How do I deal with new online competition?
December 21, 2006 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Will my site be destroyed by a competitor?

I have had a web site (one of a few covering a certain topic) for a couple of years. Recently I read that a large, well-regarded organization plans to launch a site that will significantly overlap with my site in both tone and content.

What's likely to happen? Either their launch will stir public interest in the subject and potentially drive traffic to my site, or it'll hammer my underdog site into internet oblivion. Will anyone seek out my little corner of the internet when there’s a more frequently updated, more comprehensive, better-funded site?

I don’t know when the other site will go live. The group behind the new site knows about my site.

Looking for advice on taking advantage of a possible surge of interest in the topic when they big site launches and, in general, dealing with competitors doing the same thing I am but with much more money and influence. Is there anything I can do to try to benefit from their launch, or should I just wave goodbye to my web traffic? imitatednotflattered at gmail
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're not as well-funded as your competition, your only option is to market yourself as the original, with functionality only your site provides, and convince people that there is value that the competitor's site cannot provide.

Pop culture frequently references Wikipedia, for example, but I have yet to hear anyone recommend Google's alternative, which rips off Wikipedia's content (likewise, for comparisons of Google and Microsoft Live, etc.).

Both Wikipedia and Google have much less funding than their competitors in their respective markets, but their services provide tangibly better value to users, driving repeat business.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on December 21, 2006

Either scenario is possible. You ask this question, however on Ask MetaFilter and not Google Answers, why is that exactly? Oh, yeah, that's why. So don't give up hope yet!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:44 PM on December 21, 2006

Will anyone seek out my little corner of the internet when there’s a more frequently updated, more comprehensive, better-funded site?

Work out what you have that they don't, and what sucks about their site. Then make sure the difference is immediately obvious when they visit yours.

Also, think about times when, as a user, you've switched from an old site to a new one, and why you did (or didn't).
posted by cillit bang at 11:56 PM on December 21, 2006

All I know is that ask.metafilter hasn't been stomped out by yahoo! answers. Without knowing your website, or what its function is, all I can do is speculate. My best guess is that you will retain all of your traffic.
posted by pwally at 1:46 AM on December 22, 2006

Is there some way you can get a community together around your website? Maybe add forums (if you don't have them already) and do everything you can to encourage long-term users to stick around and develop their own little fanatical cliques. They will then publicise your site through word of mouth and keep its Pagerank high by linking to it.

It used to be that if you spent an hour following links on the Web you could find half a dozen sites on topics that you had never even contemplated the existence of. Nowadays it takes twenty minutes to find the same number of huge, passionate forum-based communities all focussed on even weirder things. It's as if the whole alt.* hierarchy has got up and draped itself all over the Web (and since people don't seem to use Usenet so much anymore, this is probably in part what has happened). Not that I'm saying your site is necessarily weird, just that part of the key to success seems to be user involvement and interaction no matter what you're about.

Did I just try to explain 'Web 2.0'? If I did, please flag for deletion.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:57 AM on December 22, 2006

Depends on what your site is, since you don't say. If it's a store, well yes, you might be screwed if you have no positive reputation, tenuous revenue, and are selling something available through the same distribution channels anybody else can use.

If it's a blog, you might have a threat, you might not. Competition is goofily synergistic there. It's possible that a massively well-funded and highly-trafficked blog can end up linking to yours more frequently than any other site. You can see this happening all the time among the tech gadget blogs, where the easiest way to find out about new, good gadget bloggers is by reading the usual A-list sites, since they link to their sources. Other topical communities, not so much.

Reputation carries you a lot further in journalism than in most professions. Being prolific, reliable, and accessible counts for more than massive cash infusions and exclusives can. My hypothesis, knowing nothing about you, is that if you're worried about a newcomer, well-funded or otherwise, you're actually asking how faithful your site's readership is. If you're insecure about this, why not go ahead and ask them what's up?
posted by ardgedee at 3:21 AM on December 22, 2006

Will anyone seek out my little corner of the internet when there’s a more frequently updated, more comprehensive, better-funded site?

You may be making some assumptions here. Better funding does NOT mean it will be more frequently updated and more comprehensive.

It's amazing what a passionate person or two can do that a team of 40 people and a budget can have trouble doing. I've run a popular site (#1 in Google for its topic) since 1994, and I've seen competition come and go. Usually the better-funded, more commercial sites quickly go stagnant, and my real competition is from dedicated individuals like myself.

Of course, if your own site is stagnant and you don't plan to work hard to make it better, you can expect to lose ground. It's all about the content, though, not the funding. And your competitors have far less advantage than you think.

Big companies have to deal with things like committee meetings and budget proposals. They have to hire people, and they'll probably end up with people far less passionate than you. They have to make a profit after paying their entire staff and paying for their office space. You don't have any of those constraints.

Money and influence don't mean much. You have an older site, meaning it probably has a better ranking in Google and more links than their site will have for a while. Take advantage of that and continue to improve your site.

Also, you should embrace your competition. Talk to them. If they're doing a good job, they'll end up linking to you, and you can both benefit. Offer to write them an article or two in exchange for a link. Link to them when they do something right.
posted by mmoncur at 3:43 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

1. Value your website
2. Sell it to this new site's competitor
3. Profit!
posted by junkbox at 6:08 AM on December 22, 2006

Is there some way you can get a community together around your website?

I was going to suggest that too, so since it's already been done, I'll second it instead.

You could even get those people involved in the updating of the site - most likely they'll love it and it would help solve your "not so frequently updated" issue.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:39 AM on December 22, 2006

a large, well-regarded organization plans to launch a site that will significantly overlap with my site in both tone and content.

To me, "Large and Well funded" reads as "overdesigned and choked with ads". One of the beauties of Metafilter (for example) is how simple and clean the interface is for members. Wikipedia is another example - there's a reason Wikipedia is much more popular than, say, that has little to do with their funding and much more to do with the content, design and useability.
posted by muddgirl at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2006

I've seen both sides of this scenario in various ways.

A decade ago a prominent, large and well funded company I was about to launch a major initiative that had a lot of overlap with my employers major initiative. Our company's founder ended up delaying our launch and in time scrapped it all together because of the fear, uncertainty and doubt cast by the major entrant. It turns out that the major company really never gained traction and ended up exiting the space at a loss by selling the business within a few years.

I've worked for a prominent, large, and well funded company on initiatives to enter new spaces. First thing to understand is that they rarely have unlimited resources. Big companies have a lot of projects that need money. Second thing to understand is that attention is often a limiting resource. It can be hard for new initiatives at established corporations to move nimbly because decisions have to be propagated up the chain of command.

Finally, big companies entering new markets generally have much higher expectations than a little mom & pop operation in the same market (which is why the company that scared us off ended up exiting). They often need to transform a market by growing it.

So you aren't necessarily dead meat. I live in Seattle. There are a hell of a lot of Starbucks here, but there are also a lot more small coffee houses and independent roasters than there were a decade ago.

As others have suggested, you should take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your "customers," and improve your product. You should also start getting your name out there, so anytime the major entrant is mentioned in the press and on blogs, you get a mention too.

Would capital help your site? Would your site be valuable to a competitor of the major entrant? If the answer to either is "yes", you could seek investment. The upside from the investor is that you might be bought by the major entrant's competition, or by the major entrant themselves.
posted by Good Brain at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by Caviar at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2006

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