This. is a new online news-aggregating platform that wouldn’t exist without the power of crowds. The landing page (found at This.cm), which only launched a few weeks ago, displays ~25 articles that have recently been posted by its members. The layout of the site is actually quite similar to our Digit blog post pages – with headlines, photos, and a quick description by the member who posted the link.
The site is completely free to use. Anyone can click on articles to link to the original post (however, if you read too many New Yorker articles for instance, you will hit the Paywall on the actual site, since This. is simply a platform – it doesn’t change the location of the original article). If you want to start following specific members (and the news they post), you simply create a username and join the This. community – also free.
This. incentivizes its members to post articles by having a page of “Featured Members” and by trying to engage Network Effects (if you start following people, or get followed by people, it will increase the desire to post good articles) – however, because the site is so new, these Network Effects are not yet as strong as they will be.
One other smart move that This. did was offer a beta version for a few months. Before the site launched, they had email addresses of anyone who came to the site and was interested in the idea of a news sharing platform. Each day, This. sent an email with 5 curated news articles straight to your inbox (I believe the Community Curator probably found these articles since the company only has 3 employees at this point, but he could have also been employing the power of crowds for these emails as well). As a user, I got used to having 5 great articles in my inbox every day and loved finding the time to read them. Even once the site launched, This. continues to send me daily emails with 5 articles, which I enjoy and it’s a good reminder to visit This.cm and see what other news is being posted.
So, with 3 employees, no apparent business model, and a ton of users, does This. even count as a company? Well, you could say the same for Snapchat, and I think they count.
The challenges facing This. going forward are ensuring continued use – how do they make sure it doesn’t just become a fad. However, because people tend to consume news daily, I don’t think they’ll face that issue. Another challenge is replicability; anyone could start the exact same platform at another website without much difficultly. The only thing that will keep This. from suffering from copy cats is if they maintain high quality articles on the site, making it the desired destination for news readers. Yes, there is nothing keeping members from posting the same link on multiple news aggregating platforms (i.e. multi-homing), but if a user begins to curate their This. homepage – and start following specific members – then he/she has a reason to stay on this site. The biggest challenge will be ensuring its members continue to post great, well-written articles and not letting the site collect junk or promoted articles by journalists, etc. It looks like the site will try to prevent that by relying on its “Featured Members” homepage and by maintaining the right to take down articles that doesn’t fit its mission. They have also instituted two policies to help this: 1) Each member can only post 1 article a day, and 2) Users have the ability to “Thank” the member for posting a great article and the “Thanks” are aggregated so you can easily see which articles have the highest number of Thanks. Again, these features will only help improve the site as it continues to grow.
This. creates value by collecting great news articles from around the web and by creating a community around sharing these articles. In terms of capturing value, they haven’t defined how they plan to do that, or if they will. Options include: charging users a subscription fee to use the site, or trying to get the original media companies to share their subscription fees since This. is linking more people to their website (unlikely that this would work). They could introduce advertising or they could crowdsource donations from its users given the strong community. But they likely won’t do any of these things in the short-term, as they are just trying to increase the number of users and the quality of the content. Side note: because the site is just an aggregator of articles posted on other original websites, This. could never introduce a Paywall (i.e., charging users after they link to a certain number of links) because they could just bypass the This. link and type the article in a Google search bar.
So, growth potential. I think it could be pretty big. Users were hugely disappointed when Google got rid of Google Reader (a similar news feed based on websites/blogs you’ve subscribed to) and many have been searching for an alternative to getting their news from their Facebook news feed (which tends to be littered with Buzzfeed articles and other less substantial pieces). While This. faces competition from Feedly, Digg, and other sites, I think they have the potential to become a go-to site because of the high quality user interface, the high quality of their content, and an already strong base of members.
More info here: https://blog.this.cm/introducing-this-1633dfee851d#.w9n0y9wt5