Reading Between the Lines: Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability on Goodreads
The concept of lightweight models and cost effective scalability, one of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Patterns, is directly linked to the success and proliferation of many of the web 2.0 platforms that we use every day. This concept, in simple terms, is that the capabilities now possible, due to the world of web 2.0, such as open source software, cloud computing and businesses and brands being able to market themselves due to the network effect, that more can be done with less. This business model is suggestive that those developing web 2.0 platforms can now benefit from using these tools and resources to allow them to reduce costs and time because of what is already available. O’Reilly propose that this model is not only cost-effective, but scalable for changing demand and being able to adapt instantaneously in response to the market. This business model has been demonstrated by many of the major social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, both of which were developed at a low cost and with a limited number of resources. The start of the platform that is now Facebook was designed and created by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends in their dorm room while still studying at college.
Another example that I think encompasses this strategy and several of its best practices is Goodreads. Goodreads is a community-based book review and book recommendation website, where users have the ability to share books and book lists, see what their friends are reading, have books recommended to them based on their previous reading habits, as well as look over the 29 million book reviews. Goodreads was developed by Otis Chandler and his wife in 2007 for their personal benefit, and since then has gone one to acquire more than 25 million members.
Goodreads’ smart utilisation of sharing capabilities and feedback channels has allowed them to optimise on the ability to market virally at a low cost, one of the best practices and benefits from this web 2.0 pattern. Goodreads is able to benefit from ‘user initiated publicity’ and promote their site by allowing users to share books, book lists and reviews to their friends via their existing social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Amazon, which is available from every page on the site. This allows for a greater reach of people to see Goodreads and the information on their website, with the potential for this to benefit from word of mouth or to spread virally, without them actually having to pay for promotion of the site. The platform also has the capability for interaction between users and the company itself, through their blog and help pages. This type of communication can assist in users feeling like they are a part of a two-way mutually beneficial relationship, which is important in maintaining loyalty and customer satisfaction to build a strong user base. The easily accessible widgets on Goodreads that any user can access and share on their website is another example of a promotional and marketing tool to advertise Goodread’s benefits without them actually having to spend any money or time.
The syndication of business models, another best practice of this web 2.0 pattern, has seen Goodreads collaborate with other businesses and platforms to offer users a better service by essentially building on top of the components each business already has to offer. Goodreads has an open API, meaning developers can access the data from the platform regarding books and book reviews and share them on whatever platform it is they are working on. Also, just recently Amazon acquired Goodreads and now has the capabilities for users who purchase books with Amazon to sync their accounts and information. By touching an extra button on your kindle when you purchase a book, you can now directly integrate your purchases with your Goodreads account and the social network you have on there. How easy is that!
These two practices are definitely not the only way in which Goodreads is benefiting from the lightweight model and cost effective scalability, it is also very obvious in their designs and ability to scale with demand as the platform has expanded over the years. It is amazing to think what the platform has achieved in 7 years with a company that has less than 70 employees, and definitely epitomise the idea that more can be done for less thanks to web 2.0 capabilities.
I am interested to hear your thoughts about the topic, especially in relation to Goodreads and what you think is or is not working well for them. Do you know of any other platforms that you think are benefiting from this business model? Do you think platforms like this will become even easier to develop as technology and software changes? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions and thank you for reading my blog!
- Askey, D. (2013). Goodreads changed my life. And then it got bought by Amazon. Retrieved from http://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/goodreads-changed-my-life-and-then-it-got-bought-by-amazon/
- Goodreads. (2014). Who we are. Retrieved May 10, 2014, from https://www.goodreads.com/about/us
- O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is web 2.0. Retrieved from http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=5
- O’Reilly, T. (2007). Web 2.0 principles and best practices. Retrieved from http://issuu.com/levinyte/docs/web-2-0-principles-and-best-practices-oreilly-rada
- Owen, L.H. (2014, April 16). Goodreads users can now sync Amazon purchases with their accounts [web log post]. Retrieved from https://gigaom.com/2014/04/16/goodreads-users-can-now-sync-amazon-purchases-with-their-accounts/
- Phillips, S. (2007, July 25). A brief history of Facebook. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com
- Solomon, M.R., Hughes, A., Chitty, B., Fripp, G., Marshall, G.W., & Stuart, E.W. (2011). Marketing 2: real people, real choices (2nd ed.). Sydney, NSW: Pearson Education Australia.
- Image Source: Google Images via Creative Commons