Wednesday, December 16, 2009...4:00 pm

New models for online publishing

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Here’s a sign of the times from Jason Preston’s Eat, Sleep, Publish blog.
He writes:

It’s increasingly difficult, and maybe impossible, to run a profitable content company on the internet if you’re paying for your content to be produced.

Well, we kind of knew that, given how difficult it is to find paying freelance writing gigs right now.
The solution? Put together a site that relies on specialist user-generated content that offers contributers revenue from any advertising their pages attract.
This is a direction that a lot of online content publishers are starting to follow – judged by the proliferation of journalism-job-ads-that-aren’t-exactly-job-ads. But this one at least seems less biased against its contributors.
The site is L33tsauce – which, as you can probably guess given its incomprehensible name, is aimed at computer gamers.
Contributers share their expertise on pages they create using the site’s page building tool. (For some reason, these are called “Dojos” – just calling it a “page” doesn’t seem cool enough.)
Then any advertising revenue generated by the pages is split evenly between the contributor and the site owner.
It’s a neat idea. I have no idea if it’ll work, mind you, but it does sidestep a lot of the problems of traditional media thinking in this area.

  1. It recognises that the site will only work if gamers want to use it and visit in sufficient numbers to attract advertisers.
  2. It puts up no money upfront to contributors, thus keeping costs down.
  3. But it doesn’t stiff its contributors by not paying them. If they are popular, they earn money. If not, they don’t.

For my money, it’s a better deal and an interesting model. But for this to work, it’ll have to ensure that half the proceeds of the advertising revenue doesn’t add up to half of nothing.


  • First, thanks for the thoughtful post – I apologize for not spotting it sooner (looks like my ego radar missed one).
    At the end of the day, you are 100% correct – from a writer’s standpoint this has the potential to be a shitty deal; after all, how can you make a living by hoping you write stuff that gets good pageviews?
    (let’s ponder the irony)
    I think it’s worth pointing out though that while L33tsauce is an interesting experiment from the publishing and the business side of things, this site is aimed less at serving professional writers than it is at rewarding gamers.
    We’ve built a valuable toolset for gamers looking to share with one another, whether that means posting a list of your favorite WoW gear or writing up an in-depth walkthru, the primary point is to share the information freely and make it easy to access. Getting a little cash for it is a nice bonus, but definitely just a bonus.
    That said, if you’re REALLY GOOD, and you draw a lot of traffic – the sky’s the limit. If we win, you win too.

  • Jason – hi. Thanks for stopping by.
    This highlights an interesting implication that I didn’t point out in the post – that content is being increasingly “deprofessionalised”.
    This means not that it is no good (everyone knows how rubbish I think a lot of career journalists are), but that web-based editorial and review-type content is being handed over to ordinary users to create. Often because it’s cheaper. Also, I suspect, because users actually quite like it.
    Journalists hate this. They claim it is because the quality of content suffers. But actually it’s because they are terrified of having to earn a living doing something else when they are probably ill-equipped to do so.
    Journalism-as-hobby is the ultimate nightmare for most in the trade…

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