Archive for October, 2006

Extreme Makeover - YouTube Edition

Friday, October 27th, 2006

The title is not quite fitting, but YouTube did get a subtle makeover yesterday.

Browsing YouTube is like playing ‘Spot the Differences’. They’ve made a couple of minor changes and alterations, but nothing overly drastic or major. The homepage itself is relatively untouched. Although upon deeper inspection, a metamorphisis is apparent.

So what’s different?New YouTube logo

  • New logo (look closely).
  • The Videos section goes red.
  • The Channels section goes green.
  • The Groups section goes orange.
  • Bottom navigation.
  • Menu below player.
  • More advanced video stats.

Should I care? And if so, why?

Yes and no. Lame, but it’s true. There have always been pro’s and con’s to changing a site’s design. Some people will love the new features and functionality. Others will scorn the changes and forfeit the site. My basic theory is that subtle cosmetic changes (as is mostly the case here) are OK, as long as the underlying value proposition to user doesn’t shift dramatically. YouTube’s value proposition is to create the best possible online video viewing experience for the user. Do these changes fit the bill? I think so. Furthermore, I am a big fan of small changes to a site on a regular basis, rather than huge revampings on an irregular basis. My thinking is that users can more easily adapt to small changes and change their behavioural patterns accordingly. An overwhelming revamp may intimidate/daunt the user - a definite negative.

So… new logo, new colours, new navigation, new player menu, new stats… great. But what I’m most excited about are trackbacks. In my opinion, trackbacks may very well be the most important factor in creating a two-way conversational web. Phase one saw comments. But trackbacks are the new way of tracking who is linking to what. By following these back-links, you can further delve into the niche subject or area, whether it pertains to a blog topic or a video.

Cosmetic changes are great, but opening the web to new dialogue and conversations is what the Internet was meant to do. So I think we can safely say, “Thank you YouTube, for trackbacks”.

Gawsip Feedback

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Just over a year ago, I came up with (what I thought) may be a ground-breaking business idea. Now you must remember, I’m fairly business savvy, but I have very little Gawsip logotechnical/programming expertise. HTML is the extent of my technical skills. So I embarked on a journey to find a skilled programmer. Through my network of connections, I got joined up with a now-programmer at Flock. We dabbled at the project for a couple months, but then it got put on the backburner. It’s been months since we’ve worked at it, but I still think the idea itself is pretty darn good.

Ok, so I’m looking for feedback on the project. I’m also working for people who want to contribute or participate.

So here’s the deal: We started a site/concept called Gawsip. The basic premise of the site is to discover the latest news on a given topic via blogs, Digg, video, and news sites. In doing so, you can also enter simple demographic info: age and sex. Users of the site can then check out what other users in a particular demographic group are searching for. This all sounds a bit confusing, but becomes more clear once you use the site.

The underlying idea and concept sprung from the fact that I wanted a transparent way to find more information about what the specific demographics were searching for. There is no hidden agenda here. You can enter your info or remain anonymous. But once a critical mass of searchers start using the site, the data becomes more valuable and relevant. In addition to this, from a revenue perspective, you can work directly with advertisers to target the specific groups of interest and/or tailored the results pages around the search term and toss AdSense into the mix. With so many possibilities and ideas, I have no clue what to do, where to go, how to take this to the next level… or if I should in the first place.

I am going to leave it at that for now, but there will be follow-up and more to come. Please feel free to e-mail me or comment. Now let’s get this discussion going…

NOTE: The site has been up and down inconsistently, so please try back if it doesn’t load the first time.

Can You Digg It, News Corp?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

The rumour mill is swirling with talk of a Digg acquisition by News Corp. Both GigaOM and TechCrunch report that the media conglomerate is offering a reported $150 million Digg logofor the ‘democratic’ news site. At this point, they are only rumours, but my guess is that talks are well on their way and an announcement may be made at any time.

Is this a good opportunity for News Corp? Meh. I’m not so convinced. Although I am a huge fan of Digg and I visit on a regular basis, I see a better fit elsewhere. In my mind, the obvious bet may be Google. I definitely see a better fit there - especially with Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. In addition, Digg’s algorithm functions in a similar way to Google’s Page Rank algorithm so there may be some advantages to that.

From my perspective, I think $150 million is a low ball offer. I remember seeing that Business 2.0 magazine with Kevin Rose on the front and they valued Digg at $200 million. At the time, it seemed like a rather ridiculous valuation, but time has passed since then and I think that number is a lot more realistic now. Digg’s traffic has risen considerably - not to mention its userbase. And because Digg benefits from the network effect, it becomes more valuable as more people sign up.

In addition, there is stunning financial proposition. Because Digg generates millions of page views with relatively low bandwidth (as opposed to YouTube or Flickr), the margin between cost and revenue is greatly increased. Digg pages consist almost entirely of text which loads quickly and costs very little to run.

My opinion is that Digg should hold off and wait for a higher bid from a company with a better fit.

En’listing’ VC

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Today, Edgeio announced a $5 million Series A round of financing headed by Intel Capital. Subsequent investments came from Transcosmos Investments and Business Edgeio logoDevelopments Inc. The basic premise behind the company is to aggregate classified listing from around the web and bring them together on a single site. Edgeio launched in March of this year amid a huge amount of hype and anticipation (as it was co-founded by famous TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington) - only to receive a mild/lackluster welcome to say the least. But since then it has really started to gain momentum and recent developments look promising for the company.

When the company launched, their highly touted blog listing feature flopped. So recently, they’ve been downplaying this feature. Essentially, it allowed you to post listings from within your blog by tagging your post(s) with the term ‘listing’. You could also tag the post with other terms to further increase results. Nonetheless, Edgeio is now more focused on the aggregation strategy itself.

With companies like eBay, Cafepress, and Amazon now onboard, the company looks well-positioned to take the lead in the category moving forward. Add to that the fact that they just launched a Chinese version of the site ( and filed several patents pertaining to distributed marketplaces, and I think the company is taking the right steps to succeed.

As for the future of Edgeio, I see huge potential for a site like this. It reminds me of other aggregation and comparison business models including shopping (i.e. Froogle, Shopzilla, Pricegrabber) and travel (i.e. Travelocity, Orbitz, Kayak). There is obviously a strong business model at hand - now strong execution and implementation is necessary. Moving beyond the web 2.0 fluff to a sustainable business model will be the real challenge, but I’m confident Edgeio has what it takes.

Disruptive Jingle

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

From time to time, a company launches that is aimed to destroy a current business model. This new business model and/or technology is therefore called ‘disruptive’. In many cases nowadays, many new disruptive models have been made possible because of the Internet.

E-mail disrupted the postal service industry, Skype disrupted the long-distance market, Napster disrupted the record industry, and the list goes on.

Just less than a year ago, a new company called Jingle Networks launched. Jingle runs a 1-800-FREE-411 logoservice called 1-800-FREE-411. As you may guess, it is a number people can call to use the 411 number lookup system for free. How do they make money? They tack on a fifteen second ad after you request a phone number - but before you are given the results. Traditional companies in the space charge an average of $1.25 per request, but Jingle plans on chewing away at the market with a free, ad-supported model.

Already they are seeing impressive results and numbers. The 411 market is estimated at $8 billion a year in the US alone. This provides a massive opportunity. Apparently consumers don’t mind the ads as Jingle reportedly claims 3% market share already (or 450,000 calls a day).

Today the company announced a fourth round of financing ($30 million) headed by Goldman Sachs and Hearst Corporation (kudos to TechCrunch for some of this info). Based on the present round, the company is valued to be around $150 million. Altogether the company has raised approximately $60 million to date.

Though the idea seems rather simple at first, the execution behind it has been nothing short of phenomenal, especially given the short time period. I hope Jingle continues to prosper and I always look forward to seeing more disruptive services bite away at existing, stagnant markets.