Analysis on Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop launch: A Gimmick Site with Marketing Flair

Update: A few hours later… I was away from the web for a few hours, and Guy left a few comments with corrections. I incorrectly assumed he was an investor in Popurls, secondly, there is no technology sharing between the sites. The talented Thomas Marban the creator of Popurls sent me an email also as confirmation. As soon as I saw these comments, I immediately made the corrections on the post, and responded with a comment. Sorry Guy for the incorrect assumptions. Despite these incorrections, the rest of this analysis (esp the marketing) I still stand by.


In the following analysis, I’m being very unbiased and third party to this week’s product launch and marketing of Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop product.

Alltop, a Vertical feed aggregator
Recently, Guy Kawasaki launched yet another new web venture, Alltop. The site which offers a series of aggregated web pages that show the top feeds of any given industry, are what I call a vertical feed aggregation. There are versions for Autos, Celebrities, Fashion, Green, and one called Egos. Guy is an investor in popurls, the engine that powers the many versions of Alltop. (update: correction, Guy is not an investor, nor does the Popurls engine power Alltop)

[Guy Kawasaki launched a commodity vertical feed aggregator, leveraged existing content, and use influencers to market the product on his behalf. Although lacking in product innovation, it was saved by clever marketing.]

Low development costs
The fixed cost for creating a single master template and stylesheet probably took a talented UI designer less than 4 hours. Coding it for development probally took less than one day, there’s not a lot of new functionality added. The production work to analyze all the right feeds to put into the site, and populate each version took the most time. (Update: Since this was not powered by popurls, then Guy’s comment below is correct, there’s other development beyond UI)

Leveraging existing content
Here’s the brilliant part: the content creation. Rather than creating new content, Alltop is simply an overlay over existing content, and by aggregating to one location, creates marginally increased value for someone that doesn’t already have these feeds in a reader.

Marketing launch: the Influence model
Guy lead with the egos site, which contains the feeds of some of the top tech blogs in the industry. There’s a diversity of different races, a few women involved, and it played well to the egos. Techcrunch and many others fell for the bait. Speaking for myself, it was exciting to see myself on this site (top right, above the fold) and of course, that encouraged those who were on the site to blog about it, including taking screenshots.

Guy’s Self-Contradictions lead drama
To further the flames, former Apple evangelist Guy contradicts himself with his recent post on how we can forget about the A-listers (yet launches a website promoting them) Drue has a fiery video, where she pins Guy against the wall for his inconsistencies off camera.

Controversy spurs interest
Guy chose sort of a controversial name, as “egos” excited some, and caused Doc Searls to be repulsed and blogged: “But if you insist on labeling me an ego, I’ll insist that you take me off.” He then wrote a follow up post with additional clarification.

Quite honestly, this is commodity software, there is nothing special about what Alltop, but it comes down to marketing. If Guy can market these products so they become industry starting points (Techmeme failed to expand to new verticals) then he has a chance to create a unique starting point –an index and roadmap of each industry.

[This gimmick site had some creative marketing flair and very low costs, yet the real challenges lay ahead: building an active reader base, and then monetizing]

A gimmick site with marketing flair
“C” for Product: This is not an innovative product, it’s simply a bunch of feeds on a webpage, users can create their own with netvibes or pageflakes.
“A” for Marketing: Guy used the influence mode, segmented by vertical, and leveraged his clout to get exposure, well done.

Results:
As such, Guy will tout this as a success (he’ll likely factor in the low costs of the project) and spur him along for more keynotes, presentations, and accolades as a marketing extraordinarine. Another term for this is a celebrity product, which Guy clearly knows how to leverage. Of course, the next steps will see how he monetizes, clearly an advertising or sponsorship opportunity is likely. (or alternatively, could read on the many forms of monetization)

What do you think:

Don’t just take my word for it, I asked my 3000+ Twitter network what they thought of Guy’s product and here’s what they said:

steven mandzik robotchampion @jowyang brilliant, include the most influential web personalities on ur site, marketing is done!

Rob La Gesse kr8tr @jowyang – all I read about it was on Fake Steve Jobs (but it’s been a busy day for me)

Kristasphere @jowyang: so what is your take on the Egos blog? I was shocked. didn’t see it coming as a formal site about 9 hours ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty

  • Remember that conversation we were having last week about speakers at conferences, and we bemoaned the fact that it was always the same (A-list) names? Well, my reaction to Alltop was pretty much the same. Do we really need yet another way for people to find the same top blogs in any given segment? It just isn’t that hard to find Guy or Doc or Dooce or any of the top names.

    Personally, I’m far more interested in tools that help us find new voices.

    But, yeah, A for marketing strategy.

  • How did he choose which sites he aggregated? Was it based on popularity? RSS subscribers? Technorati authority? His personal favorites?

  • I’m less than impressed with Alltop for the followings reasons:

    – The usability just doesn’t work for how I need to consume feeds. This effectively needs to replace my Netvibes homepage, yet I can’t quickly read feeds inline. If I can’t consume content quickly, I’m moving on.

    – Popping up a new window is so 1999. It’s a pain to close the window and get back to Alltop. Painful pogo sticking.

    – It’s biggest value is editorial selection of the blogs. Once I see that list, I’d much prefer to suck them into a reader of my choice.

    – The pop up URL preview has reverse text on black. Very hard to read.

    With that said, what I admire about the site is:

    – Choice of Egos as a channel is brilliant, if for no other fact than all the folks (like you) will blog about being on the list and help promote it.

    – Good content. I immediately found 5-7 new people/feeds that I will read

    Regards,

    Jeff Cram
    ISITE Design

  • Hey Jeremiah,

    Was it even worth performing this analysis right now? For me, in my industry, it’d be like evaluating the performance of a stock market investor after only 3 months in the business. New investors could come out strong right out of the gate, but can they maintain a “Warren Buffett Type” record over a long period of time? The same applies to start-ups.

    Great, Guy launched another start-up and used his influence with the influencers as a marketing platform…kinda like Vanilla Coke – comes out real strong, but sorta just fizzles out. I think it’d be better to see if the “influencer” marketing model works when we evaluate AllStop..err AllTop 1, 2 or even 3 years from now.

    My apologies if I sound skeptical, I’ve been reading a lot of Duncan Watts lately – http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/122/is-the-tipping-point-toast.html

    Best,
    Wayne

  • trish a_trish

    @jowyang: mixed feelings about the end result, but you’re right you can’t deny that guy’s created a buzz off of names, but not in the traditional way (celebrity x = good), in the conversational sense (or as you said the controversial sense too) which is the best, word of mouth

  • Alltop reminds me a little of those old attempts to build web directories before there was an effective search paradigm. I’m having trouble seeing why we’d need to turn back the clock like this?

  • I don’t get it, tbh. As others have mentioned netvibes, so will I. It works just as well. In the “about section, Guy(presumably) says:
    Q. Couldn’t I build my own custom aggregation using customizable home pages, Netvibes, etc?

    A. Yes, you could — knock yourself out. While you’re at it, you could backup your hard disk, bake your own bread, iron your own shirts, floss daily, tune your own car, and bike to work.

    I do 4 out of the 6, work from home, and I’ll use netvibes, thanks.

    I follow @guykawasaki and RSS his site – but I’ll pass on this solution in search of a problem.

  • @wayne, the analysis is just as heavy on the marketing of the product launch as the overall product performance.

    Even though it’s early, I can make some clear predictions with great certainty on how Guy will tout this as a success.

  • Jeff Cram

    Yup, I feel that the tabs should open in a new window, NOT the same window as well.

  • Jeremiah,

    You asked for feedback. I am totally into green design and the Alltop Green page didn’t capture my attention. The Egos page sucked me in and I found some interesting bloggers. But, I didn’t see any reason to bookmark the site when I can depend on my twitter friends to tell me what’s interesting.

    Joy~
    Jeanette

  • I wonder how much longer Guy can borrow against his fame? I quit following him on twitter because of his Truemors spam. He basically did the same thing. Built a commodity web knock off for cheap and leveraged his personal brand to get it off the ground.

  • I went there, I checked the Fashion tab. I took the feeds I liked. I added some others. I did a better List 😉
    For free…
    Check it for yourself

  • This analysis of what it took to develop Alltop is off by orders of magnitude. You’re only counting the design and front-end code. What about the parsing, performance, and scaling issues of multiple topics, fifty feeds per topic, refreshing every ten minutes, etc?

    Isn’t it nice to be a analyst instead of an entrepreneur?

  • Jeremiah,

    I wasn’t really saying anything about the content of the analysis itself (it was really good stuff), I guess I was nitpicking about the definition of “marketing”. This was more of a “launch campaign” and not longterm marketing success, so I felt the “A” grade he received was premature if we’re looking at a long term successful marketing trend.

    But it just dawned on me (as it probably has for you a thousand times over), this could be a very compelling project/book/extended report for you — instead of analyzing companies after the fact, analyze them throughout their life cycle through the lens of their marketing efforts. Keep structured blog posts on all of them as your data set – have it developed live, over a long period of time with the help of your readers – and you’ll have one of the first “Blog Born Books” on start-ups.

    I’d buy it.

    -Wayne

  • @Guy

    From an entrepreneur & former techie –

    RSS parsing isn’t all that difficult. Your pages are (or at least they should be) 100% cached (so you’re not hitting your DB all the time) and therefore the scaling issue isn’t very complex. In fact, if I’m in your shoes I’m using EC2 servers to handle all the data parsing and even hosting the cached pages across redundant EC2 boxes. Quick, cheap and scalable.

    -Wayne

  • i love the concept and RSS… but hasn’t alltop been done a couple times already?

    http://originalsignal.com/

  • One more thing: I am not an investor, shareholder, anything but a friend and admirer of popurls? Where did you get that piece of fiction?

  • And where in the world did you come up with the theory that popurls powers Alltop? There is no technical connection at all. Are you pulling things out of the air?

  • …And Yahoo! is an investor in Techcrunch which is powered by GeoCities.
    Thanks in advance for clarifying Jeremiah.

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    Good analysis, and some interesting comments. Something that strikes me, however, that doesn’t seem to of been mentioned yet, is that alltop isn’t (in my opinion) meant for people who already use feeds! Or even for people who are likely to.

    For the ‘average joe’ who isn’t following an industry for work but is just interested in fashion say, and likes to browse through sites and blogs occasionally, this would be a great find, showing them new places and allowing them to load up the page when they’re interested in having a browse.

    What I’m trying to say is that we should be reviewing this from a non-techie point of view, so saying that it’s pointless because you can just use a feedreader is beside the point.

    Josh

  • Guy seems upset

  • This post was an excellent way to fan the flames and shows that you (Jeremiah) are just as savy as Guy when it comes to using your connections to your advantage. Having read you for a while, it seems pretty clear that we both know how premature and inflammatory this post was, so one can only surmise that was intentional on your part. The way you introduced some very subjective analysis signaled me to gloss over your post and judge for myself. The downside is I have one more data point that I’m supposed to just gloss over your words and look for links because you aren’t going to be helpful. I don’t like those data points because they introduce the chance I’ll miss it when you are being insightful; and you are very often insightful.

    I’m a very long time supporter of Guy and think he has provided significant value to the landscape over the years. Is this particular offering the new sliced bread? Who cares? It is a very subjective area to play in, a little like saying one car is better than another, or this coffee is better than that one. For some, it will be the New Best Thing, for others they will prefer business as usual. A quick poke around your comments section reveals how big this market is [insert poke at netvibes, google reader, yahoo pipes, your reader of choice, perezhilton, etc.] so does it matter if it changes the world? Put your excellent mind to work and tell me how marginally successful it has to be to make money anyway. Now that would have made an interesting angle…

    In any case, I’ve benefited just as much from your constant influx of new ideas and people as from Guy’s. Personally, I think you do an excellent job in stirring the pot and keeping us all abreast of this highly volatile landscape. However, some prudence is warranted when it comes to such subjective analysis.

    Be informative, you are very good at that. If you want to be interpretive, you could stand to walk a little softer. Here there be giants…

  • Wayne,

    I’m not upset. I’m trying to help Jeremiah keep the flames going for traffic.

    Guy

  • I just saw this and the three responses from Guy. I’ll make the corrections on the post regarding

    1) (response to comment #13) Sure, I made a call on the technical implementation, but it was an outside perspective that this is commodity tool. I assume that this was built on top of Popurls, so if that were the case, the logic would have been correct.

    2) (response to comment #17) I was wrong, will correct. The investing portion. I remember Guy talking about them during a recent lunch, I was mistaken in thinking he was an investor.

    3) (response to comment #18) Will correct, but here’s my reasoning: It’s easy to misconstrue that “inspired by Popurls” suggested that it was powered by Popurls. Given that I assume there was a direction relationship, leveraging existing technology made a lot of sense.

    4) (response to comment #23) Traffic: I don’t need flames to keep traffic going, I’m not generating any direct revenue from this site, and actually, when I’m wrong, that’s embarrassing. I’ll quickly correct and clean up. I really try not to make mistakes, this is the worst reason to have traffic.

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  • Tempus

    Thanks for all the insightful comments, Tempus, yes I took a stand on a very subjective topic, this will only continue, thanks for your suggestions.

    Question: Why do you suggest I didn’t provide any links? I’m not following all of your comment.

    Please note that none of this was personal in any way to Guy, his team, or anyone else, I gave my honest opinion and backed it up with insight. (and got some of it wrong)

  • Jeremiah,

    One of my posts was removed – I talked about what it would take, from a technology perspective, to launch a site like this (in response to Guy’s #13 comment). Was that for any particular reason?

    Guy – I’m pretty sure you were referring to keeping the flames going so you could get more traffic back to your site…in which case, bravo 🙂

    -Wayne

  • Wayne

    It was stuck in moderation, it’s a wordpress thing.

  • Jeremiah – you know I think the world of you, but are you seriously kidding? 🙂

    I can’t believe you were able to get 1,000 words out of a clone of popurls/original signal.

    But Guy has accomplished his goal, to get people to write about him (note i said him).

  • Something being over looked here IMO is the need for clean and easy filters.

    yes – the bleeding edge feed readers among us have been all over these feeds for a long time. Let’s pat ourselves on the back. yeah. we’re cool.

    The mainstream however, has little time or patience to go off on hours long discovery surfs of random blogs looking for the “best” blogs.

    With the explosion of information and choice online – these kinds of filters and gateways are going to be increasingly valuable.

    profitable too.

    the question for the entrepreneur is – do you want to be in the “being filtered” business – or the “am filtering” business?

  • First thanks for the name check in your post.

    Interestingly, about two weeks ago, a colleague of mine sought me out for blogging advice, and Guy came up. He asked me basically what was the big deal about Guy Kawasaki, and why was his blog so popular, because he’d read a post on there and just didn’t see what the fuss was about. All I could offer was that I ‘thought’ he was one of the first bloggers, and he’d worked for Microsoft or Apple, so by default he was granted “star status” in the blogging community.

    Hope this doesn’t come across as ‘player hating’, but the Egos thing I’d term “Pimp Blogging”. No argument from me about making money, but I don’t see getting a bunch of accolades for a glorified Google RSS feed reader.

  • Guy Kawasaki,

    You haven’t covered my EGO blog yet… 😉 Could you compare and contrast Alltop with e.g., Netvibes and Pageflakes?

    All the Best,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.

  • Nicholas

    I’d give it an “F” for product. Hotmacnews.com did this a LONG time ago. Just without the celebrity creator behind it.

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  • Guy’s new site taught me two things:

    1. The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. We like to think that the web is different than traditional media because it gives everybody a chance, but in fact unless you’re one of the A-listers such as the blogs featured on AllTops, you aren’t worth very much. Now, instead of hoping for a reference in the New York Times, people seeking fame and fortune hope for a reference from TechCrunch, BoingBoing, et al. The same thing in different clothing.

    This isn’t necessarily bad, it just means that we should probably tone down the web-idealism a bit.

    2. That PopUrls exists. It is such a great site! I had never seen it before, and now it’s my home page. I love it!

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  • I’ve spent some time today going through one category – social media – and found a mixture of sites I knew and some new to me. As I want to use the list as a reference site, I was wondering how the selections were made as to who is in and who is out. From reading the About page it seems that there is a degree of subjectivity – e.g. if you have a favorite site and it’s not there, you send an email and it will be considered. I don’t have a problem with the subjectivity, just that it’s sensible for us to be aware of it. Unless I’m missing something.

  • Jeremiah, this is an extreme limit case of (a) absolutely no product value at all, (b) hype creation based on the Guy Kawasaki name. Guy could just created a bunch of NetVibes pages and shared them out if he really wanted to share out his blogroll in this fashion. Your post got it right: lets look at what Guy did with a ridiculously thin product offering and try to do as good of a job with a product of more substance. It just feels like a cynical exercise to promote something that doesn’t really make the world better. Guy, you’ve been an inspiration to me, so I just don’t get this!

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  • I went there, I checked the Fashion tab. I took the feeds I liked. I added some others. I did a better List 😉
    For free…
    Check it for yourself

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