Monrai Blog

News about Cypher, Semantic Web, Natural Language Processing, and Computational Linguistics

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Response to Dan Grigorovici's SemanticWeb.com articles (Part 1)

Dan Grigorovici, AOL exec, semantic web evangelist, and good friend of mine, is doing a series of articles for SemanticWeb.com. In it, he makes a call to action to the semantic web community, and admonishes us to buckle down on the PR aspect of the semantic web (or the lack thereof). I'd like to attempt to offer some responses to the issues he addresses.

I was having a conversation with a few of the "usual suspects" of the Semantic Web evangelical crowd, and it was mentioned that one of the problems we face is how do you make money in a medium that is not eyeballs-driven. Because the semantic web is a technology who users are mostly made up of machines, the catch-all monetization strategy of Web 1.0, advertising, does not apply. Someone then took the words out of my mouth by saying something to the effect that you don't have to have people looking at a web page to deliver an ad to them, the ad can be delivered across other mediums, SMS, etc. The problem is that current advertising is obtrusive. I am reminded of how one time I had a really big headache, and I went to the drug store to buy aspirin, and found myself in the aisle asking "Now, what's the name of that 'I have a headache this big' medicine?". A classic example of a good product that was offered to me at a bad time. So an improvement that is needed is the injection of "context" into the equation, being able to deliver to a user a product, service or opportunity, at the most opportune and relevant moment, based on their current need, time, and place. At the time I saw that commercial (btw, the brand is Excedrin), I was a small child and probably had never had a headache. But when I finally entered the market for it, I was unable to find/recall it.

I added that user behavior, interests, etc can be collected (by permission) and used to drive more intelligent referrals for purchase decisions. People are always looking for better advice before buying, case in point is an experience I had with a crummy airline. Had I had a service that could have made a quality recommendation on my airline (taking price, quality preference, and other factors together), I would have literally saved hundreds of dollars.

So one business model that will, IMHO, be a bread-and-butter source of revenue for Semantic Web companies will be in "cooking" triples that describe users and the things that interest them, to provide the knowledge/intelligence needed to fuel the next generation of recommendation services. These services will connect customers to the things they want and need with laser-like precision, and will deliver these laser-beam recommendations unobtrusively across a myrid of channels. Companies will pay a premium to have their products and services delivered by such services.

Stay tuned for the next micro-post, where I continue to offer monetization suggestions for Semantic Web startups.

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