Guvera takes a different approach to providing music to consumers for free whilst also being legal. This is done by allowing advertisers to pay for the music instead of consumers.
Guvera matches brands to consumers and provides a brand oriented channel for the consumer to download or stream music through. The company behind the branded channel pays for a number of credits per user, allowing each user so many music downloads through their brand channel.
Consumers are matched to brands using their profile and preferences, the more information the consumer provides, the more accurately they can be matched with a brand and the more credits they receive in the brand channel. In other words, the consumer data is what drives Guvera. Consumer data provides Guvera with something to offer advertisers in order to generate money and address the problem of consumers not wanting to pay for music but artists and record labels needing to be paid.
I have not come across any other Web 2.0 applications that provide a similar offering as Guvera, however, it could be most accurately compared with iTunes and peer-t0-peer protocols such as BitTorrent or Gnutella, and peer-to-peer applications such as uTorrent or Limewire.
iTunes allows users to purchase music online through the iTunes store, this addresses the convenience factor that many users are after. All they need to do is log on to the iTunes store on their computer, find the music they want and download it, with the bill being charged to their saved credit card. If they use an iPhone or iPod, the music can then be synced to it, or if they have internet access on their device, it can be downloaded directly to it on the go (such as on an iPhone with 3G data services). This makes music access extremely convenient, however, users still have to pay for the music.
Peer-to-peer protocols, despite their legitimate uses are often given a bad name due to their use for downloading music (among other things) illegally, avoiding payment for it. Applications such as uTorrent and the legally plagued Limewire provide access to the BitTorrent and Gnutella protocols respectively and could be used to share files, legally and illegally with others. These applications and other similar applications that provide access to peer-to-peer protocols have become extremely popular, even though they are not always the simplest programs to use to download files and, in the case of music, are often illegal.
In the case of both iTunes and peer-to-peer protocols, an extra application is required in order to obtain music. To access the iTunes store, a user must have access to the iTunes application. To download a file using a peer-to-peer protocol, the user must have an application capable of communicating over the peer-to-peer protocol. This means an extra learning curve to learn how to use the application, as well as system restrictions as to where the application will work. For example, iTunes is only available on devices using Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS operating systems. It is not available on Linux, Unix, Android, Blackberry OS, Symbian OS, Windows Mobile or other operating systems. Peer-to-peer applications are more widespread but can have a steep learning curve involved with them and as their use for downloading music is often illegal this can be a deterrent to their use (for users that are aware of the legal issues and want to download music legally).
Guvera addresses these issues. Guvera operates in a web browser and is operating system independent. All you need is a music player. According to the Guvera FAQ, all you need is a music player capable of playing MP3’s. If you don’t have one, you can still stream music from the website through the web browser. In terms of legality, the Guvera business model see’s all of the music paid for so that it can be downloaded by consumers legally, without it costing consumers anything but their time and data.
The implications of Guvera are interesting, because it addresses the problem that record companies have been facing for a number of years: consumers want music conveniently accessible, but they don’t want to pay for it. iTunes has a huge online market, and there are an enormous amount of users downloading music illegally. At the time of writing this, the Guvera FAQ indicates that the currently signed music publishers have allowed 3 million songs to be made available through Guvera with more being added daily, so at the moment, it is well behind the 14 million+ songs currently available worldwide on iTunes (Wikipedia) and even further behind peer-to-peer applications where you can find just about anything. However, despite this, the ability to download music freely and legally across any platform with a web browser has an allure to it that could allow for enormous potential growth. For marketers it gives them the ability to become associated with music, and to use music to add to their brand recognition. It also gives them the ability to advertise alongside music in a way that is different to radio advertising, that combines visual communication in the background while a user is listening to audio. Unlike radio and television advertising that can be turned down, muted, or switched off altogether in between songs or television shows and cannot be changed easily for different demographics or targeted to specific demographics, advertising on Guvera cannot be switched off while the user is using the website, thus bringing the brand forward in their mind and can targeted to specific demographics and easily changed and updated to target different demographics.
Guvera has taken the value found in user data, such as on Facebook and is providing it to marketers in a different way, and providing value to the consumer at the same time.
Potential legal and ethical issues
As with all websites that take user data, especially a whole profile of user data, the biggest concern I can see is how the consumer data is stored and used. Is it stored securely, and who has access to it?
According to the Guvera FAQ, user data is kept confidential and is never passed on to advertisers or used for other advertising purposes. I take this to mean that while advertisers can pick their target demographics, user interests and so on very specifically, they never actually see any user data in correlation with these targets. The user data is stored by Guvera and used by their algorithm’s to match consumers with advertisers and nothing more.
The Guvera FAQ also indicates that the entire website is encrypted with SSL at the same level used by banks in order to encrypt all user data and user transactions on the website. In the same section, Guvera also indicates that user information is not provided to any third parties.
Ethically speaking, Guvera addresses one of the biggest ethical issues around music distribution and access at the moment, legal/illegal downloading, however, it does raise another ethical issue around consumer data usage. Is it right to use consumer data to provide advertising targeted directly to them, and can this data be used in any other way? This is similar to how Google, Facebook and other online advertisers work already though, looking at user profiles, search queries, viewed content and so on to target advertising to a user. I would argue that ethically, there is nothing wrong with this as long as the user is aware that this is the case when they begin using the website. Guvera does make it quite clear that this is how music is paid for and how the user data is used. Guvera leaves it up to the user to decide how much of their profile to fill out and rewards them for providing more data by giving them access to more downloads.
Future directions of the applications
According to the Guvera website, they aim to grow their online music database constantly. At the moment they only have USA and Australian options, so it would make sense for them to expand as they grow into other countries, similar to how iTunes incrementally added support for more and more countries and is still adding support for more as they grow and demand increases in countries they do not currently support.
Guvera also has potential to expand into video like iTunes did, but this is an area that could be more difficult as other websites like YouTube have the potential to offer television series and movies streamed online funded by advertising. After all, they already have this model in place with user submitted videos, it would just be a matter of bringing on board the studios.
The area that makes the most sense for Guvera at the moment is music, so to my mind, the future direction should be focusing on growing the brand in this way. At the moment, it is not well known, the brand is not recognised, you can mention it to someone and chances are they haven’t heard of it. Comparatively, almost everyone knows about iTunes and peer-to-peer software. For Guvera to really be successful, it needs to become known. Consumers want to do the right thing, but they don’t want to pay for it, Guvera can solve this problem, consumers just need to know they exist.
Guvera (n.d.) Guvera. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from https://www.guvera.com
Guvera (n.d.) Guvera FAQ. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from https://www.guvera.com/faq
Wikipedia (n.d.) iTunes Store. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_Store
Note: This blog post is part of a series of blog posts that form assessment item #2 for INB347 – Web 2.0 Applications.