These sites embraced the "one:many" Web 2.0 model so as to stimulate traffic growth upon which ad revenue depended. The content sites' success stories -- few though there were -- attracted a large number of new entrants into the space all fighting to gather as many eyeballs as possible. In what turned out to be a vicious cycle of one-upmanship, many content-rich sites poured more money into better design and more sophisticated content-consumption technologies.
But the results were painfully disappointing. These heavily financed sites were caught in the sudden and utterly seismic forces that are quickly rendering the "one:many" Web 2.0 content site nearly obsolete as the world migrates with dizzying speed toward the social rich, interactive "many:many" next gen internet web experience that is a seamless mashup of community, connectivity, commerce, content, real-time interactivity and portability. In this "many:many" world, an "interaction engine" curates the user experience -- not the content itself. In this brave new world, we see real world successes, like Paltalk and Zivity, who skillfully merge user experience with a monetization plan based on how people interact with the content. Sadly, while many of today's Web 2.0 content sites are trying to "retrofit" their sites with these "many:many" technologies, it's not hard to spot the clumsy bolting on of these technologies as the "afterthought" they really are.
This is why I characterize this shakeout as a crash. Aside from reality that too many sites are chasing too few ad dollars, the desperation of the situation hit home very recently when a large, very well-known site approached me to be a potential purchaser; partner; "whatever," said the bizdev guy on the other end of the phone. I asked plainly, "Why would a site with millions of U.S.-based visitors be selling -- surely you can monetize that much traffic?" I asked, but I think I already knew the answer -- they had gotten a ton of funding to create a great content site, but could not get enough ad dollars to make a go of it. For these sites, the road to monetization seems always within reach but tantalizing further and further away.
That's why I call this a quiet crash. The gap between inventory and available ad dollars was wider than I thought. The speed of migration from the one:many model to the many:many model was faster than I thought. The math is painfully simple. So while I hear the content site bubble bursting, I suspect few people will barely hear a crack -- that is, until, people start cutting themselves on the shards of the bubble all around them on the floor.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Judy Shapiro is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.