Archive for October 6th, 2005

Ning

Thursday, October 6th, 2005 -- By ET

In my research, I study marketing implications of information flows. (read it twice, you will know what I’m talking about). emoticon

So I keep a close eye on the new developments in information technology that may potentially change the way sellers and buyers are connected.  The narrow definition of "seller" and "buyer" involves the two ends of a monetary transaction.  If you have an open mind like I do, you will accept a more general way of defining "seller" and "buyer": they can be the two ends of any exchange or transaction of anything.  Of course, this "anything" can be information.  For example, when I finish writing this article, and you will be stopping by and reading it.  I will be the seller and you will be the buyer.  Although no money is involved, I sell you my "view points", and you pay me your "attention".  You spend some time to read my article instead of using it to do something else, so I have created some value to you (of course, if you find out reading this as a waste of time, the value I create for you is negative).  But we economists can conveniently assume "free disposal", which means if you don’t like this, you can discard it easily and never come back again.  In other words, you can "vote with feet".

Now come back to what I really want to write. :-p

There are many innovative services coming out in the last few years.  If you paid attention to the trends and new services, you can find many exciting websites.  For example, Craigslist, Flikr, Zagat, Del.icio.us, stumbleupon, they do different things with different people as target audience, but they have one thing in common, they facilitate the exchange of information.  It remains unanswered how they substitute or complement traditional marketing channels, and I (with Chris Dellarocas and Neveen Awad) have a paper studying that.  Now there is a website called Ning (www.ning.com) that gives power to ordinary people to establish new websites to offer services to facilitate information exchange.  If all these new services can be compared to Amazon, then Ning is like eBay that empowers small individual sellers.  EBay may not offer as high a quality than Amazon, but the variety offered in eBay can never be dreamed by Amazon.  It is similar for Ning, it establishes the platform for people to play with, and no corporate machine could ever surpass the creativity brought about by the "decentralized" small service providers.


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