The Value of Self-expression

Nicholas Carr has a great post on Sharecropping the long tail “One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few. It’s a sharecropping system, but the sharecroppers are generally happy because […]

Nicholas Carr has a great post on Sharecropping the long tail

“One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few. It’s a sharecropping system, but the sharecroppers are generally happy because their interest lies in self-expression or socializing, not in making money, and, besides, the economic value of each of their individual contributions is trivial. It’s only by aggregating those contributions on a massive scale – on a web scale – that the business becomes lucrative. To put it a different way, the sharecroppers operate happily in an attention economy while their overseers operate happily in a cash economy. In this view, the attention economy does not operate separately from the cash economy; it’s simply a means of creating cheap inputs for the cash economy.”

He nails the point: “sharecroppers are generally happy because their interest lies in self-expression”.

It really isn’t always about the money. Really. Many have characterized this as an unfair game, where the few were taking advantage of the many. But I think this is a better characterization.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t huge opportunities for innovators to bring some of that money back into the hands of users.

JPG Magazine and Threadless are two sites in particular that come to mind…they have interesting models that pay out cash to users who submit great stuff. I wrote about that here: Paying People for Voted-on Content

Published: December 20th, 2006

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