Web 2.0: In Business and Out of Beta
Below is a (very) rough transcript of what was discussed at the
panel Web 2.0: In Business and
Out of Beta. The panel was supposed to be lead by Aaron Mentele of
, but he had to turn around en
route from Sioux Falls, South Dakota because his wife went into labor! Dan
Grigsby took over the responsibility for guiding the discussion.
Participants: Dan Grigsby (currently working on a new start up), Bruno
Bornsztein (co-founder of Curbly), Matt Thompson
(editor of Vita.mn), and Ben Moore (co-founder of
NOTE: This is not word-for-word (I can't type that fast). It is
paraphrased. Questions from the audience are marked "Q"
DG: What makes web 2.0 different web 1.0?
We can do big projects with less people (example: Curbly -- two guys, two
months, no office)
How do you get buzz?
BB: Can launch small, but how do we get noticed?
We hired writers to produce initial content, and then used social news
sites like Digg to promote that content.
Q: Do you mark paid content separately?
BB: No. Curbly is a "group magazine". Paid writers create articles, but
users can too. [Note: Bruno later added that Curbly's paid writers are
listed as "featured authors" -- they're not hiding the fact that they pay
people to write.]
DG: There is a difference between paid writers and "astroturfing".
Q: What is Curbly's traffic now? How to monetize/intend to monetize?
BB: Digg traffic is bursty. 50K hits one day, 0 the next. Doesn't affect
Digg establishes your site. Helps with organic search. 70% of Curbly
traffic is from organic search
We have 350,000 page views/month and growing. [Bruno later mentioned that
the big ad sellers won't even talk to you if you have less than 1,000,000
page views a month.]
BB: 100,000 unique.
MT: Steady growth seems to be a constant across sites. Vita.mn is not
talking to a global audience (so they can't promote it on Digg).
Our equivalent is when the Star Tribune (Vita.mn's parent site) links to
us. Flood of traffic. Some sticks.
BM: Digg doesn't provide a permanent hook. Lifehacker is a great traffic
generator for Curbly, because the audience is similar.
Finding similar blogs who will link to you is good cheap marketing.
BB: Find out what community exists already. There is a huge DIY
community already. It was sasy for us to tie into that.
MT: We're taking something you could do yourself (blog) and making it
It's the distinsion between Application and Publication. The Star Tribune
is used to doing publications. Apps have a different investment horizon.
Publication achieves success by being entertaining, timely, andrelevant.
Application achieve success by having people put their stuff in your tool.
Your tool powers their publishing.
DG: Let's talk about monetization of a niche.
Example: Guy Kawasaki made $9/day with
Google Adwords, but he can charge $75 per job ad -- because he has a self
MT: The attention economy. Cliche but sort of true. Attention powers the
web 2.0 economy. Vita.mn tries to seize a different slice of attention
than the Star Tribune.
Q: What do you think of subscription based sites?
BB: 37 Signals succeeded because they have a ton of attention via their
blog. Before you can sell something, people have to find you.
Q: Are people willing to pay for content?
Justin Kruger (audience): MySpace (free) versus online dating sites (not
free) offer many of the same features. What are people paying for?
MT: You need two things for paid strategy
- A wedge -- free version to get people to try your application
- A monopoly of a kind. You need a unique application that provides a service that no body else does quite the same way.
Another type of monopoly is a monopoly audience. Dating sites target
specific metro regions, for example.
Q: How did Curbly do word of mouth marketing?
BM: We researched top bloggers and contacted them individually. None
were interested until we launched.
BB: It was very time consuming. You can't send a bulk email. Gotta
personalize it, but it's slow.
BB: We didn't spend any money on marketing. We spend some on contests.
Q: Are you satisfied, or could have done more marketing?
BB: We could have done more, but we're developers.
BM: We maximized leverage. We used the things we didn't have to pay for.
Q: What would you do differently?
BM: I would want a partner with a huge email list (Home Depot for
BB: I disagree with Ben. I would buy much more content right off the
bat. Content drives traffic. I would pay for more original content,
When you're just two people, where you spend your time is important.
Q: How important was monetizing Curbly?
BM: We had no monetized strategy at the start.
BB: If you have 50 people working for you, you gotta figure out how to
monetize quick. There's less pressure when you're just two people.
BM: We knew we didn't know how to monetize. But we wanted to get it out
there. Fail fast. Got first version out in a month.
DG: Development process?
BM: We did the least number of features we thought we could get away
with. We knew the site wasn't done. My dad checked out the site a week
after we launched in IE and it was all messed up -- we didn't do any
cross-browser testing! (before launching)
BB: I wanted to wait longer. But it was good to get it out there. Unless
you're 37 Signals, no one is watching you. No one knows when you launch an