Double vision of customers: a gooyahmic economy

Today I was forwarded an interesting blog post on Hulu's dual stakeholders - video watching users one the one hand and advertisers on the other. The article poses the question when you have two sets of people to please how do you go about structuring your business model to fully address the needs of both?

Of course, direct marketing is all about looking at your subsets of interested parties and seeking to make everyone happy by tailoring the offer. Lately a lot of marketers have been narrowing the lens to the most profitable clients or the clients that they already serve best in order to tighten their belts. Others are seeing a market opportunity and broadening their definition of a core customer.

But one of the most interesting markets in which companies are redefining their core customer is aggregate information providers, or Web portal giants - the Google, Microsoft and Yahoo kerfuffle (or the gooyahmic economy, if we must smoosh).

This past week the big three have been shuffling through their decks - Google's promoting it's display ads, Microsoft's ramped up search with Yahoo partnership and Yahoo is redefining where it fits in the content creation vs. aggregation universe (AOL's playing in the mix as well - with its new content focus).

The real challenge each of these companies has is that they've got double vision when it comes to who they serve. In order to get eyeballs they have to provide trust-worthy content served in the most convenient way possible.

It used to be that the eyeballs alone were enough to then satisfy their actual paying customers - search and display marketeers who wanted to sell where all the customers were. Not so anymore- each of the giants have made ample investments in targeting, reporting and delivering leads on a CPA-basis. If you can't prove out your ROI, no one is buying.

So now, the gooyahmic economy is not running on just satisfied users - they don't bring in revenue. Only satisfied users who also buy things, click paid links, fill out applications and play pre-roll videos bring in revenue.

So...why is everyone still talking about who's winning the site visit or audience size war? For the same reason no giant CPG spend is going to small vertical sites - size still matters, it just isn't the only thing that counts. Marketers will follow the crowd - to Facebook, to Twitter, to the moons of Saturn - but when they get there, content aggregators better be prepared to serve them, metrics and results - in a way that doesn't undermine either stakeholder group's interests.
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