Web Information Discovery Strategies

We all know that the digital marketplace is  continually creating ever-increasing amounts of digital content. And with a plethora of content comes at least two problems: a paucity of attention and an inability to find or otherwise leverage the growing amount of digital content.

Three firms – one we all know extremely well – and two others are using two different strategies to resolve both problems: 1. get in the middle and 2. wrap.

Google uses the ‘get in the middle’ strategy by putting themselves between us (the folks looking for information) and the sources of information. We don’t need to belabor what the technology company does and how it is broadening its footprint into areas other than search. Google is about finding information.

Two new companies – Wolfram Alpha and Book of Odds – both employ a ‘wrap’ strategy. Both of these web firms wrap information around other information, sort of like a donut with a jelly filling. And both firms are about leveraging information by presenting it to users in a context and in a way that seekers of information can relate … although that relationship is also about the context of the seeker (the seeker’s background, goals, objectives of seeking information and desire to continually investigate) as well as the context the information is presented.

Let’s first look at Wolfram Alpha. From their web site, the company says its goal is “making the worlds’ knowledge computable.” The About page discusses in part that “Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” On the Examples page the web site has 29 categories from Mathematics to Physics to Dates & Times to Places & Geography to Colors. I suggest you click over and learn how the site works.

Now let’s turn to Book of Odds. Excerpting directly from the About page” ” Book of Odds is the world’s first reference on the odds of everyday life. It is a destination where people come to learn about the things that worry or excite them, to read engaging and thoughtful articles, and to participate in a community of users that share their interests and ambitions.”

And that learning is done in the context of news articles from a multitude of sources but grouped into four major categories: Accidents & Death, Daily Life & Activities, Health & Illness, and Relationships & Society. Seekers of information – and here we mean seekers of probabilities – will find articles both on the home page and on each of the four major category pages. In addition, Book of Odds also displays statements of odds that are not embedded in articles. People wanting to better understand how Book of Odds began can read a blog by the Founder. I also suggest you click over to the Book of Odds site to find out how that site works.

Both of these new web publishers are about exploration and discovery of information in a way that Google is not. Both are hoping to create additional value – beyond returning a site or set of sites that may (or may not) answer a seeker’s question – by establishing a context for the embedded information. Both are examples of Semantic Web or if you prefer, Web 3.0, firms. A new species trying to make a living in the always changing web terrain.

However, the challenge for both Wolfram Alpha and Book of Odds is generating sufficient and persistent profitability by:

  • Satisfying the information seeker in a contextual manner they expect or want
  • Encouraging the information seeker to continue their explorations and stay awhile, and most importantly
  • Triggering the information seeker to purchase something. Each of these new firms will be looking for a variety of revenue paths driven by the capabilities or results they provide the seekers who click over to their web sites.

Information discovery on the web is obviously so much more than search. But, and there is always a but, do you think Wolfram Alpha or Book of Odds has an opportunity to succeed as a stand-alone company 5 years from now? I’m not sure. Are you?

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Barry,

    I am pleased to see the jelly donut metaphor put to such good use! I think you understand our intentions well. When the Web offers searches which produce vastly more sites than one can process, or social networking which tends to emphasize the social aspects over the richness of content, the middle way you describe is a natural and valuable development. It will surely arise from many sources, not just the two you mention, but the need is pressing and clear. Does need translate always into profitability? Clearly not, but there is no reason to suppose that unique and valuable content on the Web will not be rewarded. Wolfram Alpha’s recent arrangement with Bing may suggest a model. The inevitable return of high advertising growth to the digital media will surely reward those with high quality content and the traffic this will draw. The value of the brands alone will be considerable. Wolfram Alpha’s credibility was aided by Mathematica and Book of Odds has achieve a very rapid penetration at the positioning one aimed for: entertaining AND accurate. The ancillary revenue sources beyond the core Web revenues will be quite significant, or that is our hope. Five years? I will bet you jelly donuts against dollars that we make it with room to spare!

    With warm regards from a former consulting colleague!

    Amram

  2. Dear Barry,

    I am pleased to see the jelly donut metaphor put to such good use! I think you understand our intentions well. When the Web offers searches which produce vastly more sites than one can process, or social networking which tends to emphasize the social aspects over the richness of content, the middle way you describe is a natural and valuable development. It will surely arise from many sources, not just the two you mention, but the need is pressing and clear. Does need translate always into profitability? Clearly not, but there is no reason to suppose that unique and valuable content on the Web will not be rewarded. Wolfram Alpha’s recent arrangement with Bing may suggest a model. The inevitable return of high advertising growth to the digital media will surely reward those with high quality content and the traffic this will draw. The value of the brands alone will be considerable. Wolfram Alpha’s credibility was aided by Mathematica and Book of Odds has achieve a very rapid penetration at the positioning one aimed for: entertaining AND accurate. The ancillary revenue sources beyond the core Web revenues will be quite significant, or that is our hope. Five years? I will bet you jelly donuts against dollars that we make it with room to spare!

    With warm regards from a former consulting colleague!

    Amram


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