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The Second Life of Content: The NYT/About Deal

AboutJay Rosen's done a bang-up analysis of the NYTimes/About deal. I'd like to highlight a point he makes about content economics:

"...The second life of content, made possible by search, is of critical importance to journalists whose work is on the Web. (That's almost all journalists.) The very phrase 'on' the Web tells us that things may land on the surface of the network and not get woven into it. These stand a very poor chance of surviving and having a second life, where there are probably more readers available than in the first."

In other words, the purchase of About is going to let the New York Times develop new ways to resell existing content.

This is huge.

I'm reminded of what happened when movie studios really started to understand VHS: the arguments suddenly switched from "are consumers going to prefer recording their TV shows on VHS or Betamax?" to "How quickly can I move my most popular movies onto videotape, and by doing so, make even more money for my shareholders?" It's amazing what kind of value you can unlock once you start asking the right questions.

Microsoft has delivered outstanding returns to its shareholders by finding new ways to repackage the same code, over and over. While some of its efforts never saw commercial success (such as a real-time energy pricing trial with PG&E that I managed back in 1994), this template for success is one I'm glad to see the New York Times emulate.

I'll know the other shoe is about to drop when the New York Times starts to revisit how NYT/About content could be used in custom publishing.


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