At a Berkman center session last week about supporting investigative and international reporting — “difficult journalism,” in convener Ethan Zuckerman’s wording — I talked about the link economy v. content economy and at lunch, one of the participants asked what the link economy requires of us. Try this list on for size:
1. All content must be transparent: open on the web with permanent links so it can receive links. It’s not content until it’s linked.
2. The recipient of links is the party responsible for monetizing the audience they bring. In the old content-economy model of syndication, the creator sells content to another and the one who syndicates has to come up with the ad or circulation revenue sufficient to pay for it. Now in the link economy, it’s reversed: When you get traffic, you need to figure out how to benefit from it. As Doc Searls said at the event: this is a shift from “making money with” to “making money because.”
3. Links are a key to efficiency. In other words: Do what you do best and link to the rest.
4. There are opportunities to add value atop the link layer. This is where one can find business opportunities: by managing abundance rather than the old model of managing scarcity. The market needs help finding the good stuff; that curation is a business opportunity. There is also an opportunity to add context (here are lots of links about Darfur but here is a page that will explain what they mean). There is also a need to add reporting and new content and information atop a link ecology. There is a need to create infrastructure for linking (full disclosure: I am involved with two companies trying to do this — Daylife and Publish2). There is a crying need for advertising infrastructure and networks to help the recipients of links monetize them.