A Modest Netscape Proposal Continues

    July 21, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Jason Calacanis has continued to work at justifying his offer to bring in the top bookmarkers from competing sites like Digg by paying them to do their news posting at the updated Netscape instead.

Calacanis has received a measure of criticism and grief over his offer to pay bookmarkers $1,000 per month if they switch from being active on other sites to being active on Netscape.

“To me, the best bookmarkers are what we call editors or cool hunters in the business–trend spotters. They see patterns before they emerge, they find the cool stuff before other people do. They have ever right to get paid for it,” he posted on his personal blog.

He casts the issue as the Web 2.0 crowd and the media elite fearing the commoditization of such content. Instead of $1 or $2 per word rates, people who have been posting content for the pure enjoyment of doing so would accept a lesser rate to keep doing what they were doing anyway.

The outcry from some quarters that Netscape would be stealing from existing sites does not make a lot of sense. If 12 productive posters leave Digg for Netscape, more would fill the gap.

Plus those posters would have to measure the draw of posting for money with a couple of disadvantages: leaving Digg’s massive audience behind, and accounting for those payments for tax purposes. There is no fear quite like The Fear the IRS can deliver in an official envelope.

So Calacanis’ proposal isn’t a slam-dunk, although he had reported on receiving some interest already. Critics of his proposal don’t seem to get the lowest common denominator: Netscape is a business.

Buying talent by luring it away from other companies has been a part of all types of business for a long time. Google and Microsoft battled over Kai-Fu Lee’s employment for several entertaining months in 2005 when Google lured him away.

This goes on all the time. Complaining about the fellow saying, “I’ll pay you tomorrow to do what you’re doing for free today,” isn’t the way to handle the situation.

Calacanis pointed to a post by Nicholas Carr, who identified what has shifted to make the Netscape proposal an inevitable one:

We weren’t yet able to assign a value – in monetary terms – to what these workers were doing; we weren’t even able to draw distinctions between what they were contributing. We couldn’t see the talent for the crowd. Now, though, the amateurs are being sorted according to their individual skills, calculations as to the monetary value of those skills are starting to be made, and a market appears to be taking shape. As buyers and sellers come into this market, we’ll see whether large-scale social media can in fact survive outside the price system, or whether it’s fated to be subsumed into professional media.

Today, Calacanis has a $1,000 per month offer on the table. From there, future offers and the number of sites making those offers should only go up.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.