Finding the best restaurant in town is not easy. Therefore a vast number of applications and websites provide services to facilitate the search. The “online urban guide” and business review site Yelp is the most popular among them. It uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for its users and to help them connect with local businesses. Like most other recommendation websites, it combines numerical ratings with textual reviews. Yelp contains over 57 million local reviews and attracts around 130 million users monthly.
Companies are aware of the power of word-of-mouth. Online user reviews have become an increasingly important source of information for consumers. However, when it comes to more personal local services such as finding a trustworthy craftsman, lawyer, or the most competent physiotherapist online recommendation websites like Yelp are only used as a last resort. „People don’t go to Yelp for doctors or lawyers because of trust issues“, says Mohit, the founder of GemShare. „Positive reviews from strangers don’t guarantee that you, too, will value what is likely a very personalized and intimate experience.“ Besides the relevance of taste and trust for these services, people are also aware of fraud within online recommendation systems. Especially local services that are not used by a sufficient quantity of people to obtain the wisdom-of-the-crowd-effect, reviews and ratings can easily be manipulated by self-ratings of companies.
The alternative to the time-consuming and sometimes untrustworthy use of common online recommendation platforms is to ask the own personal network for advice, but even with all our social networks and technical devices, this approach can also be time-consuming and frustrating.
GemShare, launched in April, 2014, is a recommendation platform and application that focuses on trust and personal recommendations to solve this issue. “We have several members who have said two thumbs up from a friend is worth more than 40-star reviews,” says Mohit. Users create their own trusted network of friends and like-minded people, via Facebook, Gmail, or phone contacts, for the specific purpose of finding out where to find the best service.
“Online journalism is dead”. This statement is the driving idea behind the business model of the German online magazine Krautreporter. A paradox?
Today many websites are exclusively financed by online advertisements. Google, the most visited website in the world, provides its services to the Internet users for free. Revenues are exclusively generated from advertisers who are interested in reaching out to the online users. Today Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world. Virtually no website misses the chance to broach the lucrative source of online advertisements. Websites with the highest click rates generate the highest profits, since advertisers are willing to pay premium prices for increased reach. In general there is nothing wrong with it. But how about non-commercial Internet content?
Freedom of the press is a crucial element of each democracy. This freedom mostly implies the absence of interference from overreaching states. Public opinion should be shaped by unbiased information. Online journalism, the distribution of editorial content via the Internet, is increasingly suppressing traditional print media and has democratized the flow of information. Today any content can be found online at no charge; therefore print media sales are falling. To ensure sustained revenue, publishing companies are using the previously described business model, by running advertisements on their websites, on which they also display their journalistic content.
Watch out, Generation X, Y and Z – a powerful new force in culture and commerce is emerging: Generation C. User generated “Content”, “Community”, “Creation”, “Connection” and “Curation” are its defining features. Spanning the generations its members are digital natives and exceptionally tech-adept, using the web to search for and create new content across all platforms – everywhere, everyday.
Within Generation C everyone is a blogger, everyone is an artist and everyone can be a designer. This phenomenon leads to an increasing dilution of the distinction between audience and speaker, consumer and creator. Therefore the desire for personalized products and services has never been greater. Tapping into this trend companies like M&M or Nike provide their customers with the opportunity to adjust designs and colors to their individual needs and thereby create their own personalized product versions within a given framework. Meanwhile mass customization is commonplace.
The need to express individuality particularly applies to high-involvement products like art or design. Many trends, such as the DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”) movement, also build on this phenomenon. DIY communities provide inspirations, guidelines and advice to create individual items, without any commercial intermediaries involved. But even if the creativity of Generation C members seems to be endless, their skills and also their time are finite. Productivity is restricted by the technical skills of the creator.