Private Labeling of News Readers
On Portals and KM: The Need for Feed(s) – Wired I have learned that the Denver Post together with NewsGator decided to partner on delivering a Denver Post-branded newsreader to their readers with specific capabilities that will enable every day news readers (And not only RSS technology early adopters) to enjoy the new newsreading experience. Although the situation where a mainstream publisher enters into this kind of commitment is a big step for the blogging industry I am not sure it is the right long term strategy for NewsGator or any other standalone aggregator company in their real competitive landscape
The immediate and tempting effect of this type of partnerships (Assuming it is executed flawlessly) is high volume of exposure given to the aggregator company thanks to the active promotion done by the publisher, an exposure that is very appealing to a startup that tries very hard to build a mass customer base. Still, I think this kind of strategy will divert the focus of aggregator companies from their main battle field, the dominance on the news reading experience for consumers.
If we try to define the aggregators competitive landscape then there are the innovators at the form of startup companies that develop and evolve the news reading experience and on the other side there are the established players that already have a strong customer base of some type (Usually a customer base that can be leveraged for deploying a new type of application) that are starting to provide their own news reading capabilities.
The news reading experience based on the new mechanisms enabled by RSS/Blogging technologies is being re-shaped everyday thanks to the feedback provided by early adopters (Usually the only type of users who tell you what they think on what you do) and its futuristic shape will depend highly on new type of information sources and new applications that will emerge in the future. RSS as a communication medium is emerging and evolving and the newsreading experience evolvement is "tied" to the advancement of this medium. Unlike established companies, startups only chance to win a considerable market share depends on innovation and careful care of the early adopters needs; accomplishing that requires a strong focus on their innovative competitive edge.
A startup company that supports several co-branded versions (If their current plans go right, of course) that are delivered directly to mass market will branch the aggregator's company efforts into several different streams of requirements (Depends on the number of partners and their level bureaucracy) that will not necessarily help them stay at the frontline of competition. On the same time that the aggregator startup will collect a customer base, large or small, the established players will be able to keep up with the innovation and then deploy it towards their customer base, which is most of the time considerably larger then the accumulated customer base of the startup (Needless to talk about their promotional capabilities). This situation within time will erode the startups achievements and will make their customer base turn into the best product in the market – the established player's product.
I think that news readers have just started to emerge and being innovative is one of the only competitive weapons a startup can build in the fight against established players.