Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Airbnb, Amazon & co. We use online platforms and services all the time. Some more frequent than others. Some for social purposes, others for commercial ones. But what all these platforms have in common: they collect user data. (And we produce a lot of it, up to 2.5 quintillion bytes per day!) It starts with name, email, age, address and goes up to and beyond interests, daily habits, purchasing habits, personal likes and dislikes. Companies use this information to optimize their services, improve their products and for direct monetization purposes. These include showing you relevant ads and selling your data to 3rd parties.
“If you’re not paying for it, you are the product”
The question is, is this a future safe business model? Will users not want to take control of their data and monetize it themselves?
Some companies, including Google, are testing alternatives. In November 2014, Google launched an ‘ad-free net experience’. Here users could pay a monthly fee between 1 and 3 USD for ad-free sites. In this case your data is not used ‘against’ you, and revenues come from direct payments by the user. But you have to pay for it!
New startups are looking at ways to turn this trend around. One example is DataWallet. The startup lets you connect all your online accounts, including Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, to a DataWallet account. It then extracts all user data accumulated by the platforms you use, anonymizes it and then sells it to companies. You are put in control of your data. And can monetize it.
Check it out here: https://www.datawallet.io/?ref=2ss0uaglo8
Make sure you sign up and give it a try! They’ve got your data anyway..so why not try and make a buck with it?
What do you think, Is this the future? Will we soon have full control of the data we produce online, with the ability to monetize it ourselves? Or will it only run parallel to the current, existing business model?
by Martin Kayser (353884mk)
BBC News, (2015). Google launches ad-free net experiment – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30144073 [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
DataWallet, (2015). DataWallet FAQ. [online] Available at: https://www.datawallet.io/faq [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
Goodson, S. (2012). If You’re Not Paying For It, You Become The Product. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2012/03/05/if-youre-not-paying-for-it-you-become-the-product/ [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
Ha, A. (2015). Backed By Tim Draper, DataWallet Pays Users To Share Their Online Data With Businesses. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/07/10/datawallet-seed-funding/ [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
ibm.com, (2015). IBM – What is big data?. [online] Available at: http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/bigdata/what-is-big-data.html [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
Is the ebook market only for big players?
Oyster, founded in 2012, is a platform that allows users to read books on their smartphone, tablet or in the web-browser – online and offline (US only). This sounds familiar, right? However, what made them stand out was their, at the time, unique business model in this industry. They allowed users to sign up for an ‘unlimited plan’, a subscription service that let users read (open…) as many books as they liked for a monthly fee.
With its business model, and numerous unique features in its reading app, Oyster set itself apart from competitors such as Scribd, and the one dominant player in the industry: Amazon. This helped it gather numerous investors, resulting in USD 17 million of funding, and a name in the industry.
In July 2014, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited (KU), its own e-book subscription service at USD 9.99. This left the last untouched playing field for smaller companies and startups with a bad taste. At first, Oyster seemed to have an advantage, because they had numerous titles of the ‘Big Five’ publishers, while most of Amazon’s selection was made up of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) titles. Oyster even tried to fight back by launching an e-book store outside of its unlimited product, hoping to increase the customer base and revenues.
|Kindle Unlimited||Oyster Unlimited|
|Big Five titles||No||Yes|
|Platforms||Web, Kindle devices, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry||Web, Android, iOS and Kindle Fire|
However, Amazon took the market by storm and never let the small player reach a significant market share. According to a consumer survey, by April 2015, 12.4% of ebook readers had a KU subscription, while under 1.4% had an Oyster subscription.
On September 22nd, after an aqui-hire by Google, Oyster announced that it would close down its service by early 2016.
It makes me wonder, did the founders give up hope, because there simply was no chance of building a sustainable (profitable!) business in this industry? Or do they plan to use Google’s resources to launch an even stronger competitor in combination with the currently existing ‘Google Books’ platform?
This leaves two important questions;
- Is there any amount of innovation that can allow small players to survive in the ebook industry?
- Can small firms co-exist in this industry, or do the big players want to take it all?
Seeing how Scribd continues as the only significant competitor, can give an answer to some of these questions.