Odlyzko, Andrew. “Content is Not King.” First Monday, Volume 6, number 2, (February 2001). http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue6_2/odlyzko/. Link Accessed: 2003-07-07.

Keywords: broadband, content, adoption, symmetric, open networks


In this work, content refers to materials prepared by professionals, distributed through broadcast systems and consumed by many. The author does not classify e-commerce or information services such as weather, directory assistance or scheduling services as content.

Bottom line; content is king in the eyes of policy makers but not in terms of what people are willing to pay for. Odlyzko uses current and historical evidence (spending figures) to argue that connectivity is more important then content. The author utilizes the relative revenues and growth rates within various high-tech sector of the U.S. economy to support his argument that communication services are more valued then content services as is reflected by the revenues reported by both sectors of the economy. Revenues generated by content (in the form of entertainment such as movies, music, games) are small in comparison to those reported by the communication industry (telephone and postal service). That is, the piece of the high-tech economic sector that represents content and its contribution to network costs is much smaller then that of point to point communication. The reason, suggests Odlyzko, is primarily because people are not willing to pay much for content related services. This is not to say that content is not valuable and an important aspect of shaping political and social views. The author suggests that rather than focusing on content as a catalyst for network usage, content should be used as catnip to attract new users or enhance user experience, after all that’s exactly what television programs do for paid advertisers and probably what the web browsers do for the Internet.

All of this suggests people are willing to pay more for direct communication connections then they are for structured content. This fact should have a direct influence on the kinds of networks that are built; open and symmetric (the same bandwidth available for pushing or pulling content to and from the network) or asymmetrical and restricted (connections designed to pull content from the network to the consumer while restricting bandwidth for pushing content to the network). With consumer emphasis on the ability to communicate the case for open, high speed symmetrical connections become stronger suggesting fiber to the home build outs may be justified sooner than anticipated. If content becomes the primary driver, there will be little economic incentive for open networks without barriers.