Q&A about paying users for doing work.

Just did an email interview about paying users for doing.. ummm… work (I can’t believe that paying people to do work is such a big deal to people).

Thought I would share it.

> Have you already started paying people? How many and from what sites are
> you pulling them away?

We have hired around 10 folks, and about half are from sites like Delicious, DIGG, Reddit, and Newsvine. Their first paid month will be August.

> You wrote that “the concept of ‘free’ content producers…is going to be
> a short-lived joke.” This is the idea that is most interesting to me –
> whether this is a larger trend that is going to keep growing. I was
> hoping you could elaborate on why you think this is the direction the
> Web will take…

On most community sites the top 1% of the users do a large percentage of the page views. These members are the ones who will get paid for their services, and the sites that don’t compensate them will lose them. There is a limited number of people to drive these sites, and new sites are being launched daily. Right now we’re in a marketplace where there are 30 bars on every block, and that’s not sustainable.

> A lot of Web 2.0 companies are still struggling to monetize their sites
> – isn’t paying contributors going to be tough when they’re also figuring
> out how to score advertising, etc.?

Yes, it’s going to be very hard–as it should be! Darwin is coming to Web 2.0 and it’s not going to be pretty.

Web 2.0 companies have gotten away without profits for the past couple of years and 2/3rds of these companies will be closed in the next 18 months. We have a bubble right now, not a financial bubble like the last time, but a bubble of the number of companies. The market simply doesn’t need 750 photo sharing sites, 400 social networks, and 600 social news sites. Luckily these sites don’t have a 100 people working for them, so when they shutter they won’t leave people without jobs or huge empty office spaces (not to mention plummeting stock prices). So, the bubble will burst, but it won’t hit people’s pocketbooks this time–which is a good thing.

> A lot of folks have said that offering to pay Digg contributors is akin
> to admitting that you have an inferior product. Thoughts on that?

That makes no sense. There are paid firefighters and there are volunteer firefighters, and they both do an amazing job. The people who say it is a sign of the weakness are the people who are threatened by the concept. People have been getting a free ride and they are very upset that someone has dared to upset that balance. However, I’ve been down this road before. When my partner Brian and I launched Weblogs, Inc. and started paying people we were hated for about six weeks. Then everyone loved us for sharing the wealth.

Kevin Rose will make tens of millions of dollars when DIGG sells and his top 50 users will make nothing–how is that fair if those top 50 users are responsible for 1/3rd of the content on the site?

> Also, did you see the guy who’s auctioning off his Digg account on eBay?
> I was curious what you think about that.

Not surprising, but slimy. I’m sure a marketing or PR firm will buy it and DIGG will cancel the account. Selling reputation and identity is not looked at well by communities–sort of like buying your way into political office… oh wait. 🙂

best j

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