Aggregation and Monetization – Profit From Making Markets More Efficient

My two startup co-founders and I recently launched a small side-project as a way of testing several tools and processes we plan on using in our actual venture. The project is meant to be a PopURLs of t-shirts, an aggregator of the newest cool shirts from popular t-shirt sites around the web. The theory is simple: there are many great t-shirts out there, from many great sites. But the consumer doesn’t want a great t-shirt site, they want a great shirt. And frequently, they don’t know what a great shirt is. Is it funny? Is it vintage? Is it geeky? Is it artsy? With, they see a variety of shirt designs and styles from a variety of sites. It’s one example of how to solve one of the major emerging problems, caused by the new abundance of individual and small-business published content.

Quickly Increasing Supply, Slowly Increasing Demand

Supply for all kinds of content is increasing, but demand isn’t keeping up. It’s not because people don’t want the new content becoming available to them, but more often because they don’t know they want it. The tech solution to this problem isn’t to do a better job of selling content than the content creators, but to make it easier for the content consumers to find that content. But ’find’ does not have to mean search. The biggest problem today’s search engines are contending with is that people don’t always know what they want, or how to express what they want. Some businesses have known this for a while. Amazon isn’t just a Google for books, after all. Their editorial department has been important to them from the very beginning, and every product page contains a treasure trove of recommendations, related items, and other social features. Those features not only solve this first problem, but also another…

Larger Supply Usually Means Larger Supply of Crap, Too

More content doesn’t necessarily mean more good content. While many of us have celebrated the rise of self-publishing and one-to-many communication, one of the biggest criticisms of the blogosphere is the amount of useless drivel “most” blogs contain. For blogs, tools like Techmeme and Technorati have made displaying and finding the good stuff a little easier. Wisdom-of-crowds tools like Digg and Reddit have tried to do the same for news and other informative content, but the signal-to-noise ratio seems to be getting worse.

I’ve written before about getting more signal from noise using 3rd-party mashup tools. As the following trends increase…

  • the supply of content growing
  • more content being put into machine-readable format
  • improving tools for human-guided(but not operated) quality refinement

…I’ve become convinced that this is one of the biggest opportunities for businesses to offer services to others, by drawing value that was previously inaccessible from existing content, like making clothes from cotton.

For example, press releases. PRWeb alone has hundreds of categories for press releases, with between dozens and hundreds of individual releases being published for each category, each day. But which releases are really newsworthy, and which are meaningless publicity efforts? A tool that determined that would be valuable to reporters, industry analysts, and many other kinds of knowledge workers.

Where else do you see potential for drawing out value?