Media: Russell Davies

Remember the first internet bubble?, - all that? Every other word was "monetise" and, though not everyone had a business plan, it seemed that everyone needed one. Doesn't that seem a long time ago now?

We're now in a period of similar excitement, but you don't hear the monetise word half as much, and when you do, it's normally from someone who doesn't "get it".

Right now, not as many digital media brands are that worried about monetisation, which confuses the whole media landscape, because the importance of money used to be one thing buyers and sellers of eyeballs could agree on.

Take craigslist, for example. It's an easy-to-use, mostly free classified and listings service, which has taken the US by storm and is terrifying every classified newspaper business in the world. Its chief executive baffled Wall Street in December by saying he had no real interest in finding ways to monetise the site further. The analysts were perplexed, because craigslist is the seventh-most visited site on the web and the advertising revenue from that could be enormous. But the craigslist guys were insistent that they were making enough money to make a living and that adding advertising would detract from the service. So they weren't going to do it.

Perhaps, however, the most significant factor in all this is the fact that craigslist only has 22 employees. It has become possible to achieve global scale and relevance without becoming a huge business. That means less need to worry about monetisation and more freedom to ignore the lure of Madison Avenue.

This is happening on a smaller scale all over the digital world. Ideas that would have taken millions of venture capital dollars a few years ago are being built by a couple of kids in a garage without any real thought of a business model. And only a tiny handful of bloggers make any kind of income out of their blogs. That's not why they do it. But they're still attracting large numbers of eyeballs away from mainstream media, and those eyeballs aren't converted into revenue.

When you talk to media owners, this is the thing that frustrates them the most; they can't compete with these people, because there's no business model to co-opt. MegaMediaCorp can't simply set up a bunch of competitive blogs and regain that income, because the money wasn't there to begin with.

It's very hard to compete with people who work for free, but that's something they're going to have to learn to do.