OwnZones is working to solve the paywall problem for smaller publishers and consumers alike

By Editor December 5, 2013
Courtesy of OwnZones.

Courtesy of OwnZones.A Q&A with OwnZones founder and CEO Dan Goman. The Sammamish, Washington-based company, which aggregates premium paid media content for consumers in an ad-free environment, launched out of beta in early November. It was founded in 2010.

SUB: Please describe OwnZones and your primary innovation.

Goman: OwnZones is the one place on the web where consumers can find, enjoy, and collect premium niche content in every digital form without the static and clutter of ads, and the frustration of searching in vain for what’s relevant to them. With the OwnZones experience, users get to create their own content collection instead of being force-fed generic bundles. OwnZones is revolutionizing how those who are passionate about creating high-quality specialized content connect with those who are passionate about consuming it.

SUB: Who are your target markets and users?

Goman: OwnZones’ audience are smart, savvy content consumers who have time, but don’t like wasting it. They recognize the value in paying a little to gain a lot. They also appreciate the convenience of being able to find, access, and consume their most valuable content in one clean, simple, and secure environment.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates OwnZones from the competition?

Goman: While there are other players in the content aggregator space, we’re unique in what we deliver and how we deliver it. We provide content of all types—video, audio, print—in one simple environment. Gone is the clutter and noise of ads and the frustration of searching in vain for what’s meaningful. OwnZones puts users in control so they’re free to choose what matters to them and create their own dynamic digital library. It’s personal. It’s about owning your experience. Think of it as ‘freedom of content.’

SUB: You just launched to the public. Why was this the right time to launch? 

Goman: Because I was tired of being in beta. Kidding. With the continued digitization of all forms of media and the glut of online content now overwhelming the Internet, consumers are starting to recognize the value of paying for digital content that matches both their choice and their interest. And of course, finding a way to enjoy their content ad-free in a simple and secure solution is key. For publishers, with their ad dollars shrinking, they and other content providers are actively searching for ways to drive more revenue; and finding a solution that’s device agnostic—tablet, smartphone, smart TV, etc.—is key to both audiences. That’s exactly the experience we’re delivering to both sides of the equation.

Courtesy of OwnZones.SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for OwnZones? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Goman: It started a few years back when I noticed a trend of publishers like the NY Times and The Wall Street Journal moving their content behind paywalls. It got me thinking about how smaller publishers would transition to this new, arguably then cumbersome revenue model, and I figured there had to be a better way of tracking micro-subscriptions. That was the beginning of the idea for a one-stop digital marketplace based on the specific needs of the consumer, rather than the subscription to bulk content.

SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?

Goman: For me, the first step was deciding this was something worth taking on. I’ve had vast experience in developing and managing teams for software and infrastructure development, specifically in handling large amounts of varied content and data. And I’d also dealt heavily with DRM—a crucial element to OwnZones. So, with confidence in knowing that I could handle the technical side of the endeavor, I turned to establishing the requirements and then hiring the right team to make my vision a reality.

SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?

Goman: Since our core mission is to allow users the ability to choose and create their own online collection of premium niche content, the name ‘OwnZones’ came from the concept of being able to make it your own. The word ‘zone’ has multiple meanings, but overall, it’s the place people want to be, and that the experience is truly their own and not a mass-produced one for them. At that point, combining the two just made sense.

SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?

Goman: Yes, we’ve been able to raise funding through private investors, and we’ll be releasing more detail in the coming months.

SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?

Goman: I’d have to say the most challenging aspect was trying to develop and build OwnZones while maintaining my primary job. Of course I had help, but it was mostly from contractors who would come and then go as they accepted full-time jobs. It was tough to keep the momentum going in the very early days; but all that changed when funding came through. For the first time, I was able to give OwnZones my full attention and hire top-notch talent who could offer the same level of dedication.

SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Goman: Our model for revenue generation is pretty straight-forward. We make money from recurring subscription fees and product purchases on the site. While the revenue share with our publishers varies, in general it tends to fall under the digital industry norm of a 70/30 split in favor of the publisher.

SUB: What are your goals for OwnZones over the next year or so?

Goman: The next year for us is about extending our market reach by building our user base and our content offerings. We project expanded growth through partner relationships, social media and PR with plans to launch paid media campaigns and events in Q2. Also, our development roadmap is full of new features designed to inspire consumers and content providers, while improving the overall OwnZones experience.

OwnZones – www.ownzones.com