Thursday, 27 August 2009

CollinsBirds (Dotcom?)

Re-edited Version as I rushed this out whilst kids were asleep and wanted to add some detail.

One of the strangest stands I came across at the Birdfair was the CollinsBirds Dotcom stand, although Lee Evans 'Don Johnson' impression ran a close second. It seems that Collins have decided to move into the already crowded market place for bird information and social networking. Free alerts, sightings maps, checklists and look up for species information as well as 'Chat' (someone in their marketing team really needs to move on from that word like the rest of the world).

The website wasn't ready and they were taking email addresses for future reference. I was there Friday, first day and there seemed few takers but maybe it improved over the weekend.

The question on my mind after leaving the stand was WHY? Why divert valuable resources and finances away from your core business model?

After some thought the answer is probably this. They have perhaps recognized that an increasing proportion of a birders time when not in the field is now spent on the net. Whether that be looking at sightings, uploading pictures, blogging, reading ID articles or having conversation with birders across the world. As a result of this 'social networking' many birders are now accessing informed opinion from other birders on a whole range of topics. I read a simple statistic today that perhaps adequately demonstrates the point, surveys reveal 14% of us trust adverts, 78% trust personal recommendation, what does that tell you about how companies need to market their products?

All well and good but, there's always a but, their a tad late in my opinion. The market is now maturing, companies such as Birdguides, Surfbirds & Birdforum are effectively market leaders and way ahead. Birdguides for example just past the 100,000 mark for uploaded pictures, a substantial milestone and a huge asset to their business. Between these three they have a huge number of subscribers. It might take Collins ten years to catch up if indeed they ever could.That is assuming they can deal with some of the thorny issues that lie ahead, moderation and quality control are absolutely key if they want to attract 'serious birders'. I simply cannot see them catching up as the current market leaders are unlikely to stand still and will continue to build on their current success.

Perhaps too late now but they really should have forged a key partnership with one of the existing online players, or bought one of them. OK a partnership may not have given them complete control and a Collins-specific offer but it would have given them access to a ready made market for a great deal less investment and they would have avoided loads of pitfalls. My bet is that their initial investment will wither when they fail to capture significant market share and somewhere down the line the tap will be turned off and a slow death as a result of lack of newness will ensue. Or maybe they'll crack the bigger and more lucrative US market, though I suspect this may prove a step too far as again quality competition in Sibley & Chirptracker will cause them issues.


Thing said...

Perhaps they are anticipating the death of the book? If they are going to produce online versions of their field guides it could prove to be quite popular. Collins could well be a big enough historical name to be able to challenge the existing brands, the angle they take will be interesting to see...

Vanellus said...

Being an old codger I still like books. I use the net for help with I.D. but as a supplement to my books.

I still use my, by now ancient and outdated, Heinzel Fitter and Parslow and my slightly less ancient, but equally out dated, Handbook of the Western Palearctic etc.

Doing something because everyone else is, is a bad reason for doing it. Although the reference book market may be shrinking (is it?) in the face of competition from the net, there will always be a place for well produced and authoritative books.

It will be few years yet before birders all go equipped with a Blackberry or something similar that enables use of the net on the move. I will continue to carry my dog-eared book.

Steve Gale said...

Interesting post has given me a theme for my latest post. Please keep feeding me the ideas!!

Joel said...

Very good I hope you had a good time at the birdfair.

Regards Joel Tilmouth

Alan Tilmouth said...

Thing - Not sure I can see them putting all their field guide material online for free, for me that would be accelerating the end of their (but not necessarily others)book sales.

Vanellus - You may well be right it might be ten years before birders carrying Blackberrys etc are in the majority but when they are (and some of the coming applications will be incredible)they will not only ensure that those providing information/apps/social networking will be the big winners.

Thing said...

I agree, they will not do it for free, but as they are the acknowledged leader in the field of field guides their USP is already there. And yes, if they produce a birds of North America with the same quality as the European version....

Alan Tilmouth said...

Yes they have a USP but will an online presence with the field guide add incremental sales? or will it just add cost and move sales from book to online?

Anonymous said...

The only use i wud have for blackberries wud be to make my own wine....or perhaps use in a delicious crumble..[served ideally with custard or ice-cream].
Imagine being in the tropics with your latest high-tech id gizmo...'oh look...itz got wet...and now it don't work...oh dear'! Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that with all the new technology...tinternet and so on....folk have actually got lazier and dumber?

ps...'Q & A' birdforum is always a good laugh. Even with all this information on bird identification at they're fingertips...some still feel the need to post photos that they've taken...why not sort the ID out for yourself? could have done it in the time itz taken to post on forum! [I would normally swear at this point but seeing as i've never posted here before i don't know what you consider acceptable/unacceptable]!