Saturday, June 2, 2007

Different content models on the Internet

There are 3 major content models on the Internet:
1. Pure-play content
2. Pure-play platform/community
3. Hybrid

On one extreme, you have the pure-play content sites. These include websites such as "," "," etc. These are destination sites that own proprietary content--the content is the main reason why people visit the site. Product functionality is secondary to the content. The website has enough functionality to meet the minimum acceptable standards, but is not known for product innovation.

On the other extreme, you have the pure-play platform/community sites. These are applications that enable users to find content in some way. For example, Google (pure-play platform) lets you search the web to find the content that you're looking for. Stumbleupon lets you discover new content through its community rating of websites and videos. Digg also lets you discover (news, video) content by its community of users that scours the web and then filters the most interesting stuff for you. These sites are all about their platforms and their communities. They don't typically own any proprietary content, but they piggyback on the good content that's already available out there on the web.

In the middle are websites that are in between pure-play content and platform/community sites. Youtube, MySpace and Flickr sit here. These sites own rich proprietary content (typically in the form of UGC), but also innovated to create compelling new product features. Their products, in addition to their content, are an integral part of the consumer experience. They built significant communities around their content.

Many of the pure-play platform/community sites also own content, but it's typically in the form of metadata (comments, votes, etc.) rather than rich, original content.

Of course, very few websites are on the extreme of pure-play content or pure-play platform/community. But it's interesting to use as a framework to think about how sites differ along these extremes.

Aside from content models, there are other models for the Internet, most notably e-commerce/marketplaces (e.g. EBay, Amazon, PayPal, Craigslist), communication (Hotmail, Gmail, AIM), infrastructure/tools (Photobucket, Rapidshare, Mapquest). It's possible that some sites (e.g. Yahoo) combine several different models under the "portal" umbrella.

If you look at the top 30 US sites on Alexa, you can make the following observations:
  • No standalone communication businesses (all absorbed by portals, part of social networks); communication businesses are among the highest-trafficked properties on the web, though not necessarily as monetizable as search; as such, they are "loss-leaders" for the portals/social networks
  • No pure-play content sites in the top 15 (CNN is the highest at #16)
  • No infrastructure/tool sites in the top 15 (Megaupload is highest at #19)
  • Of the top 10, 4 are pure-play platform/communities (Yahoo, Google, MSN, Windows Live); 4 are hybrids (MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia); and 2 are e-commerce/ marketplaces (Ebay, Craigslist)

The results are not really surprising. The sites that are the most trafficked are the ones that leverage the power of the Internet. It is interesting, though, that none of the top 15 sites are pure-play content sites.

The type of content sites that do make it into the top 30: news (CNN, NYTimes), weather (, movies (IMDB)

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