Recently, one Write W.A.V.E. Media contributor by the name of Amelia Lockhart dared to suggest that we should think of content as an investment. Each piece of content, she says, should be thought of as a penny stock. The overall crux of the article was to change our perspective on content in a more abstract way, but there’s something more to be learned here. What is content truly worth? What would content look like as a stock as part of a website’s greater worth?
I’ve decided to use one of my favorite content websites as an example. MLB Trade Rumors is a blog that I have followed since nearly its inception. In the past 9 years, it has become one of the go-to sources for Major League Baseball news. So what’s it worth?
For the exercise, I am using siteprice.org - which seems to be the best tool for analyzing a website’s market value.
The site visibility section includes Google pagerank and how many pages on that domain are currently indexed by Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Obviously, the more pages you have, the better. The Pagerank shows how much Google “likes” your site, also the higher, the better. A low pagerank suggests that Google’s algorithms aren’t especially fond of your site for whatever reason. This is not the end of the world, but that’s a whole different article.
The other big things here are Alexa Rank and Website Speed. Alexa is known as the best website tracking tool in the world. It's responsible for the traffic estimates for most, if not all, website worth valuations. In this case, it’s the lower, the better. Also, website speed is important, too. Since MLB Trade Rumors likes to display all its current posts on the main page, this can slow it down. I’ve never found it particularly slow, but from a machine’s point of view it is.
The backlinks section seems odd. The tracker couldn’t detect Google’s backlinks and Yahoo and Bing have an oddly small number. I’ll go with Alexa’s number of 1,282 here. Backlinks to your site are obviously a good thing if they’re from legitimate places. If I were MLB Trade Rumors, though, I’d find out why those other backlinks are so low. It’s probably hurting the valuation a bit here, as I’m sure that total external backlinks number can’t be 0.
Of course, why do these websites exist? They make revenue! Alexa estimates have MLB Trade Rumors receiving about 100,000 unique visitors a day, with almost 150,000 page views. Again, this is probably only including the homepage, not including the individual posts within the site. Also, the average time on site is almost 4 minutes, which is very good. People are almost always stopping to read it.
In this case, siteworth.org is estimating revenue based on having 3 Google AdSense ads on the homepage. I guarantee that this site makes far more than $300 a day in ad revenue. Even so $9,000 a month and $105,000 a year isn’t too shabby. But as the site has more than 3 ads on its homepage, that estimate is extremely conservative.
Siteworth.org also displays the top 10 competitors for a given site. However, the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt as many of them are outdated. While these estimations aren’t perfect, they give you an idea of what a successful site looks like.
What is a Piece of Content Really Worth?
We’ve come to the conclusion that MLB Trade Rumors' net website worth is based upon homepage traffic alone. But it does factor in how large the website is, using metrics such as Google Index. What would MLB Trade Rumors look like if you split it into stocks? Well, let’s go with an average of the Indexes to determine just how many pieces of content are on the site. In this case, that’s 56,900. So we can imagine that MLB Trade Rumors has almost 57,000 “shares” of content on the site. Divide the $344K estimate by 57,000, and you get a “share price” of about $6 USD.
By the metrics of siteworth.org, each article would be worth approximately $6 on average. As I’ve already mentioned, that number is probably extremely conservative. Still, it’s a good baseline, especially considering how niche this content is and how much of it is extremely time-sensitive - being news.
Now while I don’t expect there to be a stock market where websites are selling shares to become a thing anytime soon, this is a good exercise to understand how the market values websites. You can try this exercise with your own websites, and granted your numbers most likely won’t be anywhere near this. What this exercise can really tell you is giving you a market estimate of what your site really can be worth if it’s monetized properly. Also keep in mind that affiliate revenue is not at all estimated in this price due to the uncertain nature of most affiliate programs - their earnings tend to be all over the place and very hard to estimate.
Would a Content Stock Market Work?
The idea of a stock market is for third-parties to invest in an asset in order to potentially reap the rewards later. While I don’t really expect, and wouldn’t necessarily want, content website owners to be selling stock in their properties, the idea is a fascinating thought experiment. Perhaps there could be a program similar to Patreon, which allows fans of content producers to “subscribe” for a monthly fee with various levels of benefits. Content producers could offer “stock” to fans of their website and offer similar “dividends” or benefits to them depending on investment level. It could be a purely virtual thing simply to work as a promotion engine or perhaps even have a real money component to it.
Whatever the case, I firmly believe in content creators retaining their rights to their work as they see fit. I don’t like the idea of trading content sites like public companies so much, however, I do think that to a point it’s fine, especially for niche content creators, to have interested “investors” who help shape the content being created. I think for some people that would really help, as I have seen happen with many content creators, especially YouTubers, on Patreon. Getting feedback from invested consumers seems like an awesome idea, and Patreon is already making that work to a great extent.
All you would need for a program like this to work is an algorithm like siteworth.org to give you an idea of the “market value” of your content. No one is seeing your actual revenue, of course, but having a publicly available number is highly important. There are algorithms you could use for YouTube and other content publishing sites, too. The overall idea here is to give interested investors a chance to support their favorite creators and have a say in what’s done. Of course, the creator doesn’t have to listen necessarily, and therefore gives people free reign to invest and pull out whenever they feel like. There’s real profit to be earned from it, too, though properly managing could make for quite an interesting feat.
Your Content is Your Retirement Plan
I like to think of content you create as an investment in your future. The money that you make from it can make you a living, but if not, you can instead save the money towards a retirement plan. Honestly, the thought experiment surrounding a content stock market is highly provocative to me. However, it’s very important not to lose sight of the fact that owning your own content can be the best long-term investment you can ever make in yourself.
Think about all of the authors and entertainers that can live off of royalties from work that they’ve done in the past. It’s no different for online content providers. Every post you ever make, whether it’s an article, photo, video, or anything else, is an investment in your future. How you decide to monetize that content is up to you. If you can get invested parties willing to give you upfront payment or royalties for the rights to publish your work, and this does actually happen, that’s even better. But I have never been fond of the idea of surrendering your works’ rights - unless, of course, it’s millions of dollars and will change your life forever. For most of us, we’ve been durdling along making pennies a day in AdSense just writing and creating content because we love it. But there’s so much more potential for content, and a lot more money to be made if we realize that our content is far more valuable than that. We have to love and nurture our content, which is what has made big content sites so successful.
If you think of your content as shares in an investment portfolio, whether there is ever a real-life or virtual realization of that idea, you will most likely see that it’s a lot more valuable than you initially might have thought. A website is only worth what you put into it: sweat equity plus a bit of luck.
Food for Discussion
How do you view your content? How much do you think your content is worth? Do you think you could retire on the money invested from your content’s revenue earnings? And do you think that selling “shares” of your content portals is a good or bad idea? I’d love to hear your responses to any and/or all of these questions.