Coopetition Among Modeling Sites

A Model Mayhem member brought up an interesting concept the other day in this thread. He was inquiring about the benefits of building “bridges” between competing modeling/photography networking sites to facilitate such functions as contest, events, mentoring, etc. This brings up an interesting concept. Although that thread focused primarily on event driven functions, I want to expand the discussion to something much broader.

A Model Mayhem member brought up an interesting concept the other day in this thread. He was inquiring about the benefits of building “bridges” between competing modeling/photography networking sites to facilitate such functions as contest, events, mentoring, etc. This brings up an interesting concept. Although that thread focused primarily on event driven functions, I want to expand the discussion to something much broader.

Some historical background. Coopetition is a word used to describe cooperative competition. It was a word coined in the early 1900s and re-coined in the 1990s to characterize Novell’s business strategy. It was widely credited to Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard but she did not invent the term. Coopetition refers to a business strategy where competitors work together where it is mutually beneficial to increase market share or reduce cost. It is widely adopted in the high tech world where interoperability is often the key to success. A notable example of coopetition is Microsoft’s relationship with Apple. Although they compete on the operating system arena, Microsoft also creates a lot of software for Apple’s OS. Apple’s iTune software is available to the Windows platform because it helps them sell music through the iTunes store and expands their market for iPod customers. Coopetition can also lead to muddled relationships. For example, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, sits on the board of Apple. (Update: Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board on August 3rd, 2009 citing conflict of interest.) When he joined in 2006, Google and Apple were not competitors but since then Goggle and Apple have both released competing mobile phones. Goggle is also working on an operating system for netbooks that will compete against both Apple and Microsoft.

Most of the time coopetition which leads to interoperability benefits the customers by giving them more choices. But sometimes companies take protective steps to lock out the competition at the expense of their customers. For example, Google created a Latitude app but Apple would not authorize it for sale as an iPhone app. More recently, Apple deauthorized Goggle Voice from iPhones’ App store effectively blocking it from the iPhone. Sometimes companies will take steps to block their competition at the expense of their own sales. When Palm released the Pre phone, Apple quickly blocked it from accessing the iTunes store. This results in lost sales of  iTunes music.

So how would coopetition work among modeling/photography site? Even among mainstream social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, there is very little interoperability. They each compete in their own arena allowing access to certain parts of their sites where it benefits them to facilitate third party applications. When it comes to networking sites like Model Mayhem and One Model Place, there is no cooperation at all. In fact, some sites go as far as writing code to censor even the mention of competing sites. So how might cooperation between competing modeling sites work and why would leading sites such as One Model Place and Model Mayhem want to share anything with small sites? It’s obvious there is no advantage to sharing any profile information. That would just help smaller sites at the expense of larger sites. Here are some applications which might benefit from coopetition.

  • Unified mobile phone application that checks emails from all sites.
  • Single post casting call and travel notice that allows a casting call and travel notice to be created on one site and posted to all sites. Those responding to casting will still be limited to members of those respective sites.
  • Unified calendar to create/update a calendar that can be embedded on all sites.
  • An id verification system that uses a small credit card charge to verify the identity of profiles.

Note that the above applications require members to already have memberships in individual modeling sites. They do not drive traffic from one site to another. They merely make things easier for existing members and possibly reduce development cost among all participating sites. There are probably other applications that can benefit from coopetition. The real hurdle is getting the owners of the respective sites to look past their own bottom lines and see that there can be benefits to enhancing users’ experiences.

If you have other ideas on how coopetition can benefit all sites and members without hurting individual sites, feel free to add your comments below.