Liberated Content

Traditionally, if someone wants to see content on the web, they visit the site that holds this content. If I want to read an article from The New York Times, I go to The New York Times’s website. The website is the hub for the content and users pass in and out of it when they want to interact with the content. However, sites like Pinterest, Instapaper, Gimmebar and Svpply are disrupting this model. They’re giving users a way to liberate content from it’s original context and aggregate it in their own collections. This is causing a shift.

Gimmebar is a web application that gives users the ability to capture content from almost anywhere on the web. Pictures, videos, tweets and words can be torn out of their original website and saved into Gimmebar. It doesn’t just bookmark the content either, it actually copies it from its original context to Gimmebar’s servers, available forever. It’s a fascinating concept and I’ve been happily using Gimmebar for the last few months. Anything I want, saved for all eternity in my own curated collection. Why am I talking about this on a marketing blog? Because when content is pulled out of its original site and shared around the web, the advertisements don’t follow it.

Right now, most websites monetize by placing advertisements around their content and trying to get as many eyes to see those ads as possible. This photo of Steve Jobs on Apple Insider is a good example. Notice all the flashing ads around the page? However, if I save that picture into my Gimmebar and share it from there, it looks like this. Apple Insider isn’t making any money off the people viewing the photo from inside my Gimmebar collection. Are you starting to see the implication here? The more ubiquitous content liberation tools become, the harder it is going to be to monetize that content.

I’m not writing this to offer a solution to the problem of monetizing content removed from its original website because well, I don’t have one. Nor does anyone at this point. Video could be done by embedding ads into the file, however, once that file gets passed around, you have no way to know how many people have seen it. Photos could possibly be watermarked with little advertisements, but that’s a terribly inelegant solution. What about articles? Do we hide little text ads within the article itself that will follow the article even if it gets copied? This could get messy, fast. There are two things I know for sure.

  1. Attribution is key for monetizing content after it has been liberated from its original context. No matter where content ends up, it must remember where it came from and who created it. If this is lost, the creators receive no compensation or credit for their work.
  2. We can’t ignore this trend. No matter how hard content providers try, they’re not going to be able to stop users from liberating and sharing content. The key now is not to fight it (are you listening to RIAA?), but to figure out how to monetize within the new model.

As advertisers and marketers, some of the burden is on us to figure out new ways to promote an increasingly unstructured internet. No pressure, right?

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