When I wrote that there's no money in content creation, I meant two distinct concepts:
(1) organizations and businesses are not prepared to value quality over quantity with content and pay accordingly, maybe they never will;
(2) content creators who are trying to make a living from their work need to think about how they develop and execute their plan.
I started creating social content more than ten years ago. If you scroll down in my bio page, and are interested, you will find more detail about why, what, how, and where. That was in addition to my day job, where I also produced and published content.
Eventually, the two merged.
Evolution on the Web
On the World Wide Web, developers, coders, and tech people followed a two-tracked approach: earning a living with a day job, and joining in the passion of open source creation.
Open source refers to opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities [source: Wikipedia]. Notable in this model is the fact that it gave rise to peer production by bartering and collaboration.
The recession, and the need to make every dollar spent count, probably accelerated a process that was already underway -- that of the maturity of the other layer on the Web, namely the content.
Collaboration with content gave rise to Web portals, curated experiences, and new online publications. In these experiences, content producers initially traded exposure with publishers for free. In turn, publishers looked to attract many diverse voices and make money through ads and subscription-based services.
True value of content is realized when there is a direct -- monetary or otherwise -- return on your work.
Realizing value with content
What are the options?
Write content for free in exchange for visibility. Publications like Fast Company and MarketingProfs: Daily Fix always required free original content from blog contributors. I contributed to both for a couple of years and several months, respectively.
Other publications encouraged syndicating blogs though their sites initially, for example Social Media Today, where I had an agreement the site would publish only some of my posts, then evolved to requiring first dibs on fresh content for site ranking reasons.
You could run ads on your site or join affiliate programs. I joined the Amazon affiliate program because I love books, and it supports my shipping costs. I also chose to support the Unconventional Guides [affiliate link] products for entrepreneurs by Chris Guillebeau because his work aligns with my core values. Both don't even cover expenses, never mind the research and effort that go into content.
Another option is to freelance for publications -- get paid to write articles and posts. I did that at The Blog Herald in the early days, and treated that content with the utmost care and usefulness for readers. That, too won't pay your bills.
Should you be trading content for visibility, ads or affiliate programs, free lance opportunities? It's up to you to decide.
Business has always been social
This is something I kind of take for granted, maybe because I come from the land of conversation. Or perhaps it was the nature of my upbringing -- our identity is shaped by many sources of influence, from heritage, to interactions and needs. Business has always been social.
Digital media make it easier to start, not necessarily to get rich on it. I'm for building my own content-driven platform because I care about building a community. While I continue to give back to my community with posts like this one, comments, Twitter chats, curating and connecting information on other networks, I agree to do so for free only on this site.
To me content is like food for the mind, a system that helps ideas and people get together and be social. I transferred this concept directly from the way I thought of meals back in Italy -- as opportunities to get together with friends and family.
Business is also an activity you conduct with others, and indeed there is a whole system we call economy to support that. Which is where the money part comes in. Peter Kim broke down the several kinds of monetary opportunities in a recent post that delineates trends with social.
According to the post, I'm in the public community organizers bucket, still social and linking out a lot. I was a member of two out of the three gated communities he lists.
However, being generous doesn't exclude capturing value from what you create. My system integrates paid engagements and products with the occasional free and voluntary community support activity.
How do you get there? You need to have vision about what makes your work valuable, a personal plan against which to execute, situational flexibility, persistence, resilience, and luck in finding a white space early.
Part of it may be to work with a team that is changing the world, for example. This is not just a solo thing.
What do you find hardest in valuing your contribution? Do you have a plan and an exit strategy? Are you looking at white space or chasing winning models?