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The Future of Making Money Online: Part 2

28 September 2010 14 Comments

If you read part 1 in this series, you read about the Wired article entitled “The Web is Dead” and some of my reactions from it.  In this article, I’m going to go over some big picture take-aways and trends that will impact all types of online businesses.

Trend #1 – A Shift Away From Search

Search has peaked in my opinion.  Search was the most important part of the first phase of the internet.  The internet brought more information at a single person’s fingertips than ever before in the history of the world.  The problem was searching and sorting through all that information.  Therefore, search solved the problem.

Again, search has peaked.  Now that people are used to the fact that we have all this information via the web, they are somewhat less fascinated with it and less interested in discovering it.  A quote from the Wired article:

But the Web is now 18 years old. It has reached adulthood. An entire generation has grown up in front of a browser. The exploration of a new world has turned into business as usual. We get the Web. It’s part of our life. And we just want to use the services that make our life better. Our appetite for discovery slows as our familiarity with the status quo grows.

Interesting, no?  That is the first cause in the shift away from search.

The next factor is our society is increasingly becoming more of a headline culture and more A.D.D.-like.  Americans are hardly read anything anymore.  Instead, they prefer headlines.  If a headline entices you, you might read half of an article or column, but rarely the entire thing.  This correlates perfectly with the rise of the tweet.  Short, instant information.  Not searching for information.  We like headlines and we like them thrown our way without having to exert any effort in finding them…. which leads us to the third factor.

The third cause in the shift away from search is the desire to have things found for us.  We don’t really want to go on a search of information anymore.  Instead, we want someone to find it for us and deliver it to us without us having to think, get up, open our eyes, etc.  And we want it now.  Enter apps.  The trend toward apps is simultaneously a trend away from search.  We download apps because it gives us information automatically instead of us going out to find it.

The following quote illustrates what I’m talking about:

Openness is a wonderful thing in the nonmonetary economy of peer production. But eventually our tolerance for the delirious chaos of infinite competition finds its limits. Much as we love freedom and choice, we also love things that just work, reliably and seamlessly. And if we have to pay for what we love, well, that increasingly seems OK.

Blame human nature. As much as we intellectually appreciate openness, at the end of the day we favor the easiest path. We’ll pay for convenience and reliability, which is why iTunes can sell songs for 99 cents despite the fact that they are out there, somewhere, in some form, for free. When you are young, you have more time than money, and LimeWire is worth the hassle. As you get older, you have more money than time. The iTunes toll is a small price to pay for the simplicity of just getting what you want.

The last and fourth factor contributing to a shift away from search is the growing “walled off” parts of the web.  The greatest example of this is Facebook.  Facebook has an insane amount of data and none of it is indexed via google (and other engines) and therefore, isn’t searchable outside Facebook.

The shift away from search has already begun and will probably intensify as new technologies are created, as the internet evolves into more forms in addition to forms such as the web, apps, email, etc.

For those of us looking to make money on the web, it will be important to understand this trend regarding search.  Search engines will not go away, but they might evolve, and the amount of internet usage that is dependent on search might decrease.  Your strategy should take this into account when planning long-term viability on the web.  If you need tips or ideas on how to plan for this shift, leave some comments, and let’s get a discussion going.

Trend #2 – The noncommercial aspect of the web is growing very fast

While the quality of traffic might be diminishing due to the quality of content diminishing on the web (a topic I briefly touched in part 1), the noncommercial parts of the web are thriving.  More people than ever before are using the web for expression and other user-generated content.  Whether it’s Facebook, twitter or a blog, zillions of people are pumping out constant noncommercial data.

The web is becoming less about selling goods and more about connecting and expression.  The following quote helps to explain this idea:

Ecommerce continues to thrive on the Web, and no company is going to shut its Web site as an information resource. More important, the great virtue of today’s Web is that so much of it is noncommercial. The wide-open Web of peer production, the so-called generative Web where everyone is free to create what they want, continues to thrive, driven by the nonmonetary incentives of expression, attention, reputation, and the like. But the notion of the Web as the ultimate marketplace for digital delivery is now in doubt.


The overall theme of this series is that the web is changing, and therefore, the players that make money on the web, must acknowledge the trends or they might find themselves out of business.

In this article, we discussed two trends that are very interesting and very important for any of us looking to connect with users and make a dime off of them.

In the next part, we’ll turn specifically to blogging and what it means for bloggers looking to gain an audience and monetize that audience.

Any thoughts or reactions to this?  I look forward to your comments.


  • mybestfunds.com said:

    I totally agree with these themes, especially regarding search. With more and more information and information outlets available, it is exceedingly difficult to find quality content at times. I've seen the role of curator emerge lately. Themed sites that search the web and aggregate the best of the best are sites I use more often. Also, new search technologies that start answering natural language questions will be used more in the future. Love your site. Keep up the great work!

  • Tom said:

    Very interesting article. I wanted to respond to your claim that "walledness" is the future of the web. Yes, a few companies have been successful in this approach but they mainly produce content that isn't available elsewhere (e.g., WSJ–there really is no good non corporate alternative for business news). Attempts to make paywalls have been tried time again and have, and will continue to fail. Facebook, for example, has recently become much more open with the new default settings making most peoples' pages public (and indexed). Can you provide any evidence that this new attempt at making paywalls will be successful?

  • 20smoney said:


    I didn't say it will be successful, I said it's growing.. most of the Facebook content is non-indexed. Also even if its not walled-off, some data is just not really searchable in ways websites have in the past. For example, twitter is technically indexed, but most results from twitter when searching don't really make sense.

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