Zipidee: A prosumer digital goods marketplace

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I’m a bit of a fanboy for user generated content. No question that there is significant untapped potential in those of us who have knowledge and experience that we could pass on to others and yet there aren’t many effective ways of monetizing our Long Tail knowledge.

A digital marketplace for sellers (i.e., content producers) and buyers to come together — with protection for the content so it can’t be given to non-paying others for free — seems like a good idea but Zipidee’s beta launch isn’t showing that idea in its best light.

Their press release today details their value proposition:

Zipidee today announced the public beta release of the premier Prosumer Generated Content (PGC) marketplace for digital goods. Zipidee is an open marketplace that empowers PGC digi-good owners, from aspiring media moguls to large media companies, to generate revenue from their existing digital assets. Zipidee provides the storefront and tools for content owners, distributors, and networks to publish, protect, promote, and profit by selling their original digital content. Zipidee provides digi-good buyers immediate access to an extensive library of content without shipping fees or wait time. The platform currently supports videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and music, with eBooks, games, and ringtones coming in the near future.

The problem? The content available in this launch is incredibly bad. From poor editing to tragically amateurish talent, I found absolutely nothing that I’d pay money for (prices ranged from $1.99 to $7.99 with owning the download at ~$9.99) and, in fact, as I watched about 25 videos I thought they should pay ME for watching these!

Zipidee must’ve swung a deal with a firm called Education 2000 since about 90% of the videos seem to have come from that firm’s inventory. Almost all of the ones I watched seemed to be of the type that an infomercial might be hawking at 2am showcasing “the educational hits from the 70’s” or something cheesy like that.

What could’ve or should’ve been done and why am I so uncertain Zipidee will have any success?

In the 1980’s when I was at Pioneer New Media and we had the Laserdisc technology (12″ optical discs for video), we wanted to break in to the educational space and swung a deal with Encyclopedia Brittanica for their videos. We pressed their top 100 educational videos and were instantly in the education business and it took off from there. Why? These were quality materials and every educator instantly understood how previous videotape materials were suddenly highly interactive in this new format.

So “table stakes” to get in to the content game is quality content and Zipidee should’ve sought out a higher quality provider to launch with pre-populated categories. Like anything else in commerce, a (very rough) 10% of any marketplace is a leading, quality deliverable and I expect that most stuff will be cheesy or crap and I’m willing to search out the gems. The kicker? Even in delivering Long Tail content, stuff people will pay for has to be quite good or you’d better just give it away for free and hope you can drum up business in some other way.

I’ve always been of a mindset that if you can sell me something for $10 that will save me $20 or make me $50 I’ll buy it. If it reduces my or my company cycle time, I’ll buy it. If it adds value to me, my team, my company or what I do, I’ll buy it. But it must be quality that doesn’t appear to be cheesy or something I’ll have to sit through to get even one nugget from after paying for it. The return on investment must be there.

When you can pay $9.99 for a one year old Hollywood blockbuster that gives you two hours of entertainment, why would you pay even $1.99 for a lecture on making your dreams come true or $5.99 for how to arrange flowers? The answer is not-a-snowballs-chance-in-Hades, that’s what.

Now let’s compare Zipidee with a popular site which provides a lot of value, HowStuffWorks. They now have a featured area of videos they aggregate that are all free. The entire site is free because it is, of course, advertiser driven. The content is very high quality and is well done and I often go there with my son when he asks about how something works. We’ll go together since I usually can’t explain in the detail he demands and he’s a helluva lot smarter than I am and I can still dazzle him with how I can find just about anything on the ‘net! (That’s not gonna last long though).

Think about the respective models of Zipidee and then HowStuffWorks while considering the enormity of the other million blogs out there besides mine; the scale of user generated video and free video sites; newspapers (like the New York Times) moving away from a subscription model to free; TV networks (like NBC) making their shows available…for free; 25,000 video and audio podcasts on iTunes…for free, and on and on.

In addition to all this overwhelmingly qualitative and free content, we’ve barely scratched the surface on what will be delivered as more and more of us publish online. As you’re certainly aware, the barriers to entry of personal and company publishing is laughingly low. As I point out in my report, Rise of the Participation Culture, the tools (cameras, audio gear, PC’s, Web 2.0 offerings like OneTrueMedia) are allowing anyone with any knowledge to create and deliver high value content.

I’ll say that again: Allowing anyone with any knowledge to create and deliver high value content. How do you compete with that? If you’re going to try and you’re going to charge money for it, your content had better be more than your talking head or a bad videotape of your standup lecture and then uploaded to Zipidee with a $7.99 price slapped on to it.

Believe you me, I really, really, really want to see a way to monetize knowledge and have incentives for individual, small or medium sized businesses to deliver ever higher value content.

Zipidee isn’t it and I can’t visualize how it will be either.

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3 Comments

  1. rosanne on October 15, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    I think the site is awesome, maybe not because of the current content on site, but because FINALLY there is a platform I can use to monetize my cooking videos. It’s a beta launch, duh. This can only get better with time. Ebay wasn’t selling all the stuff they are selling now when they first launched, but look at them now. I like the fact that the marketplace will decide whether or not things are overpriced or not worth value, and thus sellers will reduce price to equal quality in the long run. If you don’t think the content is what you are interested in, you can always publish and sell your own, which is what the whole point is anyway. All in all, what a great concept!



  2. Scott Skibell on October 18, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Steve,

    You make several excellent points. There’s a paradox though. Creating GOOD content does take time and money.

    As you’ve noted, quality online instruction involves a lot more than a talking head from a seminar. Creating effective & engaging solutions involves multiple disciplines including videography, graphic arts, instructional design, and script writing. All this talent costs money, or at least, incurs a significant opportunity cost.

    The challenge for content producers is to find the right balance. Brian Clark over at CopyBlogger and now TrainingSells maybe on to something. As he and many others have pointed out, relying on AdSense is a risky business model. Sending readers away via pay-per-click just doesn’t make sense.

    So where does that leave us? I know you said you can’t visualize it yet but I believe significant returns are available to those who figure it out. There is way too much crap out there (and lets not forget the value-add for most of YouTube’s videos.)

    If a provider consistently produces QUALITY content and builds goodwill in their brand, I believe people will pay for their content provided the following conditions are met:

    1. Similar content is NOT readily available for FREE. And if there are free alternatives, there needs to be significant value-add in the experience of using the paid content. This is typically achieved via higher production values. Again as a producer, just make sure you balance ROI.

    2. Product content needs to be VERY specific and niche oriented. It needs to address wants/needs and offer a bona fide ROI to the BUYER. This needs to be very clear during the sales cycle.

    3. Trust needs to be established between the buyer and seller. Your blog is an excellent example of establishing the credibility, and eventual trust, between parties. I’m sure this contributes significantly to your consulting business. The same can happen for content providers.

    I applaud Zipidee for trying to create a marketplace for content. Unfortunately, it appears they licensed some pretty old stuff to jump start their library. If they can get enough new stuff, hopefully it’ll make those 70’s infomercials disappear.

    I have some ideas and when I crack the code for good chargeable content, I’ll let you know. I just ask you to return the favor 😉

    Thanks for inspiring me tonight.



  3. Tim Wohls on November 5, 2007 at 3:24 am

    Steve-
    I think this review missed the point. The site is not a collection or catalog of goods, but rather a marketplace which allows an individual – any individual – to sell digital goods with minimal setup, overhead and delay. You wouldn’t rate the quality of a new shopping mall based on the quality of the goods at one of its stores, but rather on how well the mall supported the shopping experience (lighting, flow, accessibility, parking, etc.) In this respect this review tells us nothing about those important characteristics.

    Further, since this is a “pro-sumer” market, the basic foundation for uploading and presenting content must be in place before there can be anything to sell. Since immediate access to buyers is one of the key attributes of the site, it wouldn’t make sense to wait until everything was in place (and stale) before opening it up to the market for sale.

    Zipidee is embracing the “People’s Web” and enabling new and promising models. As for the reviewer, changing paradigms require not just new types of markets, but also new criteria for judging them.



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