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December 06, 2004


Ed Batista

Thought I might as well take advantage of the (apparently rarely) opened comments. First, hat tip to Jeff Jarvis for bringing me here. Second: "Every ad a wanted ad." That's a fascinating concept. I'm not a marketer, but I play one on TV--errr, in my mind, and I've been reading a lot of Seth Godin lately. Much of his work could be distilled into that pithy phrase. (Not that Godin's unduly prolix--just that I suspect he'd endorse the sentiment heartily.) I do see an ecosystem developing that could truly make every ad a wanted ad. Intelligent (and effectively implemented) CRM systems. Incentives that compel marketers to value long-term relationships with consumers over quick hits and short-term sales. "Ads" merging with "content" (admittedly, this one's for better AND for worse).

Google's Gmail strikes me as a big step in this direction. And the key is TRUST. Gmail users trust Google enough to give them access to their personal correspondence. The ads appear right next to your messages, and--optimally--are trigged by text in the message itself and are germane to your needs and interests at that moment.

Is there a blog aggregator/news reader that does this? (First, is there such a thing that actually works well to begin with? I'm not a fan of the ones I've tried out. Way too clunky.) But parsing blog posts read by the user would be a great way to get a sense of their immediate AND long-term needs and interests. Of course, it would have to come from a company users trust. Hey, what about Google? ;-)


"* Enhance the value of the long tail, and extend it further
* Every ad a wanted ad"

That's exactly what we hope to do as a local news company -- We think that by pushing (eventually only) relevant content and advertsing, we'll improve the user experience and ride the long tail, bringing smaller businesses into the conversation in a way never before possible. We'll extend that value by bringing them business intelligence that they can't/don't gather themselves: pools of lost customers; demographics, buying habits, etc. AND we think we can pull that off even with print advertisers (at least among the pool of end users who read both print and online).

To us, these are the tough issues:
-- As discussed above, trust is a huge issue. As a new company, how do we build that trust quickly enough to make the model work? Our current model assumes that 25% of the early subscribers will trust us enough to play this game. I intuit that may be low, but I'd be interested in what others think.

-- Reaching the long tail means talking to a lot of people, creating a potentially prohibitive cost of sale. Smart people in this space have suggested to me that this could be the achilles heel of the hyperlocal model. We think it can be done, but it's still the top objection I hear to our plans.

Tim Oren

Trust is huge, in many ways. Building on the first comment, one distinction between GMail and (say) Technorati is that the latter knows what people are writing - it tracks the speaking side of conversations. There are still a lot more readers than writers, and knowing what an individual is reading gives a closer approach to a 360 degree view of interests anyway. So, who's well positioned for that? RSS aggregators, browser vendors and add-ons are in a good place to gather the data. Then there's analysis, and... trust.

Peg, I'm afraid I'm with your critics. If you have to do the handwork on the end of the tail, you are sunk. The costs will indeed eat you up. You have to get the customers to talk to each other, use analysis to match them with each other and with content, and use the exhaust from that analysis to expedite the matter, and allow your business partners to provide them what they want. (IMO) the only way to get way out on the tail is for the customers to be creating their own content (conversations) within a context you provide.

One other thing. I can't tell from your short post if you are a content company, or also doing technology. If the latter, you wouldn't even get one meeting here. The Internet is brutal on vertically integrated models. Content is not my cup of tea, but if you want to do it, just do it. Trying to do tech as well just further expands your costs without creating the leverage of a tools vendor. It might be theoretically possible to get both content savvy and deep technology chops under the same roof, but I've never seen it and I don't plan on betting that way.


Thanks for the insight Tim. We don't think we're a likely VC play as it is, but for what it's worth, we're about content-- not technology. All our tech is bought, not built-- and for much less than I had ever dreamed (assuming everything weaves together and works as advertised.)

As to the tail, we're not going to have to do handwork on the content side at that level. It's the sales side where that becomes an issue.

David Bennett

Where will the money be is also going to be where does the money go? The nature of the net is to make more perfect markets which means that a lot of entrenched interests are going to get zapped. A lot of this came together for me on reading the posts on a blog called seekingalpa.com The guy is a hedge fund manager, but his blog is filled with posts on why people are better off doing things themselves, for example truly diversyfing with ETFs or mutual funds, using the automatic rebalancing tools on online brokers like etrade, employing net resources. So you see huge sums of money shifting to much lower cost options, people currently paying 2% or principal and/or high brokers fees are going to be abandoning lots of traditional services and a very cozy niche is going to be lost for many of our most clever. Huge sums of money and talent will be freed.

There is a lot of possibility in the organization of this, a lot of the work is done. Sites like "seekingalpha.com" tend to have high quality links, others have the same so you have a very professional set of commentators working for nothing or peanuts. Tools to link them, just search engines focused on known sites of quality, better commenting systems (loyalty is built up when people can participate.) Better tools in general... a lot of these people are willing to use them, they take advantage of the limited powers they have so if you add things you get use by (at least in this domain) competent ppublishers and dedicated readers (this is their money!)

One can imagine millions of dedicated readers (even willing to pay something for content) hooking into such a complex with associated marketing economies. Lots of possibilities such as products reviewed by knowledgeable people of integrity before they can be advertised.

On the pay factor I think one chance for monopoly is to be the first with what I would call a "nickel and dime system." One would like to give a pittance here and there, one is willing to pay small amounts for various articles or a chance to hear a song or get some service. A system that made it easy to give small amounts might have huge potential.

Greg Linden

Exactly right. People don't want any information. They want useful information.

New distribution channels like weblogs, print-on-demand publishing, and RSS eliminate the barriers to producing information. But losing these barriers both increases the information available and eliminates the filters that tended to improve the quality of information.

There's a need for technologies that surface the relevant and useful information from the sea of noise. As Google has shown, there's enormous value to being able to show the right information at the right time.

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