Sustaining Open Content

The Instructional Technology conference has been great thus far. 
I usually measure great based on the food.  We at at Hamilton’s
last night.  Great food.  Great conference.  There is
still more to come so I am sure things will get better. 
Sustainability – how do we keep paying for this stuff – is a reaccuring
theme.  Some of the debate includes a belief that in order to
sustain the open content movement some of the content needs to be left
unopen at least for some time money will be generated via selling that
content.  This is a dangerous idea that has already failed many
times in the private sector.  The last of the for fee websites are
failing as we speak.  Many of the news outlets that previously
attempted to charge for access have given up the model. 
Why?  At the foundation of the internet is the idea of sharing
information. 

Websites are rewarded not on how much they can charge for their
content, but rather on how quickly they can generate new content and
how quickly they can give it away.  This seems counterintuitive,
but there is a new currency on the Internet.  It is that of search
engine ranking and popularity.  The more high quality content a
website possess and shares the higher it will rank.  That rank, in
turn generates income.  To prove this point go read any of the
webmaster forums dedicated to search engine rankings and you will find
that content is the solution to the rank problem.  Why does
content help?  Search engines love to find content on a website –
after all the purpose of the search engine is to help its users find
quality, relevant content.  In addition, there is a more important
result that comes from adding and sharing high quality content. 
People link to it.  Currently there is a grey market in selling
links.  The higher your Google page rank the more money you can
charge for the link.  Some fetch as high as $100.00 per month or
more.  Shared, high quality content results in lots of free,
incoming links.  In the Internet ecomony your financial viablity
depends on your popularity which directly depends on how much you give
away for free.  It is to your advantage to share.

How does this result in a sustainable model for open content?  The
open content movement has lots of you guess it, content.  The
internet is full of small websites looking for high quality, relevant
content.  Combine the two and you have an engine for
sustainability.  Website owners would pay for the content to be
created and then host it in perpetutity.  It is to their advantage
to release that content under Creative Commons since others could then
remix that content while giving attribution (free links) to those who
original paid for that content.  Put this solution into one
website, under the banner of Open Content – a marketplace for content
generation – and you have a place where individuals can offer to create
content while website owners have a simple place to offer to pay for
it.  Let the Open Content market place then index all of the
content that is sent out to websites all over the world.  The
website owners paying for the content will love the extra link while
those searching for learning resources will be able to easily find them
despite the fact that they are distributed over many sites.

Just a thought

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