It is difficult to make money out of amateur Web content, such as blogs, podcasts and user reviews, experts agreed last week.
Chris Rhoads, the chief executive of consulting firm Enterprise Technology Management Associates and an associate professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, said that trying to make an amateur Web site profitable is a risky venture, as it can lose its appeal to users.
"I'm not entirely sure you can monetise amateur content and keep it the same thing it is," she said, at a panel on amateur content at the Wharton Technology Conference in Philadelphia on Friday. "Commercial ventures often ruin the heart and soul of content that is amateur when they try to monetise it."
Often the people making money out of amateur content are the aggregators, not the creators of the content, according to Kurt Huang, the founder and architect of the BitPass micropayment system.
"On Myspace.com it is the aggregator monetising it, the reviews on Amazon.com are monetised by Amazon. Aggregators are monetising content, not the creators," he said.
But even aggregators can find it difficult to make money out of a site without antagonising their user base. Yahoo acquired photo-sharing service Flickr and social bookmarking service del.icio.us last year, but has not yet monetised the sites, according to Bradley Horowitz, a head of technology development at Yahoo! said in an earlier panel at the same conference.
"With sites like Flickr and del.icio.us we don't want to worry about monetisation at this stage as we are running a dialogue with our users. At this point, the last thing we want to do is alienate our user base," he said.
He said the Flickr and del.icio.us user base could be put off the site if it displayed ads that were not carefully targeted.
But some members of the panel were more optimistic about making money from amateur content. Dmitry Shapiro, the chief executive of Veoh Technologies, which allows users to broadcast television shows via the Internet, said that, at least in his area, there is an opportunity to make some money.
"We all have niche interests that are completely unserved by traditional television. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for amateur programs," he said. "Pick a niche, whatever you love, get a camcorder and produce amateur content. You can then put that up [on the Web] and generate revenue with micropayments."
However, Rhoads expressed scepticism about the potential of making money from niche content. She said she was passionate about the martial art Tai Chi, but that it would be difficult for her to make money from this as few people share this passion.
"There are very few people in the world who care about Tai Chi. The reality is that you have to look at the numbers. If it is only of interest to a tiny proportion of the population, the technology makes it possible to share it, but not to make money out of doing it," she said.