The Boston Globe has an article today about a newish web site called Gather that says it wants to be the eBay for online writers. The idea seems to be that Gather will host your blog for free, sell ads to the presumably thousands of advertisers who want to get next to all your great content and then share with you the ad revenue generated by those ads.
This is going to fly like a lead balloon for about a hundred reasons. Here are the ones I can think of off the top of my head:
1) There are about a million other web sites out there right now that will host your blog for free. As I’ve said many times before, there generally needs to be an evolutionary advance to get people to change from the technology they are using and know how to use to one they don’t. Will this be evolutionary? Clearly the spin is that it’s the revenue share that makes it so.
2) But lots of blogs have ads. So I see the sharing more as the blogger sharing with Gather as opposed to the other way around. Yes, I share revenue at ACCBoards.Com with my network partner, but my partner does all of the ad-related work: selling, placing, collecting, etc. If I wanted to put ads on my blog, I’d just sign up for an Adsense account.
3) Ah, but Gather is going to sell ads directly. This seems a little odd until you realize it has to. Otherwise, there’s nothing different about their structure and every other blog with ads out there (other than the fact they get a share of your ad revenue).
I suppose this may be a new spin on the blog network, chase the almighty dollar and try to get rich by writing an online journal thing that I find so optimistically naive. I suppose if you throw in a good marketing staff who can sell ads directly, there might be an argument to be made. But other than the fact some smart people are involved with Gather, I don’t get it- not even a little bit. In fact, Gather looks much more like another try at an About.Com than a true blogging platform. The thing is, the web is full of About.Coms and About.Com wannabes. And then, of course, there’s the About.Com-killer, Wikipedia.
I was one of the editors at Suite101.Com, an early About.Com competitor, many years ago. And while I enjoyed it for a while, I never made a dime and the stock options turned out to be upside down. Ultimately, I decided the right to control my content and the presentation thereof outweighed the potential to get a check for tens of dollars once in a while. That was a long time ago, before the move to the edge and before Wikipedia.
Here’s another troubling thing I noticed on the About Gather page (the bold edits are my commentary):
It just seems fair that we share our advertising revenue with you [[[well, actually it would be my revenue since it would be generated by my content]]] based on the quality and popularity of the content you contribute on Gather [[[this sounds like a secret formula that results in a lot of discretion on Gather’s part; I would be very interested in seeing, for example, how “quality” is determined.]]]. We will also share some of our revenue with you if you choose to use the site actively, exploring content that others write, searching on Gather and on the web [[[so they are going to hold out the payment carrot to get me to use the site and drive up the ad revenue a little; smart, but it makes it sound more like a frequent flyer club than a content partnership]]], and inviting your friends, family, and colleagues to use the site [[[as a general rule my friends and family like it when I suggest they do something for reasons other than the fact I get paid to do it; I don’t want to turn my family dinner into an infomercial]]]. We will pay occasional users in points that you will be able to use to purchase goods and services from Gather partners in a few months [[[I get these wonderful opportunities with my credit card bills already; for only $14 shipping and handling, I can buy a $20 transistor radio for $12]]] . We will pay frequent users, who write great content consistently, in cash if they choose. [[[again, “great” is in the eye of the revenue holder]]]
I will be very interested to see how well Gather gathers.