are getting the hang of spontaneously forming clusters grouping together in schemes, outmanoeuvering companies and governmental organisations. Anarchy in its positive format is expanding.

So whether you were just looking to find content, this might only just be the beginning of your search. Sure, many aggregators won't let you have their news for free when you are not a private entity, but the general idea has been born and it's cottoning on. Fast.

Are you wondering how you can be part of the new content revolution? Clustering is the key around which everything evolves. News aggregators are all very busy categorising their news in recognisable categories. All you need to do is hitch up with a few people in creating either a new category or establishing yourself as a player in a recognized field and submit your feeds. People that take them are of course Yahoo.com, but also lesser known entities such as Newsnow.co.uk and Daypop.com. Not to speak of the blog possibilities, which are endless.

You can go around this in a myriad of ways, but it's best to center your efforts around a hub, make sure you coordinate everything before submitting anything. Why would you do this? Well, dumbass, for the same reason as why you are visiting this website! To publish news about your area of expertise, or to find articles about topics you are interested in.

If you find it difficult to do this all by yourself, there are of course people specialising in this field. Notably ourselves. If you are interested in getting customized newsfeeds only, you can also go to www.newsknowledge.com. But just remember; what they create is something you and a few likeminded peers can OFFER. Getting on in the world's no longer black and white affair, but more like a Be-With-It affair.

Angelique van Engelen runs http://www.contentClix.com which is located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She writes tailormade articles on any subject and also creates highly specialist RSS feeds on topics relating to arts and culture.

In The News:

Supreme Loser: Pelosi’s House  Wall Street Journal
For the record  The Guardian
How to Edit Your Own Writing  The New York Times
10½ commandments of writing  The Conversation AU
Unit 4: Informational Writing  The New York Times
That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief  Harvard Business Review

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