Grokking PubSub as the Offer Exchange

About a month ago, Bambi Francisco caught people’s attention when she clued in to the possibility of Google becoming an online advertising exchange. As noted in her own piece, this isn’t exactly original thinking:

“The idea of an exchange “has been kicking around since ’95, but no one has ever been able to grab hold because publishers wanted to have control,” said Rich LeFurgy, partner at WaldenVC and founding chairman of Interactive Advertising Bureau. “

Around the same time, PubSub’s PR efforts were hitting on all cylinders, with write-ups on their ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ positioning by John Battelle, Charlene Li and Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek’s Blogspotting.

PubSub’s traditional positioning has always been… unique. It’s a different beast than Feedster, Blogpulse and Technorati, as it discards the corpus and instead focuses on literal clipping alerts on a go-forward basis. (To be fair to the other services mentioned, all are capable of replicating PubSub’s alert functionality through their own RSS persisted searches, at least at current usage volumes.) PubSub dubs its service “future search”, which is much sexier than calling it a “clipping” or “matching engine”.

In any event… PubSub’s most recent efforts have been in helping to bootstrap structured blogging. Because of the potential for disruption (which I’ve written about, and been flattered to be interviewed about before), it’s worth tying this all up once more:

1. Bambi focused on an online advertising exchange, primarily (IMO) by thinking about the opportunity from the current AdWords/AdSense capability perspective. It’s critically important to understand that once we’ve abstracted to the point of an “offer” (via sufficiently structured/formatted content via structured blogging et al), and hence have the notion of an “offer exchange” making matches between decentralized market pariticpants… that paid listings = sponsored listings = classified listings = advertisements = offers.

2. As I wrote back in October of last year on the future of classified listings, decentralization of the marketplace is approaching: “Most importantly, IMO, the days of classified listing aggregation (e.g.,,, etc) are marked. Rather, an open offer exchange, fed by XML (i.e., RSS) formatted listings and needs, will route the right listings to the right people, based on all of the aforementioned parameters.”

When you think about it from the perspective of “offers” vs. “advertisements”, the need for traditional (exclusive distribution) publishers that LeFurgy mentions evaporates. In its place, we’re left with the need for:

1. Sufficiently structured/formatted content. Plenty of work happening here…

2. The Exchange mechanism. PubSub and possibly its named competitors herein…

3. Payment. PayPal and perhaps soon, Google Wallet…

4. Web-wide Identity. I’ll be very interested in hearing what Marc Canter and Dick Hardt of Sxip are cooking up tomorrow at Supernova

5. Web-wide Reputation. I’m not aware of anyone working extensively on web-wide reputation?! Not an easy nut to crack, and a core advantage of centralized marketplaces like eBay. What am I missing?

In addition to Dick’s talk tomorrow, I’ll be attending all of the “Track II” sessions of tomorrow’s Supernova workshops, focused on decentralized commerce/marketplaces. I’ll blog what I can when I can…

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3 comments on “Grokking PubSub as the Offer Exchange
  1. Anonymous says:

    AMEN, TONY! This is what I was getting at in my comment today to this post on Jeff Jarvis’s blog. Basically: let’s just put the ads in blogs/RSS and then move onto the next step.

    BTW, it’s not just PubSub-type searches that can connect parties. Consider, for instance, an online travel guide that includes links to flight/hotel/etc deals compiled dynamically from aggregating RSS-borne offers.

    I think this is a very big idea. I’d love to know who’s looking into this…

    -Gabe Rivera (memeorandum)

  2. Tony Gentile says:

    Hey Gabe! Enjoyed chatting with you at Mike & Elle’s… may drop a note to follow-up on our conversation as I still haven’t done my write-up on the topic we discussed and would love to include your service…

    Anyway, as to your search comment… you’re completely correct in saying that the current PubSub search approach may not be sufficient for all cases. Largely, I see this dependent on the degree of structure (or parameterization) of the data, and whether the parameters are free-form, enumerated or (gasp) both. Travel (as you said) is certainly an example where a simple single text field search is insufficient. But, this *seems* pretty solvable to me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I would hope everyone can get their act together. Because everyone benefits, save for those holding $300-a-pop equities in a certain closed ad network.

    One more point: Advertisers should just start publishing their stuff now, even before any deals are inked, or all the technical details are agreed upon. Because experience has shown when data is out there, interesting, unexpected things just seem to happen. Maybe industry-transforming things.

    You know, now that the feedmesh guys are talking about sharing the full post along with the ping, it seems in the future, search/aggregator firms may not even need to develop crawlers. So it’s getting cheaper and easier every day to launch a minigoogle (vertical search or otherwise).

    (Speaking of which, why hasn’t the ubiqitous and bicoastal Bob Wyman weighed in in these comments? Where are you Bob? 😀 )

    Hope you’re hearing some interest in this stuff at Supernova. I think all these ideas are pointing the way toward something revolutionary…