APIs, Monetization, and Collecta

Spent most of today watching my wife’s U.S. naturalization, as well as driving up and down to the ceremony. It might seem cheesy or sentimental, but surely it means something that people from 104 different countries came to Oakland’s Paramount Theater today to become citizens of the United States.

Meanwhile, there’s been some coverage of Collecta’s decision to terminate support for their real-time news/activity API, for instance ProgrammableWeb’s Is It Finally the End for Real-time Search Engines?

Collecta provided a real-time news feed that was adopted by plenty of web sites, enabling those sites to provide real-time aspect to their pages. Collecta provided web-APIs and sample code to allow web sites to straightforwardly add the Collecta feed. They were getting decent adoption, and could show nice usage graphs for their service.

What’s the problem?

Firstly, it is hard to monetize an intermediate widget when someone else owns the customer. The massive usage volumes that Collecta would have required to monetize successfully were not coming their way, not as a startup, anyway.

Secondly, a lot of the value of information comes from analytics, especially personal, social, or group analytics, not simply from the mere aggregation of content or simple content search-ability.

Of course, aiming at “enterprise” analytics / news, rather than consumer as Collecta did, would be an alternate strategy; but enterprise carries its own set of challenges.

Yet another approach would be to curate the feeds much more actively – have a celebrity feed, an Apple feed, a Justin Bieber feed…

Collecta’s technology looks decent, and they have a nice team. For me, the lesson would be that something that is highly personalized for each viewer, or to each area of interest, is going to be more compelling than simply providing a “stream of stuff”. Real-time and personal and part of an integrated user experience that is more than a widget – that might work.

Which leads me right back to this.

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