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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Competitive Walls Breaking Down

Publishers have traditionally tried to keep and protect their readers as if they were momma gorillas defending their young. But the web world of free content and being able to quickly click to a competitor's site has forced publishers to change behaviors.

PC World, one of the venerable tech publishers, is throwing open the doors of its site to link to competing product reviews. Product reviews have long been the bread and butter of tech publishing as magazines touted the superiority of their testing experts (he says, speaking from his experience as one long ago). But they recognize that this is no longer a viable strategy when information such as product reviews has become a commodity.

PC World has partnered with Retrevo, a consumer electronics search engine that organizes and analyzes both professional and user generated product reviews. Retrevo's special sauce is in its algorithm that tracks retail prices and product reviews, according to vice president of products Robb Lewis. Lewis says they "add structure to unstructured data" by parsing the reviews to understand if the community of reviews are positive or negative. "We're doing what would take tons of editors to do with machines," he says. The information is distilled so that mainstream buyers can get past the tech jargon to understand the value of a product.

PC World recognized that people will read multiple reviews online anyway before buying, so they might as well try to hold onto them by partnering with Retrevo and becoming a destination for aggregated information.

This new philosophy of recognizing the value of competitive info has already been popularized in the news business, where journalists' blogs routinely highlight the best articles from their competitors. When you add technology that can automatically extract and organize relevant data, the web becomes an even more powerful vehicle.

By John Gartner at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

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