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On November 23, 2015, PD commented on Uber-izing Hotel Pricing: Duetto :

This idea makes complete sense in this market, and, as you say, to some extent basically improves on what hotels have already been trying to do via OTAs. Of course being able to self-manage price optimization and be less reliant on OTAs is attractive, though OTAs will likely still be important for the user review and reputational side of things. I’m curious to see whether the rise of Duetto (or other similar entrants) will change the role of OTAs. It will also be interesting to see whether savvy customers may try to game the system in some way (as people already try to do with air travel to some extent).
I do agree with Jon, though, that dropping prices too low carries brand risk — this is already an issue on external vendor sites, and brand-name hotels may be hesitant to make lower prices known unless they can explicitly be presented as exceptional promotions. But that said, I think that effective price optimization is an attractive enough proposition that hotels will jump on it.

On November 23, 2015, PD commented on Where is the meat Buzzfeed? :

Agreed that transparency is probably more the issue here. I feel like a lot of sites these days either directly copy or repackage the same content, although Buzzfeed is probably has the biggest name of these. Ultimately Buzzfeed could be a content generator, in which case readers would expect original content, or it could be just as useful as a content aggregator, with the value proposition being that a lot of interesting and trending content is available quickly in one place. In this case, which is closer to Buzzfeed’s current model, the site just needs to be explicit about the fact that this is their value proposition and do a good job of citing sources.

On November 23, 2015, PD commented on Bikes, Data and the Crowd :

Thanks for the post! I agree that data can help Hubway better manage supply/demand and keep users satisfied. I think your point about connecting with other public transportation is a really important potential improvement, as I would guess that at least some people use Hubway as only part of a commute.
Another thing that would be useful (not sure whether this already exists, as I don’t use Hubway) is providing real-time data to users on bike availability (and, alternatively, whether certain stations are full and can’t take any more bikes). Some other ride-sharing systems in other cities have this data available, and I’m guessing it makes it easier for people to choose a station, particularly if there are a few nearby.

On October 30, 2015, PD commented on Yelp: An old dog may need a new trick soon :

I agree that Yelp may be running into some issues with scale, as people may be less incentivized to contribute. Perhaps at some point it will have to require people to contribute in order to view full reviews or something like that. Quality of reviews is definitely tough to control as well, since weeding out low-quality reviews may bring accusations of censorship or selective publishing (and, as pointed out above, Yelp already faces charges of unfair play). Although the up-voting system helps somewhat, it’s still difficult to really control quality. I also agree that many ratings are somewhat inflated, so it’s difficult to really distinguish between different options. That said, I think Yelp is still helpful as a red flag if an establishment is bad – since getting poor scores or consistently negative reviews is not common, I usually know that this would be a place to avoid.

Thanks for your post! Threadless is definitely an interesting example, and I think that holding on to successful designers who may be able to make better money more easily on their own is definitely an issue. That said, I imagine that even if Threadless serves more as a launching pad for new designers and less as a long-term home for already-successful designers, it may still have a steady flow of attractive and interesting designs. However, I’d be curious to see how this develops as the site grows.
I think you’re right to point out that Threadless may face brand risk as it makes some changes to help build growth. Besides the designers’ own stores, Threadless has had pop-up stores in larger brick-and-mortar stores, for example. These actions – along with the inevitable decrease in exclusivity that accompanies growth – may threaten Threadless’s brand image as a unique, creative, exclusive, “by the people” kind of place. I’m curious to see how they will either preserve or evolve their brand to accompany growth.

Thanks for the post! Glassdoor is definitely a great site, and one I’ve used often. I’ve always tended to feel that the actual reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, as there are often large discrepancies in employees’ reactions and it seems at times that those most motivated to write more detailed reviews are those who feel most strongly one way or the other. However, the strategy of obligating users to contribute definitely helps Glassdoor to amass enough reviews, particularly for larger companies, to be more representative. And I certainly think that the more objective information that Glassdoor provides – salary ranges, interview questions, etc – is very useful.
I agree with you that Glassdoor may need to watch out for a large player like LinkedIn who may be able to launch something similar fairly quickly thanks to its size. I think that with this in mind Glassdoor is doing all it can to engrain itself in users’ minds as the go-to place for credible information about workplaces, leaving LinkedIn its dominance in the job search and professional social media community space. Besides trying to scale quickly in order to ensure strong coverage of workplaces, I think it’s interesting that Glassdoor is also establishing its credibility by, for example, ranking “best places to work” via its annual Employees’ Choice Awards. The fact that companies publicize these rankings helps reinforce Glassdoor’s reputation and credibility. It’ll be interesting to see whether Glassdoor and LinkedIn will continue to split the online jobs market without beginning to compete directly.

To the last point above, I agree that Venmo’s value proposition may differ by market — not only in terms of user acceptance or suspicion, but also in terms of existing alternatives. In the US, from my experience there is often a fee to make a wire transfer, particularly to other banks, so people wouldn’t want to make transfers for minor things like paying a friend back for a meal. Services like PayPal and Venmo have helped people find an easier and cheaper way to transfer money regularly. But in other countries (I’m thinking specifically of France), transfers are free and relatively painless (I have to input a friend’s account number once into my bank’s mobile app, and after that sending over money is free and quick — so I use it for many minor payments, much like I use Venmo in the US). While the system could be made even more streamlined, I wonder whether something like Venmo would have enough of a value proposition to capture network effects and a large user base in a market like that.

On October 5, 2015, PD commented on Pandora: The More You Listen, The Better It Gets :

I think the comparison with SoundCloud is interesting, though to me the two models are slightly different and the value of network effects is different as well. Pandora in a sense curates playlists for its users by trying to best replicate their tastes and preferences. As you describe, network effects help the platform to do this better by collecting data on users’ reactions to its choices of songs. SoundCloud, on the other hand, is more hands-off as a platform. Artists themselves choose to upload music, and listeners find, make and share playlists, tags and comments. The value of network effects here seems to me to be more around building up a community whose scale makes it attractive – the more users there are, the more artists will want to participate, and vice-versa. So while Pandora uses network effects to improve the quality of its service, SoundCloud seems to use them more to improve the quantity/scale of its content. Of course SoundCloud’s tagging system allows users to explore new music based on what they’re listening to, and to see what’s trending, but I still think that unlike Pandora, whose main value proposition is to actively suggest new music to listeners, SoundCloud’s primary value is in having an active community of both artists and listeners. Both seem to be working well – it’ll be interesting to see how both evolve!

On October 4, 2015, PD commented on The Knot : Maximizing Value in an Evergreen Industry :

Thanks for the post! I agree that the Knot has done a great job of becoming the website for brides and couples looking for wedding information and planning resources. What I find interesting, though, is that in order to grow the Knot also had to invest a lot in content generation – which is different from typical two-sided market platforms in some other industries. That is, it seems that it was difficult for the Knot to grow purely on the basis of allowing couples to search vendors – instead, it had to attract users by offering interesting articles, inspirational photos and ideas, etc. This may be because pure two-sided platforms work particularly well for products or services that are relatively commoditized – partially because if it doesn’t quite work out, it’s not that big a deal. A wedding, on the other hand, is meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and couples want to make sure that the choices they make are perfect. So while having a larger user base with more reviews and comments is useful, many people may still prefer to choose their wedding vendors in person and often based on recommendations of close friends and family. Therefore, while the Knot does have this directory/platform aspect, and while I’m guessing its users certainly use this feature to search for vendors, I think the site’s content plays a major role in attracting users. This is different from platforms like OpenTable, for instance, which doesn’t really have to invest in content, but can remain mostly functional/transactional.

On September 14, 2015, PD commented on Getting your grande latte without the grande lines :

It’s interesting that some people bring up automatic coffee machines. I recently came across an automatic Starbucks machine in a train station in Europe — something that I haven’t seen here, though it may certainly exist. Basically, it was a machine within a Relay store where you could buy a selection of Starbucks drinks (e.g. cappuccinos, lattes, chai lattes, etc) that were prepared on the spot by the machine and cost a bit less than they would at a regular “staffed” Starbucks. The taste of my drink was the same as at a normal Starbucks. Since these already exist, I wonder whether Starbucks will integrate them either within their supply chain as the bottleneck shifts, and/or to compete outside of the traditional Starbucks experience with other automatic coffee makers. I’d be curious to know how attached Starbucks customers are to the ambiance and coffee shop experience that made them popular in the first place (thought-out design, etc), or whether they just want their daily standard coffee and wouldn’t mind a more automated solution if it were more efficient.

On September 14, 2015, PD commented on Slack, a Digital Open Office :

Thanks for this post! I had never heard of Slack, and looked into it after reading this. I’d have to try it out to know for sure, but the way you describe it, it sounds like it would be an amazing solution. I’ve always been incredibly frustrated by the relative difficult of organizing and searching in Outlook (it’s gotten a bit better over time, but still not great), and office chat solutions in large firms (like Lync) are okay but not well-integrated with the rest of one’s communication.

I do wonder, though, whether less tech-savvy, more traditional and larger workplaces are ready for something like Slack. Specifically, would it require a different mindset and culture of communication — more flexible, perhaps less formal, etc? Also, it sounds like a great tool within the office, but I’d be curious to see how easy it is to integrate external clients, partners or customers, or whether it would still be necessary to rely on more traditional email. In any case, I’m sure that existing workplace communication solutions will have to start working on integrating different communication capabilities (email, teleconference, chat, scheduling, document sharing and editing, etc) more effectively as people come to expect one-stop solutions.

On September 14, 2015, PD commented on The Guardian – how to be a winner in a declining industry :

Really interesting post! Indeed, I think it’s great that The Guardian has found a way to use digital to actually build a community and provide some additional value. I’m very skeptical about monetization of pure information because, as you say, there is so much information available for free. Being able to boost ad revenue by boosting reader engagement and driving traffic to the site seems like a more effective long-term strategy than monetized subscriptions, which can be circumvented or are simply unattractive to readers who choose to go elsewhere for their news. I do, however, wonder whether it would be particularly difficult for other publications to follow suit. Even if The Guardian has created a community and really integrated readers into its content generation, I’m not sure that there is much lock-in in this situation, i.e. that readers wouldn’t participate just as actively on another publication’s platform, or migrate to another news source if provided with similar features. While I think people do have favorite publications that they tend to consult regularly, I think we’re becoming increasingly less loyal and will consume content from a number of different sources. So I’m curious to see how The Guardian would react to other players using digital more wisely. I would also be curious to see what other ideas they develop to monetize additional services. Live events are an interesting idea, but I’d like to see how they can push this further!