Online Publishers Association Now Confusing Content And Communication

from the shift-in-strategies dept

For many years, the Online Publishers’ Assocation (OPA), a trade group representing various online content providers, has tried to push a specific story in the media with incredibly misleading studies. In 2003, 2004 and again in 2005, the OPA wanted the world to believe that people were willing to pay for content online. That was the story that came out in their press release, and that was the story that many in the press ran with — even if it was wrong. The problem was that the OPA was confusing services with content. Specifically, they included dating site subscriptions in their definition of content sites — and that made up a huge portion of the “paid for” online content. But that’s misleading. The people who subscribe to online dating services aren’t buying “content.” They’re buying a service that connects them to other people they hope to date. Unfortunately, in pushing a bogus agenda, they really only succeeded in fooling themselves. It gave hope to a countless number of content providers who now thought the bogus model of charging directly for content was increasingly a sustainable business.

Of course, these days, with publisher after publisher realizing that free content is a better business model (hell, even the paid dating services are getting hit from below by the free dating sites), apparently the OPA realized they couldn’t spin the same story this year. Instead, as reader David informs us, they’re pitching the equally bogus story that the web is increasingly becoming a content platform rather than a communications platform — which simply isn’t true. The value of the internet is always in being a communications platform — and the repeated mistakes that many companies (from the entertainment industry to newspapers) keep making are often due to their inability to understand that simple fact. Having the OPA come out with yet another misleading report on the topic doesn’t help them get there any faster. It will simply encourage more bad business models.

Yes, it’s true that content and communication are really closely connected. After all, communication is simply multi-directional content. So what’s wrong with the OPA report? The full methodology isn’t clear, but from the quotes, it sounds like they considered “communications” to be things like email and IM, but anything web-based was counted as “content.” For example, the OPA claims that social networking services helped drive the growth in use of content sites. Say what? Social networking sites? Those are completely about communications, rather than “content” in the online publishers sense. It’s the same thing as the dating sites from past years, just replaced now with social networking sites. Even sites like YouTube are often much more about the communications aspect, than the content. YouTube took off because it was easy to embed a YouTube video, allowing people to “communicate” with the videos on the site, and also because of the nice comment system that was included. Sure, the content is a draw, but it’s the communications part that made it valuable. The OPA seems to totally misunderstand that fact in the blind hope that its “publisher” members will think that their online strategy is correct. And that’s a problem, because such reports will lead more people to focus on bad business models that are about single direction “broadcast” content online, rather than real communications.

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Companies: online publishers assocation

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Comments on “Online Publishers Association Now Confusing Content And Communication”

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mkam says:


2003 and 2004 links (1st paragraph) go to the same page.

“The growing popularity of social networking sites with a heavy focus on content is helping to drive the shift toward spending more time with content, according to Horan.”

I love this statement. Are these people insane? Yea, I am looking at Facebook for the ‘content’ and not to communicate.

anonymous coward says:

“growing popularity of social networking sites”

prove to me that social networking sites are “growing”. customers moving from one site to another does not mean that the industry is growing. it means that there are few barriers to entry, few ways to retain customers, and little customer loyalty.

it is an industry that has peaked. even the established players are barely profitable and the market is still being flooded with half-baked latecomers riding on the over exuberant VC market in this space.

social networking is the next bubble.

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