Social networks and the profit motive

The Blog Herald had an interesting review called Diggs for sale in organized fashion

User/Submitter is a new service that connects publishers with diggers. Have a story? Then hand over the cash and User/Submitters’ dig users will digg it for you – and you might even end up on the frontpage of Digg. That’s serious stuff, The Blog Herald knows that.

Publishers get to pay $20 and an additional $1 per dig, and digg users can get paid $0.50 for every 5 stories they digg. It seems real enough but I don’t really know, we’ll find out soon I’d reckon since the blogosphere tends to flush out the frauds.

Similarly there was another startup called PayPerPost profiled at TechCrunch.

The service is a marketplace for advertisers to pay bloggers to write about products for a fee. Commenters to our original post were polarized into those violently for and those againt the product. The key area of controversy is the fact that advertisers can mandate that posts be positive on the product, and disclosure of payment is optional for the blogger (screen shot at end of post shows sample available writing opportunities).

The main issue here is how can we incorporate the profit motive in the social networks? If a social network becomes useful enough, somebody will try to make money from it. Take comment spam as an example…No sooner did the blogs gain some popularity, spammers were creating splogs and comment spam to make money from them. So what can be done about it?

I think the answer is not a whole lot can be done to completely eliminate people from trying to make money from social networks. The issue is that in physical communities, in all interactions, users have to identify themselves. In online communities, it’s easier for users to participate without the constraint of location or without even identifying themselves. The communities pay for this ease of use and participation in terms of enabling various profit driven actors. There are still a few simple things that can be done with the design of the communities to be more effective in handling profit driven participants:

  • Community oriented monitoring of content
  • Incentivize positive participation
  • Penalize negative participation

This is not going to eliminate the profit motive from the social networks but it will help communities be more effective dealing with the issue. Slashdot did all these things and as a result is a whole lot more spam-proof than Digg. Also as expected, Slashdot pays a price for its sophisticated community design, in terms of more sophisticated user interaction model that reduces ease of use.

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8 thoughts on “Social networks and the profit motive

  1. Jitendra:

    That’s a great point! I think Digg could make changes to the design to reduce the effectiveness of gaming networks and level the playing field for new submitters. Do you think services like SpikeTheVote might actually force these changes? I expand on this theme in my blog post here.

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