Of the world’s largest 10 companies in 2022, 6 of the 10 are entirely internet-based, not including Apple, which though technically a hardware company – is arguably the main internet gateway.
So let’s just call it 7/10.
While this seems intuitive to us today, this was the stuff of pipe dreams not too long ago. Even at the height of the first dot-com bubble in 2000 (when the internet was “grossly overvalued”), the world’s largest companies were still things like GM, Exxon Mobil, & Walmart.
The point is – it’s safe to say that the world is now a largely digital economy.
This isn’t an economy that’s “replaced” the old one by any means. We actually consume more oil and buy more stuff from Walmart than ever before… but the world’s most valuable commodities are no longer drilled out of the ground.
Instead, they’re stored in a database.
And the most valuable commodity of all in this new digital frontier is Attention, with a capital A.
If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me prattle on about the importance of owned assets (domains & email lists) vs. borrowed ones (social audiences).
It’s not that I “dislike” borrowed audiences – they can be an amazing discovery channel. But if you’re not ultimately harvesting your own Attention assets, you’re building a business that someone else controls.
This will only increase in importance with each passing year as companies like Google & Meta continually ratchet up their targeting capabilities (which also means they can charge more per impression… thereby increasing the overall commodity value of Attention across the internet).
TL;DR: Over the long run, the cost of traffic will just keep rising… but so will the value of traffic for those who own it.
Side Note: If you’re curious about why traffic costs will keep rising in lockstep with ad-tech efficiency, I recently co-wrote an Op Ed for DTC Newsletter that deep-dives into this called: The True Promise of AI For Marketers
You might find it interesting if that’s up your alley.
Mining the world’s most valuable commodity
So if Attention is now the world’s most valuable commodity… what’s the best way to find it, mine it & harvest it?
Well, as someone who’s been building email audiences for nearly 20 years now – I’m sure you can guess my default answer. However, it’s certainly not the only viable “mining model”.
And in fact, today I want to share a conversation I recently had with Jon Dykstra (from the FatStacks blog), who’s had tremendous success by building simple niche content sites that are pretty much entirely monetized with display ads.
He now makes ~ $80K /mo just from simple content websites with display ads.
Fun fact: This is actually one of the very first things I tried online, ages ago (around 2004). Back then, it took loads of traffic to see any kind of traction – and I eventually stumbled onto a different path with affiliate marketing.
But it’s a much more compelling model today. As discussed above, the value of every visitor is simply worth a lot more these days thanks to the ability to display ads based on each visitor’s profile (who they are) vs. just on a contextual basis (where they are).
As an example, I’ll never forget one of our self-serve customers at PosiRank… a “fan fiction” wiki-type site about a popular computer game. The damn thing made over $1.5M /yr just from display ads. Wild.
Anyway, in the video we talk about:
- Why display ads are now one of the most effective ways to monetize any audience
- Why ad-supported sites can make just as much money from “low competition” keywords – and why that’s a huge advantage
- How building traffic works these days, how long it takes, etc
- How to eventually sell these sites for ~4X their annual revenue
- A few insider tactics for massively increasing your avg. revenue per user
Just to name a few highlights.
Check it out here:
In the interview, Jon mentioned his Niche Sites Masterclass.
While this is actually officially closed at the moment on the main FatStacks website, he’s agreed to make an exception for my readers & customers.
So if this is something you feel like pursuing, I highly recommend taking the course.
Here’s the temporary access link.
(If you decide to enroll, please note that The Lazy Marketer receives a commission).
The doors will stay open until Thursday, Aug 18th, at midnight, PST. Then it’s closed for good.
To the larger point – if you’re building any kind of online business, it’s critical that you’re accumulating owned audience assets.
Whether it’s email audiences, domains with organic traffic, or even more exotic assets like NFTs that let you own in-app / in-game real estate, just make sure that at the end of the day, you’re the one in the driver’s seat (and not some giant platform).
More than that, since it’s very likely that the value of Attention will only continue to increase – the sooner you start building these assets, the more they’ll actually be worth over time.
Even if it’s a site about some stupid computer game 😉