A Cat Leads a Revolution

i-can-has-cheezburger.jpg

still number one….

Like many people, I post my blog on WordPress.com.

WordPress posts a list of its most popular blogs. The top of the list is always icanhascheezburger.com.

Pictures of cats.

Go figure.

Icanhascheezburger now accounts for roughly a third of the traffic on wordpress, some 500,000 hits a day.

That is interesting.

What is more interesting is that founder Eric Nakagawa has been able to monetize the site by selling ads. $5600 a month and climbing, according to Business Week.

Tim Appnel sent me the following link to a very interesting piece in Business Week, which clearly shows that Nakagawa is not alone.

Small websites are starting to become very profitable, based on ad revenue.

This is, I think, an inevitable consequence of the ‘democratization’ of publishing and distribution that the internet brings about. Once, to get a newspaper into people’s homes you had to be William Randolph Hearst or a Sulzberger. That is because starting a newspaper cost money. Presses, ink, paper, trucks, buildings.

‘Freedom of the press’, HL Mencken wrote, ‘is limited to those who own a press’.

Today, anyone can own a press, and if you read the Bizweek article, you will see that pretty much anyone with a good idea can start to make that press pretty profitable.

So far, we are still dealing in the world of text and print. But video cannot be too far behind.

Youtube has already conclusively proven that you can deliver video into some 2 billion homes on a regular and reliable basis.

As Steve Sabato’s numbers quoted yesterday clearly demonstrate, some 100 million people will become video content creators in the next decade.

The idea that once they create the content, the then have to sell it to CNN, NBC, ABC or CBS is clearly not the way this is going to shake down. Why sell or even license your video to iCapture when you can just post it yourself? (And incidentally, I think that most of these sites don’t pay anything at all).

This will take time, but it is clearly a classic case of ‘creative destruction’ that Schumpter would have appreciated. In a world of web delivery, what does CNN or ABC have that you don’t have? The answer is, not too much.

There was a time when the networks had the only means of delivering a signal into 100 million homes.

That gave places like ABC or NBC an enormous monopoly over the delivery part of the process. Take away that monopoly, and what do they have? Brand? Honestly, that is about it.

Clearly, this is going to take time, but just as clearly this is going to happen.

We are just in day one of the fractionalization of the market.

How long will it take?

Before Gutenberg, there was only one ‘producer’ of books – that was the Catholic Church. For a thousand years, people had lived in an environment where almost all of their ‘information’ came from one ‘very reliable source’ with a fantastic brand and impeccable credentials.

Forty years after Gutenberg, there were more than 15 million new titles in circulation.

For those who were living then, the shift must have seemed absolutely unthinkable. Yet there it was – driven entirely by a new technology.

The same thing is going to happen here.

8 responses to “A Cat Leads a Revolution

  1. Not just ANY picture of a cat…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolcat

    Also, meet dramatic chipmunk: http://youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw

    It’s videos like this that aggregrators like YouTube and CollegeHumor love and sites that pay for their content (SuperDeluxe, Heavy.com, Motherload, etc.) just can’t seem to understand.

    While someone may pass a five second clip of a chipmunk off or a cute kitten off to fifty friends, the viral returns for a five minute sketch or other, more traditional content is much lower, no matter what the quality.

    Hopefully, as the technology advances and becomes more indistinguishable from a television screen, this will change.

  2. Pingback: The Internet, and Stuff » Blog Archive » In Other News…

  3. Clearly, the method for discerning the interesting from the junk has not yet arrived.

    I got an invitation to post one of my short pieces on a Charleston, SC video site. When I went to see what they were doing, it was almost all junk.

    I suppose the Catholic church and the major news networks have served a purpose as a filter, of course filtering what was in their best interests. But you can at least credit them with providing a focus for the “consumer.”

    Youtube and some of the other “unfiltered” web outlets have the inverse problem – there is so much junk that you won’t bother watching it unless some friend or other emails you the link; and even then, it is likely junk.

    I heard part of an interview of some English guy who wrote a book about how the complete anarchy of the internet will cause anarchy in society as there will be no more experts.

    Hogwash.

    Wikipedia has been reviewed against professional journals and has been found to be just as accurate, if not more so than the works of the experts.

    Not too long ago, Mr. Rosenblum had a piece about “wikifying” the world’s video content, and I think that that will be a successful model for some types of content. As is true in any marketplace, however, what people want will also sell, so I guess we’d better be ready to do some cringing as the servers at Youtube continue to accumulate crap.

    As an aside, one of the few clips that I watched on the Charleston site used copyrighted music that I am sure the clip’s creator does not have sync rights to. As the RIAA and other entities that control intellectual property continue to improve their anti-piracy technology, I think we’ll start seeing a separation between junk and stuff worth watching – an awful lot of the junk on youtube and other sites depend on unlicensed material.

    Here comes the VJ. His pieces will not be using pirated material and, because of training and experience will create content that people will search out.

    The only thing that remains is the mechanism to let the cream rise to the top. The VJ site featured on this blog last week will be one of those mechanisms.

    Jim

  4. Jim, that has been my position – there will be a lot of crap, and the cream will rise to the top – albeit slowly at first as this whole way of doing video works itself out. I myself am rethinking how and what I’m going to shoot, but it still comes down to shooting in a professional way and doing so with tools that are readily available to anyone.

    As a recent forum discussion I was reading stated, now that there is so much sharpness with HD cameras, producers/shooters are looking for ways to soften said high rez footage – again, I still see a serious place for better quality 3 chip SD cameras that are considered outdated.

    This whole VJ paradigm is still in a state of flux – I think that when it all settles down – quality content WILL be the driving force behind professionally created content, not whether one is shooting XDCAM, HD, etc.

  5. the site is brilliant – but there is no way that it is generating the ad revenue they claim. Until a few weeks ago the only ads on the site were from animal welfare agencies.

  6. Very interesting read… Aside from astounding traffic figures I have to wonder how ICANHASCHEESEBURGER gets advertisers who actually pay their bills. I have literally dealt with hundreds of advertisers since beginning my first blog in 2000 and have found very few who actually pay their bills.

  7. Cliff,

    The director Michel Gondry shot a music video half on film and half video. The video half was intertwined with the film and was used to depict the “unreal world, ” as the main character moved from the real (film) to the unreal (video). The effect was unnerving.

    It is an interesting idea that the more perfect the image is, the more it looks like unreality. LPs sound more “real” than CD’s, though nobody argues that the vinyl is capturing what the source “really” sounded like – the digital is a near-perfect representation.

    Strange stuff, that.

    Interestingly, Mencken believed that every community would produce “superior individuals,” those who were wrongly oppressed and disdained by their own communities, but who would rise above because of their achievements.

    Sound familiar?

    Even more interesting to me is that this view is listed in Wikipedia under the heading “Elitism.”

  8. Jim – the last two sentences sound all too familiar…

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