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Are Portals Looking For New Territory?

If you look at the flurry of recent product, partnership and acquisition announcements from the major portal players, there is clearly a battle raging over the “entry points” to the web. And like those “Magic Eye”: “autostereograms”: that were all the rage in the 90’s, if you stare at the picture long enough, an image begins to emerge of where that battle is being fought and who is winning.
To illustrate the image I see in the “Magic Eye” of these announcements, I’ve come up with this humble little chart.
The idea is to show an opportunity progression where the bigger boxes represent a bigger entry point opportunity. By moving further up the chart (i.e. from the inside boxes to the outside boxes) you have an earlier entry point opportunity with users and thus have the opportunity to market your monetization strategy (search, localization, advertising) before the competition.

I’ve included some examples of recent announcements by these players to illustrate how I see this occurring:
* Turning a competing Portal into Content within your Portal – There are lots of examples of this but one of my favorites is “Yahoo! buying popular”:
* Portal to Portal cross pollination – Another Yahoo! move, this time “swapping core services with rival Portal eBay”:
* Rising above the Portal to the browser – Here’s an example of “Google becoming a toolbar in the browser”: versus just a portal entry point on the web.
* Rising above the browser and embedding the web into the desktop application – Who else but Microsoft to employ a strategy of getting to committed desktop users before they ever invoke a browser, “check out the hotly debated Microsoft Vista”:
* Getting above the operating system to the device itself – This could be a cell or RIM, just as easily as a PC. Here is “an example of Google working with Dell”: to define their entry point right from the device.
* Getting above the device to the network itself: So far I haven’t seen anyone announcing this but I have some guarded hunches on who will.
I could go on with more examples and with my read on the implications of all this for marketers but I’m interested in what others see in this Magic Eye?

One Comment

  1. Sebastien Chorney
    Sebastien Chorney August 17, 2006

    Your chart also gives us a short history of content-based business models and shows us where they may be headed, particularly in the mobile/handheld market.
    Each layer has a monetization strategy: sometimes a walled garden approach with proprietary content at the network or device level; sometimes adding intelligence through content filtering or recommendations at the browser or portal level; sometimes selling ad impressions against eyeballs at the content level.
    But to my mind there is a kind of dynamic instability to all this. The endgame of these successive layers of “filtration” is a degradation of the user experience, followed by increased demand from consumers for disintermediated relationships with each other and to content.
    Thankfully there’s opportunity there, too.

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