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商业 - 科技

人生决定太艰难?你需要评级网站

Eli Epstein 2013年10月12日

进哪家幼儿园?读哪所高中?念哪所大学?去哪个城市定居?在哪个社区买房?你是不是觉得人生中各个阶段的这些决定都太艰难?现在,美国有家网站或许能帮到你。它大量搜集用户的点评,以此来给学校、城市、社区评定等级,帮助人们作出决策。

    College Prowler的创始人兼首席执行官卢克•斯科曼认为,互联网上应该有更多由用户给出的评价。出于这个原因,他拓展了已有11年历史、由用户提供内容的在线大学指南,将其命名为Niche网站。学生和家庭在这个网站上面可以给高校打分,最终让用户能够评估学校、城市和社区的好坏。

    斯科曼说:“我们有240万高中毕业生要升入大学,这是一个很大的市场。除了帮他们选择大学之外,我们还能不能为他们做点什么更重要的事情?美国有12万所学校,5500万人在里面学习,我们想帮助学生、家长和家庭做出人生中的重大决定。”

    今年5月起,面向高中的小众Niche网站开始运营。它拥有超过3.5万所公立和私立高中的信息档案,收集了超过50万条用户评论。他说:“Tripadvisor(旅游评论网站)花了六年时间收集100万条用户评论。而我们只用了不到一年的时间。”

    用户在Niche的高中板块可以给学校的学术水平、业余生活、伙食等学生生活的各项要素打分,然后给学校一个综合评分。Niche还使用美国教育部的数据——比如阅读和写作成绩——来给同一个州的高中排名。

    最后,斯科曼表示,如同College Prowler会给出大学一个整体评分一样,用户评论也将融入Niche的评分算法。斯科曼还希望能够让家庭在2014年初对K-8学校(提供从幼儿园到八年级教育的学校)进行评价,并在同年的晚些时候开始评价城市和社区。斯科曼说:“人们想知道他们的社区是否安全。那里是不是一个安家落户的好地方?交通方便吗?”

    斯科曼很快指出,他并没有抛弃2002年从卡耐基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon University)毕业的第二天就创建的College Prowler。Prowler的总部也设在匹兹堡,它的收入自2010年至今已经增长了两倍。2005年起,斯科曼就不再接受外部资本了。他说:“我们跟风投公司谈了谈我们的计划。有人认为你可以按下一个按钮,就得到10倍于以往的收入。我觉得对一些公司来说,这是可能的,但对另外一些公司则不现实。”

    根据斯科曼的说法,2013年,每四个高中毕业生中就有一个在Prowler上创建了账户。他们很大程度上依靠广告收入,尤其是定向广告。他说,Prowler如今有21名员工(去年是17名),其中三分之二都是工程师。这个网站的用户参与度很高,这对广告商而言十分诱人,斯科曼希望能够在Niche复制这一点。他表示,Prowler每个月有120万独立访客,其中35%的访问来自注册用户。他们在College Prowler上平均停留12分钟,是未注册用户的四倍。他说:“我们需要的是更多的流量,而我们获取流量的途径则是收集评论,将业务涵盖至所有重大的人生决定。”除了这一点,还要加上找到一个避免让人联想到校园怪咖的名字(College Prowler直译意为“校园徘徊者”)。不过,斯科曼也许已经用Niche一箭双雕地找到了这两个问题的答案。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正          

    College Prowler founder and CEO Luke Skurman says he thinks the Internet needs more user-generated reviews, which is why he's expanding his 11-year-old user-curated online college guidebook and rebranding it as Niche, a site that allows students and families to grade high schools and will eventually give them the ability to evaluate grade schools, cities, and neighborhoods.

    "The 2.4 million people go to college [straight out of highschool]. That's a great market size," Skurman says, "but what can we do that's bigger than helping students choose a college? There are 120,000 schools in the country and 55 million students in them, and we want to help students, parents and families make great life decisions."

    A minimal viable "niche" has been available for high schools since May. It already features profiles of more than 35,000 private and public high schools and has generated more than 500,000 user reviews. "It took TripAdvisor six years to get 1 million user-generated reviews," he said. "It'll take Niche less than one year."

    On Niche's high school iteration, users can grade various subcategories like academics, extracurriculars, food and other sectors of student life and then give a school an overall grade. Niche also uses data from the Department of Education -- like reading and writing test scores -- to rank high schools in the same state against one another.

    Eventually, Skurman says user reviews will be incorporated into Niche's grading algorithm like they've been under College Prowler, where grades are used to give colleges an overall rating. Skurman also expects that families will be able to review K-8 schools by the beginning of 2014, and cities and neighborhoods later that same year. "People want to know if a neighborhood is safe," Skurman says. "Is it a good place to raise a family? Is it walkable?"

    Skurman is quick to point out that he's not abandoning College Prowler, which he started the day after graduating Carnegie Mellon University in 2002. Still headquartered in Pittsburgh, Prowler has tripled its revenue since 2010. Skurman hasn't accepted outside capital since 2005. "We've talked with VCs about our plan and there's a perception that you can press a button and '10x' your revenue," he says. "I think it's possible for some companies but unrealistic for others."

    Instead, Prowler, which in 2013 one-quarter of graduating high school seniors created accounts on, according to Skurman, runs largely off of ad-based revenue, especially targeted advertising. It now has 21 employees (up from 17 last year), two-thirds of whom are engineers, Skurman says. The site also boasts engagement figures that stand out to advertisers, a boon Skurman hopes to duplicate with Niche. Prowler sees 1.2 million unique visitors a month, according to Skurman. Thirty-five percent of its visits come from logged in users, who are four times more engaged than non-registered users and spend 12 minutes on College Prowler. "What we need," he says, "is more traffic, and the way we get traffic is through reviews and covering big life decisions." That, and a name that doesn't call to mind a creepy guy roaming campus. With Niche, Skurman may have found both.

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