Content Killer

Good piece by Publishing 2.0 » (Google Is Killing the Economics of Content) on how Google’s AdSense is killing the internet by driving the creation of sites that exist solely to squeeze money from AdSense. Here’s how it works in brief, based on Robert Weisman’s piece in The Boston Globe :

A company amasses hundreds of thousands of Internet domain names — and not just silly names, but ones like,, or — and then puts a few links on it that look like content but aren’t (new term: “content-light”) . Users go there by typing in the name (rather than searching on Google, as many users apparently do; another new term: “direct navigation”) and then click on AdSense links on the site. As Scott Karp puts it:

The sites were talking about here are NOT about content and they are NOT about serving web users in any meaningful way — they exist for one purpose — pay-per-click ad revenue. …

Why bother with the expense of creating content? Google certainly doesn’t care. And the advertisers dumping billions of dollars into AdWords and similar ad networks don’t seem to care where their ads appear. It’s all about the click.

Companies involved: NameMedia, Marchex. According to alarm:clock, which monitors new tech ventures, NameMedia has acquired a leading domain reseller, BuyDomains, GoldKey, and dozens of smaller domain collections over the last year to create a portfolio of more than million domain names. It was formerly called YesDirect, and claims to have more than 25 million visitors a month.

Web 2.0: Our Own Little Echo Chamber

The worm might be beginning to turn: Not everyone sees Web 2.0 as the bright new dawn it’s been claimed to be. Web 2.0 is the name given to this latest boom — much more interesting, relevant and realistic than the last one, and until last year sustained without the megabucks of big investors. But now there’s some talk that with the big players now jumping aboard, it’s beginning to look as wobbly as the last boom.

This may not be the case, but it’s prompting some interesting talk. I particularly like this one, from Scott Karp’s Publishing 2.0 » Web 2.0 Is Not Media 2.0:

Consumer-created media is transforming the content landscape for the better, and consumer-controlled media is undoubtedly the new paradigm. But the average person does not have much time (if any) to spend creating media and has patience for only a finite amount of choice. Bloggers and others who put a lot of time and effort into media consumption and media creation are outliers — people may want something more customized than the morning paper, but they still want the simplicity and leisure feel. Media based on Web 2.0 is just too hard.

Mitch Shapiro, over at IP&Democracy, understands the problem and has an interesting meditation on Memeorandum, in which he acknowledges that next generation of functionality (e.g. highly-customized RSS feeds) still “wouldn’t reach the ‘ease of use’ levels provided by Media 1.0 publishers.” Static media is on its way out, but “ease of use” remains the currency.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s what I’ve been harping on about, although not as cogently or eloquently. Most of my readers of the column are clearly not interested in spending as much time as the geeks and Internetophiles in finding and reading content. Heck, some mornings even I can’t be bothered to read the latest stuff. There’s a danger that this new world of tools we’ve created remains niche because it bounces around this big echo chamber we’ve created for ourselves. Only a handful of tools make it into the mainstream because most people have a life, sorry, have little time to spend on this stuff. They want to know what it does for them, and how it might actually save them time, not how it might make extra work for them. Most new stuff doesn’t do that.

Bottom line: the Internet is still a big distraction for most people; not an attraction. As it gets bigger the tools that save them time — not just in cruising it, but in learning how to use the tools that save them time — will be the ones that survive.