Take a quick survey of the ever changing Web 2.0 landscape and you will notice that the most successful services have two key elements. The first is that they offer some sort of compelling value proposition to users. The second is that this value proposition is driven by a laser focused service offering.
If we define ‘success’ by acquisition – a somewhat debatable metric – note the types of companies purchased: Upcoming.org, Moreover, Skype, and Flickr. These services offer solutions. They solve a problem and solve it well. They don’t have an all things to all people mentality, they want to be something for some people.
Content is following a similar evolution. As opposed to the more traditional portal model, users are beginning to rely on niche voices to give them expert insights into what they consider important – news, politics, technology, and so forth. A great example of this model leveraged in aggregate form is John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Channel. It consists of a handful of small business marketing gurus sharing their experience and advice – chosen as a Forbes Favorite.
In both examples, the power of the verticals is at work. People like services that do one thing extremely well over doing many things just OK. They enjoy visiting sites that produce content around one subject.
Seth Godin’s new service Squidoo – launched yesterday – is in many ways ‘the platform of the vertical’. It boils down to his idea that “Everyone is an expert” at something. Squidoo is a tool that allows people to quickly and easily create a “lens” around specific areas of interest, around areas they are passionate or knowledge about. Time will tell but if recent history shows us anything, Squidoo is going to be a huge hit.
The user’s mantra of the day is “Give me something that is useful.” They also are whispering, “Don’t try to do too much.” A decent amount of the Skype backlash about its new video feature resulted from users’ frustration in their investing in an add-on that brought little perceived value.
Here is the takeaway – use Web 2.0 to power your vertical. Stay focused. Solve a problem. Bring value. Do one thing better instead of all things worse. After all, a little company called Google got its start that way and well, you know the rest.