Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

I was meeting with a very successful VC firm in
Boston today reviewing new companies and ideas. One of the partners
asked me to characterize Web 2.0 startups. I said, half jokingly, "I
think Web 2.0 stands for a web app, 2 founders and zero revenue." But,
they all have an advertising model in mind. Read Techmeme any day and you know what I mean.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today "Investors to Web startups: Where’s the advertising?"  The story basically says that VCs are nervous about funding anything other than ad supported consumer applications.

capitalists tend to be fans of ad-driven sites since advertising
revenue theoretically covers the cost of giving away a Web service
free, and free sites attract users much faster than sites that charge
money. Such sites are typically also cheap to run because there is
often no need for customer-service agents or costs for physical goods.
So such companies can have high profit margins if they succeed. Many of
today’s hottest Web properties are based on the online-ad model,
Google Inc., which pairs ads with search results, and social-networking site Facebook Inc.

Don’t get me wrong,
I love Web 2.0 apps, social networks, widgets, and UGC (User Generated
Content) sites. I use lots of them everyday. But applying a
one-size-fits-all revenue model to these ideas is just wrong.

Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

The first thing to
remember is that not all page views and users are created equal.
Meaning, some page views like SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) are
very valuable and can be effectively monetized with CPC ads, but other
page views are essentially worthless or low margin. Simply counting up
page views or unique users doesn’t necessarily translate to revenue.

There are lots of other revenue models that can make sense for web based applications and services.

Freemium – The Freemium model, upselling from free to premium services is a good model. Many of the widgets provide a free service with options to buy premium services such as more detailed traffic statistics, more powerful services, enhanced customization, or higher levels of service.

– Direct selling to your audience, affiliate marketing ala Amazon.com,
finders fees, or percentage of sales, are all good models for certain
types of services.

Yes, people will buy subscriptions to software, services, and high
quality content. There are some great businesses built on subscribers.

can be a component of any revenue model that includes a large targeted
audience, but it shouldn’t be the only path. There are only so many
ways to split the advertising budget pie…and the big guys are getting
most of it. Web 2.0 entrepreneurs need to think creatively about all
the possible revenue streams.

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