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Startups, Innovation and What's Next in New Media: A Report From OpenCoSF

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I had a great time at OpenCoSF last Friday, where I managed to squeeze in six sessions before my feet got tired from walking too many miles, and my brain got tired from too much new information. With more than 2,000 people attending sessions hosted at over 80 different startups, the event was a huge success.

For locals as well as former locals like me, it was a great opportunity to meet some of the people who are innovating around new media models. I go to events like this to stay on top of trends that might help my clients, and to find new ways to leverage my own content. Both interests boil down to studying platforms and revenue, so perhaps the best place to start is with a perennial favorite: monetizing blogs.

Revenue Streams for Original Content

Generating ad-based revenue on blogs has been possible for quite a while, but there has never been a way to monetize blog content that makes sense for everyone. My own attempts to solve the riddle have been mixed, mostly because I don't write about just one thing on just one blog. Over time I have come to realize that building a successful, multi-faceted brand can be done, though it requires more time and effort than staying with one content "vertical." But for bloggers who have strong content in one topic area -- especially those with WordPress.com hosted blogs -- Federated Media is a great choice for ad partnerships.

SAY Media has a slightly different focus here, in that they are looking for content creators with strong voices and distinct viewpoints that might be a good fit for brands that want to reach the same audience. If you think you've got what it takes to build your voice into a larger media brand, definitely check out what they offer.

A couple points to keep in mind if you are thinking of going this route: First, the overarching content categories most likely to succeed are Tech, Lifestyle, and Business. Second, you don't need to have a huge volume of site traffic, but if you have under 100 visits per day you should probably focus on building that up beforehand. Third, keep poking around the digital advertising space, because it is growing rapidly. One of the smaller networks joining the field might be a perfect fit for you.

What's New in Media Platforms

One of the most interesting things to watch is the way tech innovations change how content is delivered. What used to be difficult and expensive -- broadcasting and recording group discussions, for instance -- is now easy and free thanks to Google Hangouts.

Media Camp is an initiative by Turner Broadcasting Company to help nurture and fund promising content delivery startups. I was impressed by the level of autonomy that Media Camp investors give to their funded startups, two of whose CEOs were there pitching their services to the crowd. But mostly I was impressed by the ability of TBC, the Atlanta-based media giant, to keep a relatively hands-off policy toward their iconoclastic San Francisco outpost.

Whether any of these startups prove to be the Next Big Thing in terms of social and digital platform opportunities for Turner or anyone else, going to where the talent is and supporting great ideas is the only way the networks and big media conglomerates are going to be able to move forward with the rest of us.

As I listened to the presentation, I was reminded of a similar conversation going on right now in publishing. Where are the forward-thinking execs of Bertelsmann, Pearson, Lagardère, Holtzbrinck, News Corp. and CBS, who might want to drive the innovations that help their publishing businesses thrive in a rapidly changing industry?

For anyone skilled at reading tea leaves, the inaugural OpenCoSF left a lot of leaves on the table to sort through. This will be an important next few years for independent content creators, as the new tide of media startups begin to change the game once again, making it cheaper, easier, and more fun to share our expertise in an increasingly connected world.

A version of this article was published at Creative Content Coaching.

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