Steve Rubel on the Cut and Paste Web

I love the smell of disruptive technology in the morning…;-)

Steve Rubel posted back on August 20 that the next disruptive development for large traffic sites will be the Cut and Paste Web…a place where our content truly becomes separated from our delivery means. A place where it is mixed, folded and mutilated by all manner of APIs (*application protocol interfaces), RSS Feeds, PageFlake-type clipping services, web services and all kinds of neat bits of content delivery/repurposing technology that we haven’t even thought of yet.

That makes for a brave new world, a place where we can have our content where and how we want it. A place in which we can aggregate it in a manner that’s uniquely ours. A manner where we are able to skip all that online advertising…

Right…that’s the point where things start to break. Without advertising support, most of the existing online business models start to fall apart.

However, for all of its benefits, the Cut and Paste Web is potentially more disruptive to big traffic sites than Web 2.0 was. If almost all content can be lifted from one spot and placed somewhere where it’s more convenient to the user, just how will it be monetized? The ramifications reach far and wide. It will impact anyone that wants to attract eyeballs – media companies, brand marketers and community/social networking sites.

This is the content equivalent of buying Coca-Cola, re-bottling it and selling it as Pepsi. The product of someone’s original creative work shouldn’t be re-used for profit in another means. The problem is, we’re already doing this.

This morning I sat and dumped all the blogs I read into Google Reader – I’ve been using it to read my first-line-gotta-reads for a while, and I decided today I’d rather just go there to read all my stuff. Simple enough, but that means I’m missing the ads on some of those blogs, ads which help that particular person earn a living, or more likely pay his/her server bill.

But now they won’t be seeing a dime from me, and thinking about this scares the heck out of me. What happens when I grab an RSS feed from a newspaper? Or when I subscribe to a Google News feed for my news content – the whole newspaper industry should be shaking.

I could start to rail here about how “We simply can’t give this stuff away for free.” But the dirty little truth is that I am writing content right here, right now, that even a couple years ago, I would have sold for $500 a pop, and today, I’m doing it for free, and then wondering why I am scrounging to make the mortgage payment.

The discussions I have with my musician friends are eerily similar. Their industries model is also horrifically broken, and unless you’re in that 1% at the top, you’re probably packing boxes somewhere to get the gas money to get to your next gig.

Steve makes the point that the solution is:

  • Think Web Services Not Web Sites
  • Connect People
  • Make Everything Portable

The problems involved in that are simple:

  • If we’re selling brand new cars, and have to transition to selling oil change service because the business model is broken, the process is *really* going to hurt.
  • There is a limit to the number of places I want to go to be *connected* to other people.
  • I like money. Banks have money…so should they box up the money and make it portable so I can just swing by and pick it up? Probably not if it isn’t my money…

So where do we go from here? How do content sites manage to monetize their content, when it’s not even being read on their sites? I really don’t know…but its going to be on my mind all day long.

3 Replies to “Steve Rubel on the Cut and Paste Web”

  1. I’ve had similar thoughts myself, but I am not sure this change is bad. Frankly, I think too much of web revenue is ad based. I hate that sponsored links show up first in a search engine. I would rather the most relevant links (to me) show up first. That would be a system that works for me, not just one I could work with.

    On my blog I have decided not to incorporate advertising (or revenue generation) of any kind, but it is still a business blog. Instead of publishing content with the desire to drive traffic and generate revenue, I publish as an enhancement to my brick and motar professional practice. I have only been blogging for four months and the blog has generated new clients which in turn have resulted in revenue.

    To me, that is the future of web based business. It is about enhancing and modernizing business models. Not monetizing web content.

  2. I agree – for most bloggers, this isn’t an issue, as we’ve got other axes to grind professionally. I was kind of looking at a site that’s designed for traffic and is based on Ad Revenue, like my http://www.reel-time.com site. There we rely on sponsors, Google Adsense, and some other minor revenue plays to pay the bills.

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