Maybe Monetizing Is Not The Answer

Posted on January 19th, by Michael Rosenblum in New Media. 7 comments

OK… but how much are you going to pay me to do this?

The content of the web continues to grow by leaps and bounds – almost all of it free – and yet we continue to ask the same question: “how do you monetize this’.

Perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

Perhaps in the online world, money does not matter.

That may seem an idiot’s perspective at first, but only from our 20th Century view of the world.


The 21st Century may prove to be a very different place.

Money was not always the locus of culture, or the great motivator it is today.

For nearly 1,000 years following the collapse of the Roman Empire (very much a money-oriented culture), the Western World was a society in which money came to be nearly non-existent.

The currency of the Middle Ages was Salvation.

That was what people worked their entire lives for. That was the primary focus of all their attentions.

The site of the World Trade Center sits empty today because anyone in the real estate business in New York can do the simple math:  there is already a glut on the commercial real estate market.  Why would anyone in their right mind build more office space that cannot be rented out? And if a building does get financed, there is a pretty straightforward way to compute the cost of the building vs. the time to build it vs. the projected rental income.

The great cathedrals of Europe were not built in this way.

No one sat down and did a cost/benefit analysis when Notre Dame was initiated.

And those Cathedrals often took hundreds of years to complete.  A craftsman starting work on it would be pretty sure that he would not see the final product within his lifetime.

They were built as acts of faith, which to our secular world may seem naive, but to the world of Medieval Europe, it was the core of society.

As was Salvation.

And it was for Salvation that everyone worked, thought, breathed and lived.

The source of Salvation was the Church, the Papacy and the Priesthood.

And people would do pretty much anything to gain Salvation – or to avoid Excommunication – which meant spending eternity in Hell. Even Kings stood in fear of what the Church could do to them.

Certainly very few people today spend all their efforts seeking salvation.

We used to spend all our efforts seeking money.

But this may be changing.

Today, I think, we are moving from a society focused on profits to a society focused on the acquisition of fame and notoriety as end goals – as Salvation was once an end goal.

The search is not so much to be rich as it is to be famous, if even for only a few seconds.

On the surface, Balloon Boy or The Real Housewives are our cultural icons. Not interested in money, per se, but rather in fame. But in a larger sense, the tens of millions who blog daily (including this one), are not getting paid for it, yet they continue to bang away, producing vast volumes of materials daily for no money. The currency? A few moments of notice somewhere, maybe, if they get lucky.

In Julie and Julia, Julie takes on the task of spending a year cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes and blogging about it.  Does she get paid for this? Nope. Does she expend enormous amounts of money and time and effort to do this? Yep. And the pay -off in the film? The New York Times writes about her. Fame. At last.

I can see this cultural shift when we send out our minions with their video cameras to shoot small stories.

Carrying a camera – indeed the very act of carrying a camera and shooting video – gains them access to places and people they would never see in a lifetime where they on their own.  They become, in a small sense, the conduit for fame. As Medieval priests were the conduit for Salvation.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, and it is just starting – driven by a web that both makes fame far more accessible to the ‘average’ person, and at the same time, shortens the period of ‘famousness’ because now the competition is so very intense.

Think about it.

Who are the icons of our secular era? The Saints?  The images that receive immediate recognition and need no explanation.

Elvis?  Marilyn Monroe?  JFK? Michael Jackson?

These are not captains of industry. These are not Horatio Alger stories of greatness. They all ended in tragedy.  They were all a mess in their own way.  It was not about the money. It was about the fame.  They are great Sainthood material because of their suffering and their fame.

The focus of all attention in the 12th Century was on the Path to Salvation.  The focus of all attention in the 21st Century is on the Path to Recognition.

The newest and surest Path to Recognition seems to be the web, (though TV is still pretty good – get on a Reality Show if you can!)

And maybe we’re never going to ‘monetize’ the web. Maybe that is as dumb a discussion as Medieval Monks asking how to drive Salvation into the newly emerging village marketplaces. It doesn’t fit.

Maybe instead we should start thinking about a culture driven by a need for Fame.

7 thoughts on “Maybe Monetizing Is Not The Answer

  1. So will there ever be a time when Fame is not enough? What would be next? Very interesting article.

  2. I take my hat off to you Michael (even thou I don’t wear one) it takes guts to write something like this. I’m sure you can well imagine all the “I told you so” raising from everywhere.

    The fact is that as far back as seven years ago we told you that it will never work. You used those suggestions as “we, the established veterans were jealous and afraid be put out of business by those with easy to use inexpensive toy cameras; according to you we were dinosaurs on our way to extinction”.

    Care to reassess those statements?

    You never really stopped and listen to the voices of experience, as a consequence two things happened: you and your followers were wrong and we are still here doing better than ever.

    The problem was, and still is that, you business model was bad to begin with, actually you had no business model whatsoever, you just try to take off with your gut feeling. Most good business ventures start as gut feeling but before is turned into a business a business model is developed to see where will the money come from and why. You didn’t do that even thou we told you that you should.

    The reality is that there’s plenty of money to be made on the web, but not in your way.

    You used and oversaturated the web as a potential direct moneymaker instead of a venue to make money for existing products and businesses. You made a small attempt a few days ago to direct people toward business but I can tell you that most of your followers will never make it.

    Fire away gang, just keep in mind that I haven’t been wrong yet. Every one of my predictions since we first started these discussion with Michael over seven years ago came true. It’s your future not mine.

    Large corporations have embraced the web as a new method to promote and communicate fast and easily with their clients and employees; and now that the quality of video on the web is better than ever they are spending small fortunes in using quality videos as a marketing tool.

    Your mistake was in believing that “cheap” was the way to go. We’ve been telling you for years that in the grand scope of marketing and merchandising the cost of producing a quality video is a drop in a bucket. Over and over has been proven, with studies, that cheaply produced videos will have an adverse effect on the marketing potential of a product or service. Business people know that you need quality to sale a products and there’s no such thing as cheap quality.

    Those small companies that you were going after and who could never afford videos before the web still can not afford videos, no matter how cheap it is.

    For the video creators there’s no money to be made in cheap; companies will always find somebody that can do it cheaper. Look at Craiglist, people are willing to work for nothing just to get some demos and experience. A company who doesn’t want to spend any money can have an unlimited supply of videographers willing to work for nothing for years to come.

    For the small businesses like the mama and papa pizza place that you said will be the main source of revenue for CJs and VJs, the web has turned out to be a real pain in the rear and an additional expense that many could very well do without it. We are in a transitional period. Small businesses still must be listed in the older and traditional venues like yellow pages and newspaper ads, now add the “must be on the web” costs and these poor people are spending more money than ever without getting any significant increase in return.

    Trained and skilled veterans did not go out of business like you predicted; most if not all are experiencing the biggest increase in business that they have seen in their career. This is not gut feeling, this is the happening truth.

  3. i think you got something terribly wrong with the building of cathedrals part of your article. i doubt that many who had a chance to decide worked for those buildings to find or gain salvation. the places were for many the only employment where they could earn money supporting their family or repay catholic church invented debts. maybe it is a different story with the first blogger by the name of luther who translated the bible. anyhow whenever the church is mentioned in whichever text alarm signals start flashing with me and
    rightly so it seems

  4. Dear Fosca
    Let me recommend a wonderful book on this by William Manchester entitled: A World Lit Only by Fire.
    I think you will enjoy it.

  5. Well said. It’s said that people will pay a character from Jersey Shore $15,000 to come to their party, rather than paying someone to add substance to their event. I suppose the need for salvation doesn’t come until faced with tragedy.

  6. Simply put: that was a time before MARKETING really took off (or before it was used by groups other than religious bodies). The world is a different place since marketers came in and told us we need all this STUFF to be happy.

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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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