The Economics of Content

The Economics of Content

I was looking around for a graphic of the aol running man icon when I came upon one of those pop-under ads for Smiley Central, which provides “thousands of free icons” for use in your online communications: IM, email, etc. The catch is that you install their toolbar, which “Isn’t spyware…trust us! By clicking this button you agree that…”

Regardless of that dubious proposition, I was impressed by the slickness of the artwork. Was it was the work of a single artist or illustration group, making their own fortune and glory? Or was it the work of corporate profiteers, luring unsuspecting people into demographic slavery with the promise of “free” eye-candy?

There was no information on the Smiley Central website itself, but a google search revealed a listing on from the Ask Jeeves people, seeking a marketing manager for their “business applications business unit”. So I’m guessing it’s all art-directed in a department wherever Ask Jeeves is located. Oh well. But now my attention turned to itself…what was this?

As usual, I’m late to the party…this site has been around for a long time. This Wired News 2003 interview with the site’s creator, Rafat Ali is an interesting read. Apparently everyone knows about this guy except me :-)

A journalist tired of working for the man, Ali started up his blog in 1999 and started reporting on the deals and behind-the-scenes goings-on of Digital Media: The Business. I found the site quite eye-opening. The site crackles with the energy of businesses, dealmaking, and markets in a way that your typical “CNet”-level feed just doesn’t capture. This site appears to provide actual information, not reportery fluffiness. I like it.

I usually see Digital Media from the perspective of the small-time (or as we like to say: independent) content creator, which is driven by love and passion for the craft, especially as it impacts individuals. But at some point, if you want to make a living from it, you’ve got to start considering, to again paraphrase Paid Content’s byline, the economics of what you do; are you a provider or a distributor or are you both?


  1. Ben Loh 19 years ago

    Slightly off topic, but I was recently made aware of a story in which a certain other software developer made use of an AOL-like running man icon leading to a rather intimidating legal document appearing at his doorstep.


  2. Dave 19 years ago

    Hey Ben,

    Got a link to the story?

  3. Ben Loh 19 years ago

    This was relayed in a story at the “Evening at the Adler” event, a pretty cool gathering of Mac developers, which is now available on video.  I can’t remember exactly when during the evening it came up, but the video is worth watching.  The story was told by Eric Peyton, the original developer of Fire, the Mac all-chat client.

    Of course, AOL may have been on his ass because he was creating a competitor to AIM, but you have to keep them lawyers busy or they get into trouble…