This is the topic of the panel I am developing for ClickZ Weblog Business Conference on June 9-10 in Boston. I posted some related issues on Online News list and our columnist Robert Spears responded to it on the list. I am reposting his thoughts (with his permission) below:
I am in favor of professional producers of original content and empathize with all of the costs and hard work it entails. However, as long as original producers permit their output to be freely contextually linked and refined by others, they will remain economically short-changed for their efforts.
Online is largely about efficiency and relevance. Consumer addiction to efficiency is likely to eliminate a lot of brand loyalty to single-source providers. With thousands of professional-grade producers supplying free raw materials for aggregators and bloggers for further refinement, publishers are ceding huge amounts of efficiency and loyalty in exchange for little compensation (e.g. banner impressions, big deal).
The missing link (literally and figuratively) is the establishment of strategic linking relationships that give somewhat exclusive linking rights to vertical blogs and aggregation sites, in exchange for some form of financial compensation. Yes, this again involves the dreaded deep-linking issue. In any case, Google knows that it is not worthwhile to produce content. They understand that contextual aggregation that relies on thousands of sucker suppliers is a better place in which to compete.
In response to the feelings of pride that publishers feel about their unique production, the marketplace will respond with utter indifference: “Who cares? We just want our information tailored to our needs, taken from as many quality sources as possible”. They will only start to care when valuable content and services of more than a few properties are suddenly not so ubiquitously available.