Plenty has been written about sites like the Huffington Post getting rich off the free content provided by their writers. But the truth is HuffPo is really just the most blatant site that earns its money from content created by others for free, and they are very straight-up about the practice.
What many of us don’t consider is that each time we tweet, update Facebook, pin something on Pinterest, post to Tumblr or on any other site that’s not our own dot com, well, we’re creating content and we’re giving it away for free.
William D. Conan wrote about this yesterday at Bloomberg View, and he has some fascinating insights into this relatively new practice in business.
Not paying for content is a relatively new idea in the media business. It is understandable — if not particularly admirable — as long as these companies can continue to get away with it. If you could get wealthy through the work of others without having to pay them, who wouldn’t be tempted to try it? But can you imagine Walt Disney Co. giving away any of its content free?
Now, mom bloggers aren’t quite on the level of content creation that Disney is (you know, at least not MOST of us), but it is true that most of us spend a fair amount of time hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and it’s clear those websites are raking in the cash.
Facebook Inc. seems to be clocking in these days at a valuation of as much as $100 billion while Twitter Inc.’s implied value is about $8 billion based on a new round of financing, the proceeds of which went to cash out the original investors. Tumblr Inc. also recently raised fresh capital, giving it a value of $800 million.
This doesn’t even count the vast numbers of aggregator sites, including well known thought leaders such as Business Insider or the millions of others that scrape our content and post it (even the ones that do it with links) without paying us a dime.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all close down our Facebook pages or hang up our Twitter accounts. In fact, I think as mom bloggers we’ve found a way to make this work to our advantage. We use these sites to promote our content, reach out to companies and brands as consultants, and generally use it to support our efforts to earn a living.
What do you think? Have you ever thought of your status updates as “content”? Do you resent the way social media site builders earn income off our updates?