Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Reccomendation Market: Consumers must get some value

Check out this CNN Money article about the drive for recommendation engines. They outline the concept and list about a dozen different engines and projects to come up with the ultimate tool for suggesting movies, music, books and other stuff.

I completely agree that this is a burgeoning marketplace. The writer pretty deftly connects the notion behind branding with the develop of this software:

We don't just buy products, we bond with them. We have relationships with our things. DVD collections, iTunes playlists, cars, cell phones: Each is an extension of who we are (or want to be). We put ourselves on display through our purchases, wearing our personalities on our sleeves, literally and figuratively, for the world to see.

And if you don't subscribe to this sort of materialism - if you don't define yourself by the clothes on your back or the neighborhood you live in - well, that's just another brand of expression.

In the real world, we use apparent information, coupled with context, experience and stereotypes, to size each other up. This sort of intuition is useful and often accurate, but it's also fallible.

Online, the picture becomes clearer. Consumers now routinely rank experiences on the Web - four stars on IMDb for "The Departed," three stars on Epinions for a Roomba vacuum, a positive eBay rating, a Flickr tag. Each time you leave such a mark, you help the rest of us make sense of all the look-alike, sound-alike stuff on the Web.

I buy that. I wonder, though, if there is going to be a real push to get the value being created by surfing, choosing, buying, tagging and rating back to the consumer? If I put up a solid rating on a product, I generate some value for some company. If I visit 3 sites about ska-punk, SUVs, or the RNC, I've generated some value. That value is obviously used by the observing company, and (soon enough) will be traded on an open market.

The value that the consumer--the actual creator of this value--gets is...better recommendations. Yeesh. What a let down. If I do the SUV site surfing, suddenly a CPM to me jumps from a measly $5 to $75. I think a company could go extremely far by shuffling some of that value back to the consumer.
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