1. The practice in which an individual derives pleasure from surreptitiously observing people.
2. Derives from the French verb voir (to see); literal translation is “seer” but with perjorative connotations.
I have recently written about the need to see some more compelling business models within the emerging Health 2.0 space. My contention is that many of the current models are weak and/or not sustainable, and that collectively we could, should, and must do much better. The most common business models currently out there focus on the first part of the Health 2.0 Triple A – a variation on the “aggregator model” theme. Within the aggregator theme, there are three distinct categories:
- Prostitution. Aggregate a uniquely “experienced” group (physicians, patients with unique disease, etc) by paying them for their knowledge and expertise.
- Voyeurism. Once the group is aggregated, then allow “client” companies to access, monitor, and engage the community for a fee.
- Fetishes. Aggregate a set of curios for the aggregated group (ie, tools such as PHR’s, HRA’s, calculators, etc) and charge a subscription fee for the service (on a per member/per month basis).
I have written about the prostitution model previously. It is obviously a sarcastic label because acquiring specialized information that people find valuable and getting paid for its subsequent distribution (teaching, consulting, etc) is standard fare. However, in the context in which I have seen it to date within Health 2.0, I remain uncomfortable with it. As an example of this, see the recent add I received from Sermo:
Knowledge Prostitution enabled by Aggregated Voyeurism. Email received by Sermo on October 11, 2007
What am I supposed to do with this? On one hand this is really problematic for me because it feels like, “put a quarter in, and see what the doctor says.” On the other hand, I am a big believer in the physician as an advisor, a trusted source you can turn to and interact with, and that some of these interactions will be enabled by new technology such as email, instant messaging, etc. So if a patient wants to ask me about Atrial Fibrillation via email and pay me for it, is that really any different than a Novartis/Pfizer or some other company wanting to do the same?
I would have to conclude that this IS legit. Is it sustainable? Mmm, not so compelling. I believe physicians will fatigue of this as they really want to talk to other physicians; not the nagging medical student who is trying to look smart, act important, and butt into the conversation.
So lets look at voyeurism as a potential model. As everyone is familiar, the web has taken this concept to a WHOLE new level. In fact, many people have turned their bodies and their lives into businesses (go find your own links). Everything from Twitter to lifecasting has totally shifted the paradigm of personal space and privacy – which has led many to conclude that “Voyeurism Rules the Web”.
It might rule the web, but how is it as a business model? Turns out, it might not be that bad.
Judging by the interesting opportunities that now abound as a result of patron voyeurs who want to peer into the community, Sermo has at least gotten the market’s official 26M thumbs up. Do know how much money some of these companies have paid in the past to just get some minimalistic airtime with a few physicians. How about dropping off a relevant question or two to 15,000 physicians at once? Furthermore, when someone recently tried to crash the party and diss the host, the elitist community thus aggregated went aggro (an unusual, albeit very powerful, endorsement). Bottom line, Sermo aggregated physicians better, faster, and cheaper than anyone has ever done (with knowledge prostitution as one incentive to aggregate). Now, they will be privileged to reap the rewards of aggregating and monetizing all those influential initials (M.D.’s).
As demonstrated above, and as corroborated by a host of less savory evidence, I have to conclude that voyeurism is both a viable and sustainable business model.
So next time someone says – “Ha! Made you look” – don’t be surprised if they ask you how you want to pay for that.