Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Value of Online Content

So you ‘Goole’ your company to find that Google has indexed 200,000 pages that have a reference to it.

These references have a value. Some are pages on your web site; others will be orphaned pages, some are pages that reference your organisation because you have a commercial link arrangement. Some are references in newspapers and magazines that have written about the organisation because of PR or other newsworthy activities and some will be blog post, LinkedIn references, information sharing sites, YouTube videos, Twitter mentions, social network reference and there will be a lot of others too.

Some of these references will link back to your organisation’s websites/s and many will be a mention in passing.

Individually and collectively, all these mentions have a value. They are assets even though they do not appear on the balance sheet. Without them, your organisations will be invisible to most people who want to know about your organisation and others that do have such links will have a competitive advantage.

The problem we have is finding out what this asset is worth.

Worth can only be established at a time of transaction between a willing seller and a willing buyer and as most online references are not monetary by nature we face a problem in valuation.

The big problem is in knowing the nature of the currency.

A mention of an organisation in a blog post or a visible sign in the background of a Flickr photo provide brand presence but may not have any intent to offer value (monetary or otherwise) by the publisher or, conversely, the intention may be absolutely commercial in intent.

In PR, we have always had a problem of converting such intangibles into monetary values. It is why some practitioners use Advertising Values, a very rough and ready (and mostly misleading) transmogrification from one set of values into another in an attempt to find a common monetary currency.

Online there are a number of transactions that have monetary value. For example, we know the cost of advertising on the web pages of newspapers. There is the value of Pay Per Click advertising which is well established as well. The price of banners and other commercial online devices are pretty easy to ascertain.

However, they have the same problem that editorial in newspapers have. They apply to advertising and only in a tiny fraction of web sites and internet channels.

 It would seem that the problem we have in identifying the value of online assets is pretty complicated.

 Working with my friend Girish Lakshminarayana  I have been looking at ways we can approach this problem and over the next few months hope to find currencies and a means of developing currency conversion that will allow us to offer robust metrics.

It will not be easy but there are some ideas that we have that make me think this is doable.

In the meantime, we will also be looking for examples of expression of relationship and the currencies that apply.

If there is PhD student out there who would like to join the fun, let me know.