This is a bit of a hormone-supplemented blog post, but I hope the length is worth it.
We spend a lot of time pitching to potential investors. You need faith in your idea, and an ego of steel, because they're usually critical. I find it helps to think about all the great companies that barely got funded, were rejected by everyone, etc. That's nice for confidence, but you also need to think hard about every objection; they've dealt with a lot more business plans (certainly than I have, probably than you have, too).
So once I've cheered myself up, I try to follow up on my "they just don't get it" boosterism and look to see if it's me that just doesn't get it.
This note is inspired by some criticism that I don't believe, even after thinking about it. One prospect didn't like Tizra's business model of helping publishers sell their own stuff; he prefers to create or license large aggregations of data. "Aggregations mean real value and real exits."
Now, I can't say that building good content silos isn't still a viable business model, because it is. Aggregations gain real value from being a primary destination and search starting point, if they offer a uniquely valuable searchable collection. And that used to be terribly important. I can't count the number of times I talked about the need for a "critical mass of content" in the 90s, especially when consulting on custom web site projects for publishers with puny or unbalanced content collections that they intended to turn into magnet portals. But if you want to be a destination site you have to have an amazing quantity of stuff (for a value of amazing that keeps growing over time).
The web is already an aggregation with a critical mass of information about almost anything, and the search is in the hands of Google and the other search vendors.
To be a big destination site, you still need a critical mass that makes your site the best place to start some kind of specialized search. But why do you need to be a destination site? The search engines are the biggest destination sites and everyone uses them.
Even the big journal aggregators were able to double traffic to their publishers once they could they let Google index full-text content. That means if you can get an item (that people want) in Google, it'll get the traffic that you would have gotten from building a critical mass of items and investing a decade on advertising, library deals, and hard work.
That doesn't mean that grouping and packaging content isn't useful, but it means that everyone with unique, valuable content is already on the starting line if they just start running. The editors at good publishers already create valuable content silos, but driving repeat visits is secondary to getting customers in as cost-effectively as possible.
If you're a publisher, let the search engines concentrate on piling stuff up. Concentrate on finding the best content and getting it indexed widely. If you try to build an exclusive aggregation, either the search sites will mirror your content while you get going, or you'll have to lock them out and lose your easiest single source of customers and prospects.
Instead, concentrate on converting searchers to customers once they find your stuff, with rates, packages and special offers to entice every kind of visitor. Within your site, play the research and aggregation game by organizing your content for browsing and search so that customers can find more things that they want once they are there. Make sure your brand is prominent, so they associate you with the value of your content.
Such a site may eventually become a destination, but it doesn't need to be. The most important thing is to get stuff online, as quickly as possible, and make sure that there are ways to buy. Linking, keywording and organizing the content remain important, but just getting indexed is worth 8 years of aggregating and selling.
So, yes, in this case, the potential investor is missing an opportunity. Tizra's our infrastructure play -- integrated content management and access control -- is a great way to take advantage of a shift in how people are using the net.
It's pretty rare that I actually believe in large-scale shifts -- they're exciting to speculate about, but usually don't pan out in actual effect.
My academic brain thinks that this can't be a one-time shift, I think there may be a large-scale cycle in play here, but I'll talk about that in another post.