Now in beta, shopping site ThisNext plans to go a step beyond price and spec comparisons by having its users review products and create "shopcasts," lists of recommended products they share with the community. Some users will emerge as influencers and play a role in the site's marketing relationships.
"The genesis behind ThisNext is to enable product discovery," said ThisNext CEO and Co-Founder Gordon Gould. "Traditional search engines are terrific if you know what you're looking for, but you can't ask Google what product to buy."
Users posting reviews will be able to create shopcasts in the same way they create a playlist on iTunes or other music site. Users will gain reputation as they review more products, and as their product profiles are viewed and acted upon. These users with good reputations will be seen as influencers, and ThisNext expects to be able to provide the group with a sampling program where marketers can give users access to product trials and samples to generate buzz. In some cases users might get advance access to content like an early look at a short film, or an upcoming music release.
While user reviews on sites like Amazon.com are helpful when a customer has already narrowed down to a specific product, Gould envisions ThisNext to be a product discovery network. He anticipates the bulk of the entries will be positive endorsements. His theory is that it's more helpful to get results on the three top phones than one unfavorable review. Negative reviews will likely sink lower on the list.
"Algorithms won't tend to flow to the top unless it gets a lot of traction," Gould told ClickZ News.
The site entered open beta today. It pre-seeded the network with about 300 experts in a closed beta. Many of the early testers were designers, athletes, media people and tech people who are inclined to post about their experiences with products.
Bloggers with shopcasts on ThisNext will be able to move information back and forth across the two platforms. They can post a badge for the shopping site on their blogs, and syndicate individual reviews and shopcasts.
The site will make money from referrals based on its reviews. It plans to share the revenue with bloggers who generate sales from their shopcast lists.
There is no limit to product categories, activities and services that can be reviewed on ThisNext. Review topics range from iPods to sea salt to energy bars to packaged foods and music CDs. Users generate tags for each product as it is entered. ThisNext provides some basic back-end tags, such as identifying an item as a book or CD. It has also licensed some basic product information, such as technical specs on consumer electronics, to populate the site.
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