There are hundreds of thousands of people in various niches who have built followings online. Now comes the question: how can they monetize this following?
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing yourself as well as CampusBooks.
Jeff Cohen: I currently live in Chicago, Illinois. I was born and raised in St. Louis. I went to the University of Missouri and got my first job out of college doing marketing internship where I was involved in developing websites for the B2B market. They were basic websites from a communication standpoint. I went on to run the corporate website of a large distributor of college textbooks.Following that, I started a website for them called textbooks.com, which was a retail website for college textbooks. After that, I left that venture and went on to work for CampusBooks, which is where I currently am. It is a textbook price comparison engine similar to kayak.com.
Sramana Mitra: At what point in the journey of CampusBooks did you come on board?
Jeff Cohen: I joined CampusBooks about five years after the site was started. It was just a single website involved with helping students purchase textbooks. Over the last eight years, we’ve driven the company in a totally new direction, pivoting the company from what it was doing, and opening it up as a platform type of service. We’re looking at the ‘next’ practices within e-commerce and determining what is to be done to shift the site from where it was to where it could be positioned in the future. A lot of times, within a company, it’s important to be looking at the next pivot of the company. A lot of people talk about looking at best practices. We try to focus on ‘next’ practices.
Sramana Mitra: I’m going to ask you to set some context for us about what CampusBooks does today. As you do that, since you’re talking about a pivot, what did you pivot from and what did you pivot to and why? What trends in the e-commerce industry does that align with or respond to?
Jeff Cohen: CampusBooks today is a textbook price comparison platform. When I say a platform, I mean we are a full-blown API technology that is both a website as well as a service where anybody can plug in to our technology and run their own website. We have close to 150 partners who use the CampusBooks technology to run other price comparison websites. They may be specific price comparison sites or other content sites that have college students who also want to have a price comparison engine built into their site.