People are beginning to make the distinction between content and services.

AtNewYork has a good article from the Jupiter Online Media Conference that says, “Forget Content, the Money’s in Services“:

  • Vindigo has moved from providing free information to selling information services to PDA users. They don’t create the information, but their subscribers pay to use it on their PDA’s. Vindigo is adding value through aggregation, software, and distribution.
  • Homestead has moved from ad-supported web site creation, to selling hosting and site-building tools. A lot of folks are in the hosting business, and their software keeps them from being a commodity.
  • Yahoo, of course, is depending on selling services like email, hosting, and personals for its future. It’s content revenue strean (e.g. Yahoo Platinum) is unproven.
  • PlanetOut tried and failed to make money with premium content. But now, most of their revenue comes from personals.
  • Weather.com plans to sell a “Weather Geek Tool” for weather freaks.

Making the distinction between services and content is a critical strategic skill for online publishers. The Online Publishers Association and Jupiter both include such services as personals and greeting cards in their definition of content.

This is not simply a matter of semantics, because there is a proven market for selling online services, but very little market for online content. Making money from online content may require rethinking it as a service. Turning content into a service requires more than a subscription charge. It means predictably and reliably solving real problems for your subscribers.