As more and more companies create business models around “consumer generated media” individual publishers are beginning to wonder when they might see a slice of the revenue. I believe there are opportunities for bloggers to be paid for their content without compromising editorial integrity and also rewarding the tool builders.
Profiting from consumer generated media is not a new thing. Shopping sites such as Amazon.com or PriceGrabber have been doing it for years, asking an author to turn over the rights to their content in exchange for the author’s work being featured alongside a product. At PriceGrabber we paid anywhere from $5 to $25 for many of these reviews realizing that more information about a product helped drive clicks and completed the buying decision. I think bloggers can be similarly paid for syndicating their content to larger sites to assist in the buying process as one small example.
Blogger merchant relationship
Most people are familiar with the Amazon Associates program where registered affiliates receive a percentage of the final purchase basket for each sale initiated from another site. Review a DVD, provide a special link, and receive a few dollars for your lead generation. Yahoo! plans to pay individuals for generating successful leads through its Shoposphere Pick Lists. In existing cases such as Amazon or Yahoo! if you feature some content on your blog you receive a small percentage of the purchase and both sides are happy.
Blogger toolmaker relationship
What if there were tools available that made it a lot easier to post reviews to your site in a well-styled format with extra features such as an updated price or how other people have bought the same product after reading about it on your blog. Should the toolmaker receive a small percentage of that revenue?
Browsing tools such as Mozilla Firefox or Opera currently receive tens of millions of dollars a year from web searches generated using their tools. The tools are offered for free and people enjoy the experience.
The same partner agreements should exist for specialized blogging tools that help generate a sale or a profitable benefit for another company. If Byrne Reese makes it really easy to blog product reviews with Media Manager shouldn’t he be rewarded a few cents for every sale? I think so, and some of the details for paying toolmakers still need to be worked out by affiliate sites.
Distributed content network
What if instead of linking only to Amazon, your content was available for republication to any aggregation sites willing to pay a bounty? Shopping comparison sites, individual merchants, and buying guides could supplement existing information with a network of reviews and first-person accounts. There may some matching and distribution service in the middle connecting the content creators with multiple sites such as Amazon, Buy.com, Overstock, eBay, etc. The matching and distribution service helps the individual blogger make more money and reach a broader audience than they had before.
Reviews are currently rated on sites such as Amazon for their level of helpfulness. These rankings provide a way to rank multiple reviews and reward authors that positively contribute to a purchase even when the research and purchase decision takes place on a site such as Amazon.
Submitting your content to a distributed network or aggregator requires some standardized data format to express key elements of your review for redistribution to interested consumers. The format should be standardized to lower a publisher’s switching cost and allow for the highest possible number of consuming services.
I believe some of this ecosystem is starting to come together. E-commerce sites are establishing partner and developer relationships as well as affiliate programs. Toolmakers such as FeedBurner and Six Apart are establishing relationships with advertisers on behalf of users. Formats such as hReview bring together a group of coauthors representing hundreds of millions of users across web properties such as AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo!.
These are developing thoughts, business models, and code, but there may be an ecosystem forming around improved online content for everyone.