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 monetize 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 monetize 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 monetizing it, the reviews on Amazon.com
are monetized by Amazon. Aggregators are monetizing content, not the creators,"
But even aggregators can find it difficult to make money out of a site
without antagonizing their user base. Yahoo acquired photo-sharing service Flickr and social bookmarking service
del.icio.us last year, but has not yet monetized 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
monetization 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
However, Rhoads expressed skepticism 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
"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.