Are Sites Like Digg, YouTube And MySpace Still Exploitation If People Get What They Want?
from the non-monetary-payments dept
There’s a fascinating discussion going on among some bloggers today, concerning some research about how the top 10 domains online get a larger percentage of traffic today than they did five years ago — supposedly countering Fred Wilson’s claim that “the long tail” of web pages was increasingly important. However, as you dig into the numbers, it becomes clear that Wilson’s point still does stand. Most of that increase in traffic is actually due to MySpace and YouTube, which aren’t “properties” by themselves so much as they are a playground sandbox for millions of others to set up their own individual sites — representing an even longer tail of content that just happens to be place within the walls of specific sites.
Nick Carr, as per usual, cuts through the clutter in pointing this out — but then goes on to make some questionable assertions about how this is a modern form of sharecropping — whereby the “land owner” aggregator sites like MySpace and YouTube are somehow exploiting the “sharecropper” users, who are willing to create content for those sites for nothing. Carr attributes this to the difference between the “attention economy” and the “cash economy” and seems surprised that the two overlap — suggesting that Carr actually hasn’t been paying much attention. There aren’t separate economies at all. They’ve always overlapped and always will. What’s really going on is a recognition that not everything needs to be paid for in monetary terms (which isn’t a new concept). It’s not that the users are somehow being “exploited” by being tricked into giving up value in exchange for attention. They are making the choice and recognizing the benefit. The attention is a benefit to them. It is payment — not exploitation. This is the same mistake that others have made in claiming that Google is somehow exploiting sites by organizing and pointing people to those sites — while making money in the process. Once again, that’s a case where Google is providing some benefit (traffic, or if you must, attention) to those sites. Those who complain about the lack of monetary payment are under the same delusion as Carr, that benefits like attention are somehow separate from the cash-based economy. Just because some of the direct benefits are not in cash, doesn’t mean that one side is any more exploited than the other.