IndiaKaHero: Scaling online talent contests.

Written by: Vivek Garg

On Oct 29th, 2007

India Ka Hero is trying to ride the popularity of TV reality contests and taking it online. It has four talent contests and it is offering prizes in each contest. Users will vote for each entry and they will select a winner based on these votes. Votes can be casted only by registered users and this is how they are trying to prevent spamming. These contest has a definite end and I don’t know if IKH plans to stick around after that. A similar online contest (bunkd) ended after a lot of buzz and hype. Question is if IKH wants it to be more than just this one contest. I will assume that IKH wants to create a platform for online talent contests. IKH wants to create a brand advertising channel where brands can hosts online contest to promote their products. A good example would be Lego sponsoring most creative Lego brick arrangement concept online.

Online/offline contests that use voting system are generally based on “wisdom of crowds” principle where we trust individual votes to select the winner instead of a group of elected judges. There are lot of online sites and variants that work in similar area. Two that I would like to call out most similar to IKH are contest2win (India focused) and bix (yahoo owned)

Why do I think IKH should not become another contest2win? I have been thinking about why I couldn’t have simply created an online singing contest on contest2win. Do I get a share of ad-revenue for traffic generated to contest2win site ? There have been lots of sites that have come and gone using online voting concepts. There are lots of rating sites to rate everything you can imagine. But if IKH has to make a mark, it should not follow the same path. It should be a true online talent contest. It should try to bring more and more factors of TV reality concepts online with interactive experience that web can only provide. I would let users create talent contests and make revenue out of it. Just like a TV channel, if your show/contest TRP (in our case it will be votes & traffic) sky rockets, you make money along with a cut to IKH. To really innovate in this space, one would think about factors that make reality TV contest so sticky. Multiple rounds eliminating entries after every round. To be able to capture/attach emotions with every elimination. Get real prizes / career break for contest winners. Do real life events to map to online contest deadlines. Goes w/o saying this would require funding and creating thinking.

Business problem? Like most of content platform, this is really about creating a platform with multiple sides to it. This is not an easy task. The chicken and egg nature of problem can kill businesses. In case of IKH

1. It needs to attract really good content providers/producers. 2. It needs good number of audience. 3. It needs 1 and 2 to attract brand advertisers to make money. And it needs money to sustain 1 & 2.

The interdependence is huge. You cannot create just one side. Companies often provide subsidy to one side to attract others. In this case for eg. IKH has prizes to attract content producers. But are they enough? How many times can they provide these prizes.? Bix did a onetime $50,000 prize money to create a user base. But they had funding to back them up. No single strategy can solve this problem. It will be series of things. We will see how this plays out for IKH. Enough funding for short term can try to solve 1 & 2. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5237.html

The key reason is that two-sided platforms must solve a chicken-and-egg problem. For example, without sufficient applications developed for it, an operating system has no value for, and therefore cannot attract, users. Without a solid user base, no application developer will be interested in supporting that operating system. If the platform vendor decides to charge positive prices on both sides, it might end up attracting neither. The same goes for dating clubs, game consoles, and so on. So the idea is to subsidize one side in order to attract it more or less irrespectively of the other side and then turn to the second side and charge it positive prices.”

Technology problem? Like any startup play, along with business problem – one needs to innovate in tech space. Specially scaling trouble in case of web 2.0. What happens if IKH gets 1 million jokes – can they really screen them all ? How do they make sure they keep content clean of spam and objectionable content? With scale will come voting methods that scale. Going through each entry will be impossible for any one user. And their votes would not count so much. They will probably need to implement voting via the Condorcet method where a candidate is compared with other candidates in a series of pair wise comparisons in order to gauge their popularity. Personally, I found this easier then voting on individual entry. I think this is a psychology play. Picking which joke is better between two of them requires lesser deliberation and is more objective than voting on an individual clip. Not to forget storage scaling and user interaction etc. Given that IKH is an offering by NowPos that did lot of voice based services, I am sure they will do a good job with voice related services. I like that they already have a widget to record in order to submit to the contest.

I have not spoken to the founders and I dont know my ideas echo their thoughts. I would like to invite them to comment/correct here. As usual idea of this post is to promote discussion and not seek consensus.

Read IKH buzz from our trusted source here.

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Entry Filed under: bix,contest2win,indiakahero,online contest,reality tv

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