Felix Salmon looks at new platforms that make sharing easy — specifically, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Reblogging, on Tumblr, is so easy that the vast majority of Tumblr sites actually create little or no original content: they just republish content from other people. That’s a wonderful thing, for two reasons. Firstly, it takes people who are shy about (or just not very good at) creating their own content, and gives them a great way to express themselves online. (As Arianna Huffington says, “self-expression is the new entertainment”.) And secondly, it acts as a natural amplifier for the people who do create original content — the average post on Tumblr gets reblogged nine times, and therefore reaches vastly more people than if it just sat on its original site waiting to be discovered by people visiting it directly.

He then argues that such sharing has the potential the break the traditional media model — hosting content and selling advertising. Basically, sharing appears to by-pass the original site and so deny them a return in the form of advertising. As we know, Rupert Murdoch has taken to twitter to express his displeasure at such movements.

Salmon writes:

Because when something goes viral, you don’t own it any more — it belongs to everyone, and no one.

I think this is going too far. In actuality, having referrals direct people to your site so that you can show them ads is a very blunt instrument. A more promising approach is the one Google have taken with YouTube. There, proprietary content can be shared and the owners can then take ownership of the revenue stream from ads. The problem is that we haven’t worked out how to do that for text and imagines. But this would be more of a technological problem than an economic one.

One Response to Sharing and ad revenue

  1. Rachael says:

    I too disagree with Salmon on the point about who owns viral content. I’m on tumblr and even something that is reblogged 40,000 times can usually be easily traced to the source, and/or the original uploader (even if a link to the source is not included, you often see a small text link to the original uploader’s tumblr in the bottom of the post).

    Also, many tumblrs I’ve encountered are very strict about crediting images or quotations that don’t belong to them. Some parts of the tumblr community even self-police if someone re-posts an image/quote instead of reblogging it from the original poster, and if a serial re-poster does not change their ways they can be ostracised.

    Of course, I do not know how much of tumblr operates this way and how much operates totally free-wheeling, since I have not studied it.

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