People Overestimate The Value Of Content; Underestimate The Value Of A Service That Makes It Useful

from the time-to-understand-the-difference dept

A silly mini-battle broke out among some bloggers over the weekend concerning some new RSS-feed aggregation site. It's a battle that plays itself out every few months or so, and which we've tried to discuss a few times in the past. What happens is that people get angry because this aggregator (or reader, or browser or whatever) is actually able to build a business around other websites' content. And that gets plenty of folks, including those who I quite frequently agree with, like Mathew Ingram and Tony Hung, to complain that the service has somehow "crossed a line" by building a business "on the backs" of other people's content.

The problem, however, is that this is simply untrue. If it were true, then a ton of online sites would be guilty of the same thing -- including Google. But the reason it's not true is quite simple to understand: if all they were doing was reusing other people's content, then there would be no incentive or reason for people to visit these sites. Why go to these sites when you could just go to the original sites? The reason that people go to these sites, and the reason why these sites can build a business, is because they add value to the content in the form of some sort of service that does more with it. They're not building businesses "on the backs" of others' content, they're building services that people find useful as a way to find, interact with, share or comment on that content.

Unfortunately, though, as we see time and time again, people seem to overvalue the content and undervalue the service. That's why you have newsapers that sue Google, even as it's bringing them more traffic. They overvalue their own content, and undervalue the service that Google is providing: making it easier to find their content. The same is true of just about every other service that kicks off this kind of debate. The service is making it easier to consume, read, share, comment on, organize, find or interact with the content. Otherwise, it wouldn't get any users. The content is important, yes -- and valuable too -- but don't underestimate the value of the service that it performs on that content. So the next time one of these fights breaks out, pay attention to whether people are unfairly blaming a site for "stealing" content, and notice if they're undervaluing the service itself.

Filed Under: content, services


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Observer, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:44pm

    It's Econ 101

    You write a fancy article on a new widget. You freely put the content out there, setup the RSS feed of your content and darn-near beg the world to consume it. You either place no direct value on your efforts. Since you failed to recognize the value of the content and someone else capitalizes on your oversight then you are the one to blame in the first place.

    People tend to be inherently lazy. That's why they "work for the man" because they don't reconize the value or potential of their efforts.

    "Knowledge (and content) is powerful in the right hands".

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.