Digital Opportunities: Can You Monetize Web Mashup Tools?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 3:30pm by Site Administrator

Look around online and you might be surprised at the plethora of web mashup tools. These web applications allow you to take the data from one web app and send it to another to get “mashed up” data. It’s the era of the “plug’n'play” web application, and the general consensus must be that there’s money in it – or so you’d think from the quantity of such tools.

Why Mashup Tools?
My own personal favorite is Yahoo! Pipes because I get some of the functionality of programming without having to write actual code. Of course, it’s limited to mashing up mostly RSS feeds (witih some new modules now that handle CSV and text files), but for what it does, it’s a fantastic tool. It’s great for fast prototyping of some types of data manipulation applications.

The question is, though, is it any good to the masses? I thought it was, and produced several video tutorials about Yahoo! Pipes over at Tubetorial, but a few colleagues think Pipes is too technical. As a programmer for 30 years, I’d beg to differ, but it’s all relative I guess.

Is There a Market?
What about other mashup tools? Are they any good? Can you produce anything useful with them? I believe so, but Rob of BusinessPundit says:

… 99.7% of the time, these mash-ups strike me as useless and uninteresting. Most mashups reflect the mediocrity of the minds thats created them.

Well maybe it’s true, but so what? Let people have their fun. Although, if you have to wade through the mediocre to find the proverbial diamond in the rough, then it’s a chore I don’t want. I simply produce my own mashups.

At last count, I think I had 150 Yahoo Pipes mashups. Are most of them mediocre? Absolutely. Did I unleash most of them on the public by “publishing” them? No, I did not. Did I publish any of them? Yes, only the ones I thought were very useful, in tandem with either or both of a blog article or video screencast tutorial.

Can Mashups be Monetized?
The fact is, there’s a potentially big market in web mashups in terms of monetization. I’m not sure if anyone has discovered it yet, but it’s lurking there somewhere. Possibilities:

  1. Publish advertising on the application site – either CPM (Cost per Mille, pays per thousand pageviews), CPC (Cost per Click, pays by the legitimate ad click), or text link ads.
  2. Build a large user base then sell on a per-head basis to someone that wants to later leverage paid subscriptions, services, or other offerings.

Where do You Start?
The digital entrepeneur that comes up with a “killer” web mashup that makes it easy to do one thing well, and can be used plug’n'play fashion with other apps stands a very good chance of scoring a long-term ROI. It’s getting there that you have to be able to weather monetarily, since hosting costs might sink you until you can find a buyer. (While it goes against bootstrapping principles if you incur interest charges, a good  business credit card with %APR and a long payback duration will do wonders for getting you through.)

Geting back to what Rob of BusinessPundit was saying about the reuse of code in mashups… mediocrity comes from not fully understanding what one tool or another really does, or not realizing how two tools can be integrated. A good mashup tool site with a tutorial blog to aid users will win return visitors. Yahoo! Pipes has a blog, though they don’t post as frequently as I’d like.

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1 Comment »

  1. I hope it monetizes… I hope.

    Comment by Meg H. — October 3, 2007 @ 6:15 am

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