Non-financial motivation

by greg on August 2, 2006

I’ve been mulling over motivation in the wake of Jason Calacanis’ $1,000 per month offer to top Digg users – old news now, but it takes me a while to process things. Like David Lewis, I thought the move was razor-sharp. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with companies that set up a framework for ‘user-generated content’ and then proceed to take 100% of the value those users create. If people are adding value, those people should have a chance to get paid.

It doesn’t surprise me that three of the top twenty Digg users have indeed taken Jason up on his offer, as well as a smattering of top users from other social news sites. Cash is a great motivator. But why just three of twenty? Kevin Rose of Digg suggests non-financial motivations, claiming that “users like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and Flickr because they are contributing to true, free, democratic social platforms devoid of monetary motivations.” This is a little too high-minded for me to believe, and doesn’t jive with the top-heavy way Digg’s contributions are distributed – according to DuggTrends, 66% of front-page stories come from the top 100 users. Instead, I’d argue that for Digg’s active user base, a rank on Digg’s Top Users page is a clear positional good – unable to be mass produced or bought, the value of one’s position on the Top Users page lies in its relation to others. Anyone can go get a job and earn some money, but there’s only thirty spots on digg.com/topusers.

If, as Calacanis put it, “Darwin is coming to Web 2.0,” positional goods like Digg’s leaderboard just might be the mutation your cash-strapped zero-revenue startup needs in the fight against AOL’s deep pockets. You really should be paying your users for the value they create, but if that value is still an acquisition or advertiser base down the road, keep in mind that for many, being cool or prominent trumps being paid — and design your product with those users in mind.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

john demayo August 3, 2006 at 10:04 am

best guess make it $5k per month and half of the top 20. i’d be interested to see price/supply curve here ;)

Peter Caputa August 10, 2006 at 5:54 pm

Agree w/ John. If people could make a living submitting links, there’d be more people jumping ship. Even $2500-3k/month would get your average stay at home parent or recent college grad hooked.

I reread your post. You are right. The reason people must submit to Digg is because being a top contributor gets them something in return. There’s very few people that contribute to communities just because they want to give. That’s a load of huey. The recognition. The traffic. The ego trip. There’s got to be other reasons.

I bet it wouldn’t be too hard to survey these people. Or the DIGG community as a whole.

I recently saw a service that lets people submit to Digg and Reddit at the same time. I wonder if Jason locks up the paid Netscape contributors in non competes like he did at weblogsinc? I can’t imagine it’d make sense to do that. But, what’s to stop someone from submitting to multiple services and getting paid at them all?

Does Netscape have the community of voters and lurkers? Getting the contributors is obviously the first part of the battle. But, the rest is pretty key too.

Greg Yardley August 10, 2006 at 7:54 pm

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Jason Calacanis had the paid contributors to Netscape sign non-competes. Makes total sense to me.

Peter Caputa August 11, 2006 at 12:19 am

Here’s that bookmarklet that submits to all the sites.

niblettes August 15, 2006 at 5:41 am

Isn’t this what Squidoo is doing, paying people for content? And how about the old miningco/about.com? didn’t they offer some form of compensation to their contributors? And where are they in comparison to Digg (for example) in terms of helping consumers get to the information they want to consume?

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