GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

February 28, 2006

Two months ago, I wrote a post about leaping from “digerati-facing services” to “consumer-facing services” – highlighting a concern that many of the web services currently emerging are focused on a techie audience without the necessary components to generate mainstream consumer usage.

There’s an interesting conversation going on at Umair Haque’s Bubblegeneration blog. Along the same lines, he says,

”Web 2.0 cannot live up to its (enormous) potential to create value that’s structurally disruptive until and unless technologists understand consumer dynamics. Web 2.0 can’t live up to its game-changing potential until and unless the geeks step outside and think outside their own box of geekery.”

The whole “Great Divide” post is worth reading, as well as the comments. A very insightful one from Fraser Kelton of Disruptive Thoughts blog writes about three stages of development – innovation, commercialization, and scaling – suggesting that “the ‘geek’ crowd needs to pay more attention” to the commercial stage:

“Commercialization is about a number of things. It’s about validating assumptions made in stage 1 and taking the ‘geek’ out as much as possible in exchange for ‘consumer’. It’s about finding an initial foothold in the larger market (other than the larger web 2.0 crowd). It’s about finding the right product benefits to focus on for the launch and lowering focus on features that don’t add much benefit to a consumer (web 2.0 is very guilty of this).”

I take issue with Umair spreading the blame for this disconnect (from the “geeks” to industry figures to VCs), but agree that the importance of marketing and branding has been overlooked (regardless of who’s at “fault”). Both strategic marketing issues (product positioning & communication) and tactical implementations (landing pages & promotions) matter a great deal. In this space, the more successful endeavors (with and without VCs) will be the ones that realize this fact and capitalize on it.

  • Alan Wilesnky

    David: I agree – I conduct a constant ‘straw survey’ of folks and their blog and self-publishing platforms. There is a bad attitude in the – web 20 – space that if you cant configure an API or edit an XML template, your not hip.

    this is keeping the broad consumer presence from being picked up and is relegating some of the new and very clever web applciations to an almsot certain failure – at least on the direct to consumer front – many of these early ventures might do quite well in re-purposing the technology and expertise – all of these apps are great for showcasing thought leadership and talent.

    I’ve added a brief trackback article that illustrates this in the blog publishingware field – If you not eager to have such links, I understand if you remove it!

    You are doing great community building work – Boston Technology society needs you.

  • Greg Linden

    Exactly right. They may be popular with the early adopters of the digerati, but many of these “Web 2.0” apps are too confusing and too much work for the mainstream.

    This is a problem with RSS/XML as well. RSS is a cryptic acronym for a data format that mainstream users should never have to see. Yet sites scatter RSS buttons across their pages. Readers are forced to manually cut-and-paste them to use feed readers.

    RSS and feed readers need to go through an ease-of-use revolution before they will be popular with the grandmothers of the world.

    More on that in my weblog post, “Getting your grandmother to use RSS“.

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