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The Balance of Value went out of their extended beta two weeks ago, with a launch
party in San Francisco that had several guests wondering if it weren't just
the perfect moment in history to be a catering company. Greeters, jugglers,
mimes, beef satay, vodka tonics, free tins of mints.all supporting the
release of a site that was brought to market a bit too early. is the latest in a slew of "demand-driven" commerce sites. Think
of it as a reverse auction.but without the auction part. Let's say you're
interested in buying a new Sony digital camcorder. You drop by the site,
click through to the "Camcorder" section, fill out a form indicating your
interest in buying said camcorder, and leave behind some personal data,
including your email address. takes your request, and forwards
it anonymously to the merchants in its list of 20,000 that sell camcorders.
Those merchants then start contacting you via email, letting you know what
they have in stock, and inviting you to visit their site. charges merchants a monthly fee to participate in the network,
and an additional fee to respond to customer inquiries. For Telren
Wholesalers in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, who responded to my inquiries
about a new camcorder, Respond might just be an easy and cost-effective way
to attract new potential customers.

But for me, was just another quick and easy way to fill my inbox
with sloppy marketing messages. More than half of the thirty vendors that
responded to my two requests (I'm also looking for an LCD monitor) didn't
bother to suggest specific products, and half of the ones who did respond
with specific products didn't bother to list prices.

Worse yet, doesn't provide a way to shut off the flow of email.
(A quick reminder to web marketers: if you provide folks the ability to
"opt-in," they should also be able to "opt-out.") In fact,
offers no account management functionality. Not only can I not log in to
opt-out, but I can't read or respond to offers on the site (a la eBay), I
can't manage message delivery mediums (a la, I can't rate or
review products or merchants (a la Epinions), and I can't combine my
interest with other customers' in order to drive a better bargain (a la

Given this year's infomediary explosion, clearly felt the
pressure to launch something quickly. The fact that they launched with
20,000 merchants on day one (not to mention a just-in-time-for-the-holidays
distribution deal with Excite) speaks to the strength of their business
development team. But they need to invest in tools or content that help
provide a greater balance of value between the merchant and the
buyer.especially if they want to live up to their "demand-driven" promise.
The demand side of the market is too smart, and too fickle, to let sites sit
in the middle of the transaction flow and do nothing more than direct
traffic and collect tolls.

-- Michael Sippey ([EMAIL PROTECTED])


Can succeed without providing more advanced tools for their
users?  Just what kind of value do infomediaries have to provide?  Shout
back on the obvious.boards at...


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