Scott Karp is at it again, and I would have blogged about this sooner, but it took a few iterations before I got my head around what he’s up to this time. Karp, as you may recall, is the bright light behind the Publishing 2.0 blog, a high-bar standard in professional blogging. Over the past 18 months, his blog has been as quiet as the grave as Karp worked on a new venture, Publish2, a journalist-driven news solution of some sort.
Now, Publish2 has unveiled its first big play — a news content bartering system intended to make major online news sources capable of achieving scale, to let a network of news providers compete with syndication monopolies like the Associated Press and others, and to allow trusted brands to leverage quality content across media, including print.
Karp’s premise is that there is a latent “content graph,” analogous to the social graph being leveraged by Facebook and Twitter. The social graph was defined by Brad Fitzpatrick as “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related.” The content graph seems more purposeful — a mapping of the content exchanges that are now possible in a networked world:
The Content Graph defines content quality for newer brands by mapping how their content is distributed by established brands. And it further defines the quality of established brands by mapping how they distribute newer content sources.
News organizations using Publish2 can share content without paying a middleman for each piece, essentially bartering content over time. So, AOL’s finance stories can show up in participating print publications, sourced just like an Associated Press story would have been, but building AOL’s brand for finance information while providing current, high-quality content for a print newspaper at no cost. Likewise, AOL can use content from traditional news publishers, branded similarly, building the brand for the legacy provider with a broad online audience.
In the short-term, direct revenue generation isn’t the goal — it’s saving the fees the Associated Press levies on commodity news while building brands. In addition, the Publish2 network hopes to provide a more dynamic ecosystem of content for news organizations, so that news actually becomes less commoditized as more unique coverage is made available to editors.
Publish2′s timing may be auspicious — we may be about to see a flood of contextual online advertising. Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley recently released a mid-year survey of the Internet business space, and it’s clear that soon online will be the dominant media source for users. Nevertheless, advertising is lagging well behind time spent and user behavior, both in the amount being purchased and, more excruciatingly, in the cost per thousand (CPM). For instance, online ads are selling for the lowest CPM of any form of advertising surveyed, including standard billboards (yes, the kind you see roadside).
Demand Media and others are building targeted content repositories in hopes of taking advantage of the projected deluge of advertising revenues that will come as print evaporates.
But Publish2′s model is, to me, more interesting than most. It allows print-centric publishers entree into the online space, lets good content be placed and reused without focusing on legacy agreements, and moves the game forward in an important way.
News will still struggle in the modern era, but perhaps with exchanges like Publish2 and other networked solutions, it will finally find a lucrative way to thrive in the online world.