We asked Mr. Jarvis to share his perspective on the affiliate sales tax issue
. Mr. Jarvis sees both sides of the issue. On one hand, he appreciates that brick & mortar retailers are disadvantaged by having to collect sales tax from customers. On the other hand, he's concerned about public policies that could hamper the growth of e-commerce. Mr. Jarvis went on to reiterate the viewpoint he laid-out in his book; that manufacturers and retailers are likely to operate "showrooms" for products they sell and that those products will likely be shipped to customers, with the exception of when customers have a time-sensitive need to possess them. (I personally would've appreciated having access to a showroom where I could've previewed some furniture that I recently purchased from Pottery Barn.)
In Jarvis' book, he maintains that real-estate agents and car salesman don't necessarily reduce transactional friction. So, Shopzilla was also interested in whether he sees Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) and Retail Aggregators as adding value or acting as middlemen. His view was that if CSEs only extract value from the market, then they're not adding value. Certainly, CSEs add value to online retailers insofar as they qualify buyer leads (clicks) to those retailers and drive sales within their allowable ranges. Shopzilla Publisher is extremely focused on ensuring that we create merchant value by vigilantly monitoring the quality of traffic that originates from our network of affiliates. That leaves us with the question of whether we add value for consumers. Some might maintain that the transparency CSEs create around product prices creates value for consumers. Though, this feature is one that is quickly becoming commoditized by the large number of comparison shopping sites that exist today. It made this writer stop and think about what more CSEs need to do to create consumer value beyond price comparison.
Jarvis attended the AIF session at which Eric Schmidt spoke. In his post about the session
, Mr. Jarvis noted that someone asked Schmidt about Froogle, to which Schmidt apparently responded:
"Why did you remind me". Why didn’t it work? "It didin’t work because it just didn’t work. We celebrate our failure in the company because we want people to take risks."
If it's not working, then why is Google featuring product search results so prominently in its general results? Mr. Jarvis believes it makes Google's results more valuable and relevant; and given that Schmidt acknowledged that 97% of Google's revenue come from advertising, Jarvis believes Google might try to better monetize the product search listings on Google. Shopzilla will certainly be paying close attention.
"People will pay for content. I absolutely believe the internet is passin from its free phase into a paid system."
While Mr. Jarvis is not opposed to publishers charging for content, he believes that a predominantly paid model simply won't work. We believe he shares the Shopzilla Publisher Program's view that "the data yearns to be free". Walling the content takes it out of the conversation, which is where news and journalism is happening today
. His belief is that consumers will continue to pay for access to content in cases where an advantage can be had from timely access to that information. For example, Bloomberg can command hefty premiums for its content because the consumers of that content can take advantage of market opportunities from its timely access (even if that window is only 6/10s of a second).
We closed our conversation by noting that BuzzMachine
has all of two advertisements on its site: 1 AdSense placement and 1 BlogAd placement. So, of course, we wanted to know whether BuzzMachine wants to run Shopzilla Publisher Program
ads. Jarvis' answer: Sure. There's nothing wrong with that answer!