Web 2.0 – To Personalize or not to Personalize?
One of the main decisions I am standing upon these days which is not totally clear to me is whether to personalize Strategic Board or not. By personalizing I mean adding a capability to save searches and every other feature possible following a user subscription.
On one hand everywhere Web 2.0 companies go through a similar path of creating a free service, adding a registration process with few free features luring users to get "hooked" on the service and then bringing the punch line of subscription based business model.
I personally do not feel it is the right way for Strategic Board for various reasons and not only on the personalization level.
I've listed the reasons on why should or shouldn't I go through this path with Strategic Board (Maybe it can save some thinking time for someone out there)
1) Everyone does that. Users know it (although not really used to it). Most of the times this is a sufficient enough reason to do something.
2) It is a business model. Unlike other vague and open options this one is a by the book business model. Having a business model at all again is a sufficient enough reason in many times to take the decision forward.
3) User's love being served with personalized information.
4) VCs seems to like it? Not sure about this but it seems so.
1) Everyone does that. The question is what will keep me distinct from the herd. I am sure it won't be the unlimited marketing dollars I have to spend:)
2) Users don't like to waste time on registration/login and other advanced features. If they can get what they are looking for without to much typing and clicking then it is better. The question here is whether the new features I want to present are that important for users to make me create a personalization mechanism for it and whether they can be served even partially in a public and not personalized manner.
3) I don't believe people will pay me for in order to access publicly available information! Strategic Board as many other web 2.0 companies provide an aggregated or filtered view of publicly available information such as blogs. Putting the efforts to register and login in order to access the unique view or aspect of the information is something users already do, paying for it is a whole different story.
4) Google, the one and only company that has a lot of experience with users do not charge money on information. They had to create an almost non-relevant business model to sustain their growth. The contextual advertising concept is remote to the main concept of serving information via search engine and still it seems as the only way they could have found to do great money on the net.
5) VCs won't save you when your business model will be flushed to the toilet. Actually no one will.
6) Narrowing down your focus – A bad thing that can happen from personalization is that your state of mind gets narrowed to the point you only think on advanced extensions of the product that are possible via the personalized mechanism and not on the general publicly available capabilities. A personalized product can be much richer and much more exciting then non personalized. The only problem here is that within time you serve only a narrowing part of your potential audience.
7) A con for web 2.0 search engines/aggregators – An identity dilemma arises for search engine providers with personalization. The line between a new aggregator and a classic search engine is getting blurred and future directions are getting mixed. This is no good for strategy unless you get the whole picture.
P.S. An idea for a web 2.0 company that just popped: If there are many new subscription based web 2.0 services, wouldn't a centralized billing company be something great for users who need to enter and track their billing info all over the place. PayPal presents something similar though non integrated. A centralized billing company would have an API for vendors to access billing information in order to answer each vendor specific needs while the control will remain centrally for the user. Just a thought:)