Thursday, October 05, 2006

Unlimited ideas for one low price

Late post so just close your eyes and imagine yourself back in time, a few days ago...

From the NY Times: Netflix is challenging the public to come up with a better movie recommendation system for their service. The first person to improve the system's accuracy by 10% will get $1 million. There's some light reading before you get started; about 100 million customer movie ratings. So you think you got what it takes? Go here and tell them the Newb sent ya.

This is pretty smart on two levels. First, Netflix is tapping into the global brain blob, you know, that collective geek consciousness with nothing better to do than tackle topics like this, life on other planets and obscure math theorems with Italian names. If you want something done, the blob will either get it done or it's simply not possible. Throw in the $1 million prize and you're sure to alert the blob to the challenge resulting in imminent oozage towards the task and eventual engulfment. Well, that is until the blob gets bored and sloozes back to Wikipedia entries.

The second point is that this is a simply a perfect storm of good marketing. Few days ago I talked about press releases that made a story out of nothing. This is a great example of that. With nothing new to really generate headlines, Netflix throws out the contest card. For a cool mill, they may not only get an improvement in their recommendation system but they also get a ton of press coverage. The story has all the sexy elements of consumer participation and good ol' American competition.

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