Can You Make Money from Online Content?

Would you pay for a half hour comedy on Youtube? Or a nice fancy photograph gleaned from Flickr? How about donating perhaps a couple of bucks to Wikipedia for using information there?

If you are like most people, the answer would be "no".

In fact, I just heard that Google is still trying to profit from its multi-billion dollar acquisition of Youtube, which is bleeding precious cash flow at the rate of about a million a month.

So how does one monetize content creation online? Advertising and sponsored content? Perhaps if you are like mrbrown who has a huge number of hits. Pay per view, listen or download? Maybe (if iTunes would want to take your creation in the first place).

Maybe you can use it as a pre-publicity channel for a real life, face-to-face concert or live performance that you are doing. In fact, quite a few bands have been doing it, offering music for free on the Net, and creaming it off later through concerts that sell tickets. However, you better be good or else...

These were some of the interesting discussion topics which we spoke about last night at the prelude hosted by Text 100 to the upcoming Singapore Digital Media Festival (or DMFest), organised by the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SITF) from 30th to 31st October 2008. Boasting some of the upcoming and leading names in the digital content creation scene, it focuses on the theme Television 2.0: Internet Services and New Media Mashup.

It was quite an eye-opener for me to view the preview videos, some of which were beautifully rendered using machinima techniques (a production method using computer generated imagery using real-time interactive 3-D engines). I also discovered how Twitter has a video counterpart called Seesmic (started by famous French social media guy Loic Le Meur).

The crunch for me though was this. Should Singapore try to create yet another Search Engine, photo hosting service, online community website, or microblogging platform? Or should we instead invest in improving the quality of our created content?

I believe that the answer is in the latter. Sure we can create yet another application to connect, compile, consolidate or confuse (haha). However, without that flash of inspiration blended with the fine art of storytelling, our media businesses are going to find it difficult to pit themselves against players in the global stage.

We need to teach our guys how to shoot beautiful photographs, pen poetic prose that persuades and moves, and produce movies that can win hearts. We need to also go beyond our fetish for hardware (the latest, greatest, most featured-packed gadget) to understand the fundamentals of what makes a great script, how camera angles can make all the difference, and the difference between good and abysmal acting.

Sure, there are amateurish flashes of brilliance in Youtube. However, they are few and far between. In fact, there is such a thing called the professionally amateurish video (eg Lonely Girl 15) which purports to be done at home, but actually have a complete crew behind it.

What's your take on this? Can we create an internet sensation without yet another Tammy NYP effect?

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