NetNoVibes2: Pierre Chappaz pushing white label

Nice interview of Tariq in NetEco, following the departure of Chappaz.  There is one highly revealing line where he specifies that Pierre was specifically pushing for monetization through white label deals whilst Tariq (and the VCs presumably) did not believe in that strategy.

  • JB – Pour justifier son départ, Pierre Chappaz évoquait des visions différentes en matière de distribution et de monétisation. Qu’en est-il ?

    TK – Je ne peux pas répondre pour Pierre, en ce qui me concerne je ne pense pas que nous ayons de désaccord sur la nécessité de monétiser netvibes. Nous y travaillons avec notre équipe et nos partenaires. Nous avons par contre plusieurs options qui s’offrent à nous. En tant qu’entrepreneur, j’ai toujours voulu choisir les solutions qui soient les plus respectueuses de notre communauté d’utilisateurs et qui nous permettent de tirer le meilleur parti de la plate-forme technologique que nous avons bâtie. En conséquence je ne partageais pas l’urgence de compromettre notre stratégie produit en offrant des services de marques blanches.

Netvibes strategically is an interesting one to play.  The web is a story of constant intermediation and re-intermediation.  If you look at Netvibes, is it essentially trying to re-intermediate every other service out there (whether a service like YouTube through a module or a publisher like TechCrunch though a “Universe”) or is it really trying to create massively distributed and monetizable real estate through exportable widgets ? 

To illustrate this simply, you could imagine a YouTube video being republished inside Facebook through a Netvibes widget.  When YouTube runs an in-stream ad, who’s the affiliate of who here and how do the revenues get shared?

The answer is all of the above, of course.  In fact, before you declare Chappaz old-school, you should consider that even a white-label strategy could well be conducive to building the strength of the network.  Say you align yourself with “L’Equipe“, a classical sports publisher, and provide them with a white label Netvibes page.  Their readers (who would never haven gotten even close) get introduced to the ecosystem, the content gets provided to all to enjoy, it could be quite a virtuous circle.  The key benefit is that it’s a good way to go mass market using trusted brands, and probably provides cash upfront as well.  On that note it’s worth noting that Orange (i.e. if you missed it that’s the  retail arm of FranceTelecom and France’s dominant ISP) launched its own BubbleTop recently.  They must have had a premonition.

Instead the company has relied on “Universes“, pages designed by publishers for their audience (compare and contrast the MTV Universe and the AlJazeera Universe) which essentially represent the quintessence of their view of the world.  Think the Web, remixed by whoever you happen to trust as a brand.  So that seems to be a strategy that says “let’s make the web live within Netvibes” and not the other way around.    On balance I think I buy this.  Since the company signed over 700 partners I will assume these are all free short-term contracts, so sharing the ad or affiliation spoils is still to come.

Netvibes to me remains an interesting case study in how to take a web2 company mainstream.  I have designed pages for members of my family and watch them struggle with the concept, simpy confused with the co-mongling of mutiple news sources.  Whether Netvibes, Pageflakes or others,  the one that breaks the mass market fastest will probably have won the race.

Tariq KRIM<— Tariq at leweb3 (I think).  Bizarrely I could not find one picture of Tariq and Pierre together except for the dinner one i posted earlier (admittedly did not look for hours either).  From a PR standpoint this article is nice but late and smells of after-the-fact management.  What’s going on?

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