Web 2.0 crowdsourcers tossing coins to the crowds

Via CNet via Rachel’s del.icio.us:

Saturday saw the launch of eefoof.com, a site that promises to share a percentage of the site’s revenue depending on how many viewers a video clip attracts.

CNet positions this as a ‘challenge’ to youtube. Read the full article for the rest of the hot air and vapours.

Now, because I am very old, I remember the late-1990s, before any talk of Web 2.0, when user-contributed music websites like mp3.com were ‘the future of the music industry’, because they would allow undiscovered talent to bypass the gatekeeping mechanisms of the record industry. (Bearing in mind that conventional wisdom also suggested that these sites were really a workaround – a way for the companies concerned to stake out marketshare for digital music sevices without having to wait until the copyright mess was cleared up).

The idea ostensibly was that artists made their tracks available for free download and used the architecture of the network to ‘virally market’ their music, and that the cream would rise to the top in an unmediated, democratic fashion. Sound familiar? so far, so Youtube. But the business model for the artists (not for the site, which was based on an eyeballs-to-advertising model) relied on converting browsers’ attention into bums on seats at real-world gigs and online record sales – you could sell CDs via the site, a service offered in exchange for a small percentage of the sale price. There were some notable success stories – Darude’s single ‘Sandstorm’ became hugely popular on mp3.com and effectively launched him, which he talks about in this interview. I had some of my electronic music up there, and even though hardly anyone ever downloaded it, I did get some radio play and some gigs scoring games (that you would never have heard of) and flash websites out of it.

Then along came a couple of smaller competitors, like amp3.com, which announced that they would offer per-download ‘royalties’ to artists in exchange for the insertion of short audio advertisments at the beginning of each track. In the case of amp3.com, this never really got off the ground because they apparently couldn’t settle on a workable system for this, and got embroiled in agonistic debates with the artist community that eventually stalled, and the site merged with iuma.com a few months later. MP3.com eventually integrated a pay-per-download system, but then also introduced payola schemes that effectively delivered a competitive advantage to the fat end of the long tail (e.g. ‘platinum’ membership which resulted in your tracks being prioritised in search and browse pages). It was a strangely schizophrenic and yet, in hindsight, entirely predictable pattern. More (from a younger, idealistic and more bitter me) on the demise of mp3.com here, here and here. This model hasn’t died – for one, garageband.com is still going strong, but I haven’t looked closely at its business model for a while.

So I’m wondering, a little tongue in cheek, just what does ‘Web 2.0’ have that is new for participatory culture, except for broadband video and RSS and apple-esque design elements like tabs and rounded corners? As Anne pointed out recently in relation to ebay, the trajectory I describe for digital music portals above is increasingly looking like a familiar pattern – it speaks to the question of just how far the neoliberal ethics behind business models that promote ‘participatory culture’ can sustain their tenuous links with cultural democracy once their platforms actually start to work in the ways their developers dreamed they would.

One thought to “Web 2.0 crowdsourcers tossing coins to the crowds”

  1. The amp3.com platform for ad insertion was licensed to amp3 by Michael Sharp.
    The Dynamic Audio Ad Insertion system is patent pending.

    The idea is not new. Michael came up with this as a way to serve three constituents way back in the last century.
    3.Media Subscriber

    It works like this
    Publisher uploads content
    Sponsor uploads Ads

    The subscriber downloads publishers content
    The sponsors ad is co-mingled with the publishers content pre-roll anywhere in the timeline of the media and after the content has played.

    Publisher earns royalty from sponsor for each audio file delivered to subscriber.

    Sponsors ad remains with publishers content

    Subscribers enjoy free or discounted downloads or streaming media content

    This works just as well with rss podcast feeds as it does with mp3 file urls or streams.

    Michael Sharp’s dynamic ad insertion for audio and video files was the first application to pay publishers for dynamic ad insertion. The service paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to artists and publishers wayyyy back in the olden days of web .01 🙂

    It’s nice to see it’s catching on a bit now, it’s patent pending and it would be great if he finally made a little money from his ideas.

    His latest company takes dynamic ad insertion to the future with Phonecasting.com. With 2 billion phones out there dynamic ad insertion looks like a promising platform after all.

    Here’s some example numbers to call and listen to podcasts from your phone.

    Most Popular PotterCast: The Harry Potter Podcast +1 (818) 688-2780
    this WEEK in TECH – MP3 Edition +1 (831) 480-3911
    CNN News Update +1 (415) 376-7253
    NPR: Hourly News Summary +1 (650) 523-6819
    Diggnation (Mp3) +1 (408) 538-2141
    BBC Radio NewsPod +1 (510) 248-0337
    The Cell Phone Junkie +1 (510) 495-6352
    Faith Church Weekly Word +1 (408) 538-2182
    Daily GizWiz +1 (415) 376-7224
    This American Life +1 (408) 538-2147

    Here’s Matt Richtell of the New York Times’ article discussing Michael Sharp’s audio ad insertion platform.

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