Stop Working on the Platform. Focus on the Content.

Will Bunker
Jul 7, 2015 · 3 min read

So you’re developing a product in a two-sided marketplace. Maybe it’s a dating app or a travel review site. You’ve got to develop both sides of the marketplace: 1) the platform, and 2) the content. You need enough content/participants to draw people in, but you need a great UI as well. That can be a lot to handle at once, and it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.

In the beginning stages, many entrepreneurs work too hard on the platform. And they go broke. Having a great product is not enough. By neglecting the content, they’re losing customers (and money), and running themselves into the ground. If you’re struggling to gain traction, the problem might not be the UI. Maybe you just need more “stuff.”

Take this example: Sarah wants to create a travel website. The two sides of her marketplace are 1) the vacationers and 2) information about where vacationers want to go (i.e. London, San Francisco, Sao Paolo). She could work on the platform (UI, navigation, design) to improve user experience. Or, she could increase content (“The Ultimate San Francisco Bucket List”; “The Best Kept Secrets of London”) to improve her site’s utility. So, where to start?

First, she’s got to figure out the relationship between the volume of content and the number of new visitors. This relationship isn’t linear, it’s logarithmic. It flattens out like this:

As you increase content, the number of visitors increase. As you can see, Sarah has to wait for curve to flatten out (the indication she’s reached peak utility for the user), then she can work on improving the platform.

It’s a two-level decision process:

  1. What interaction determines success?
  • When I was developing online dating, success was determined by the number of subscriptions per visitor.
  • For Sarah, it’s the number of vacation-advice articles each users reads. This tells her that people get utility out of the interaction.

2. As Sarah adds more articles, how does interactivity increase until it flattens out?

  • Needs to know the number of locations her users are searching for. Until she knows the number of locations to cover, she won’t know how many articles she has to add.
  • How many pieces of content does she need before it all starts working?
  • Needs to know where the curve flattens.

A lot of hyper local things work this way. Is the information useful? Do you have enough content for a variety of users? If Ebay just sold toilet paper, it would be a shitty site, right?

So, as you’re working on your product, check to see if you have enough “stuff” to make it useful to your users. Product/market fit is important, but many entrepreneurs don’t think enough about content/market fit as well. As your growth stalls or flattens, consider which side of your business you need to work on. Because nothing costs more than working on the wrong thing.

    Will Bunker

    Written by

    Partner at GrowthX and GrowthX Academy. Love learning and helping entrepreneurs. Founded what became Match.com.

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