Content vs. service

We have to explain to people, some of them seasoned Internet veterans, that the net is composed mainly of service and content sites.

The two may coexist under one roof. Yahoo offers both, for example. So do all the failed portals, really. Checking your mail and zapping your friend an instant message are both services. Looking at a photo album or reading a news story revolves around content.

Pretty simple, this. Simple truths, however, are the ones that elude the marketing types who continue their very successful quest to overthrow the existing Internet.

Now eBay intends to sell ads and spam its members. Many of you will have read Doc Searls’ condemnation of this folly. We wish to cast another gloss on his analysis.

EBay was conceived and has grown entirely as a marketplace, not as a medium. [...] The the fact that eBay’sconsituency is huge... doesn’t make that contituency an “audience.” [...]The advertising business, which includes the commercial media, don’t want to face the fact that their “audiences” would never pay for advertising’s goods. Even the term “audience” is a delusional metaphorical conceit. Book a theater to show nothing but advertising and see who shows up, even if it’s free.

(Actually, travelling compilations of TV commercials do attract cinema audiences. God knows why.)

Anyway, we think Searls’ analysis is much more simply expressed as: eBay is a service site. People don’t like it when you get in the way of their services. (Like butting in line.) People do tolerate advertising in a content site (though usually the ads are ignored).

We admit, though, that Searls’ terminology works better for the marketing types, who rely more heavily on jargon than rocket scientists.

Posted on 2000-10-18