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The Discovery Opportunity

I’m a huge StumbleUpon fan, and not just because it was started in Calgary before – sniff, sniff – leaving home to seek its fame and fortune in Silicon Valley. StumbleUpon rocks because its mandate is all about discovery – the ability to offer up new Web sites that take you out of your comfort zone (aka the sites/blogs in a particular area that you check out every day).

The way I see it, discovery is – or be should be – one of the most exciting new trends on the Web that will spawn the next wave of hot start-ups. Let me explain. Right now, we’re in the midst of a user-generated content revolution with the creation of millions of blogs, podcasts and vlogs. At the same time, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to produce high-quality videos and music that you can quickly distribute on the Web.

The problem – and the opportunity – is discovering all his new content because search engines – including Google – aren’t to do the trick. So how do you discover new and interesting blogs, music, videos, etc. given most people don’t stray too far their main area of interest. For example, given my interest in technology, there are a handful of Web sites (Techmeme, Tailrank, CNet) and a 50 to 75 blogs that I visit regularly but few of them are non-tech (CBSsportline.com, CBC.com, The Guardian, New York Times). I suspect my online habits are pretty typical.

So how do you get out of this echo chamber? That’s where discovery tools such as StumbleUpon, Pandora and LastFM come into the mix by forcing you out of your online comfort zone.

Since I started using StumbleUpon, for example, my bookmark list has expanded (Note: I’d like to see a StumbleUpon tool created just for blogs). I’ve also got 10 Pandora channels, which has gone a long way in solving my music discovery challenge (It’s like commercial radio is a place to discover new music, and venture capitalists/music afficianado Fred Wilson can only blog about so many hot, new bands).

If I was going to jump into a new start-up, it would be something focused on discovery – a service that makes it easy to find new Web sites and blogs, books (check out this book discovery tool), music, restaurants, travel destinations, podcasts, videos, movies, etc. The emergence of these tools could take us back to the Web’s early days (I’m talking when it hit the mainstream in the mid-90s) when it was pretty easy to be blown away by all the new things the Web had to offer, which prompted many people to spend hours just randomly surfing. Ah, those were the days!

For more thoughts on StumbleUpon, check out 10e20, which talks about to use StumbleUpon for your business; and Andy Beal, who provides some tips on how to make Web sites StumbleUpon-able.

Update: The New York Times has a story looking at the challenges facing people looking to search for video content.
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  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    Hey Mark,

    I think you’ve hit the heart of why SU is so popular. Glad you liked the SU article on MP. One note: *I* wrote that particular Marketing Pilgrim post.

    I often sniffle over Canadian companies–my dad works for Nortel (in RTP).

    Jordan

  • http://slantt.net dreadsword

    Funny you should mention discovery – I’ve just finished putting together an initial version of “SLANTT.net” – a discovery service based on popular RSS feeds, del.icio.us tags, and the Technorati API.

    Here’s an example of a SLANTTed Digg story:
    http://slantt.net/news/digg_all/6_Reasons_Why_Sex_is_Very_Healthy_for_You

    SLANTT indexes the Digg RSS feed, and for each story crawls the Digg site to get its URL. It then bounces that URL off Del.icio.us and gets the related tags, and technorati to get related blogs. SLANTT also maintains an index of the del.icio.us “Popular” items for each tag, which it uses to list related links for any give story.

    So – from a Digg story, you can see how its been categorized, and find other similar content, relying on the del.icio.us user base for filtering.

    Its definitely not sophisticated or social-y like SU, but it does bubble up some interesting content, and has interesting potential (ex: I’m working on a tag clustering algorithm to improve link relevance).

    There’s some other issues to work out too – the del.icio.us side relies on page-scraping, which while I’ve received permission from del.icio.us to do, just feels wrong. I wish they’d release a proper API already. Speaking of API’s, the technorati API has a ridiculous low throttle limit. The story volume from the 6 feeds that slantt indexes usually breaks TR’s threshold by mid-afternoon. I need to have a conversation with those dudes…

  • http://www.goombah.com MoonGlam

    In the spirit of Napster, check out Goombah. The recommentations and free music are phenominal. Totally based on taste. There’s an adventure setting so you can go out of your comfort zone as you like. They first match you to 20 people and you can browse their entire libraries.