Everything that has happened on the Internet in the past five years would suggest that daily-deal sites are, conclusively, dead.
Groupon chief executive Andrew Mason was summarily booted from his own company.
LivingSocial laid off hundreds of people and watched millions of dollars evaporate.
Even the original daily-deal site, Texas-based Woot, was devoured like so much breakfast octopus by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.
And yet — and yet! — Matt Rutledge, the man behind Woot, is back with an ambitious plan to restore daily deals to their former glory. Woot, for ye who missed it, was the quirky, irreverent front-runner to modern daily deals, premised on transparency and randomness (… literally, in some cases, “random bags of crap”). In a Kickstarter that was funded Saturday, Rutledge essentially made his pitch to bring it back.
There will be no more than one deal a day, he promised. No ads or marketing. And most refreshingly, perhaps, no ambitions to change culture or capitalism or The Way We Shop Now.
“Because even if it turns out to be the greatest store on the Internet,” Rutledge writes, “it’s still just a store on the Internet.”
… he is, appropriately, christening the whole thing “Meh.”
Since Tuesday, more than a thousand people have bought into Rutledge’s vision … or his nostalgia, or his candor, or some combination of the three. When the Kickstarter closed Saturday morning, the project had raised $14,777 instead of the $10,000 it originally sought. This is particularly incredible when you consider what the site promises to do with those funds — nothing. (If “we end up netting a bunch of money from” Kickstarter, the FAQ reads, “I dunno, maybe we’ll commission some famous rock stars to write our site theme song.” Or something.)
No doubt, people throwing money at a start-up on Kickstarter do, in fact, want that start-up to succeed. But given Meh’s vague implementation, and the fierce loyalty of comments left by several of its backers, the project’s success also looks like a strike for a broader movement: a backlash, if you will, against the super-corporatized, over-marketed and totally invasive culture of modern e-commerce sites.
Specifically, it reads like a reaction against Amazon, which bought and partially dismembered Woot in 2010.
“It made me sad that [Amazon] slowly killed everything that made [Woot] special,” one commenter wrote. “I’m seriously excited to see that you guys are coming out with a true successor.”
Compared to an amazon like Amazon, Meh does look scrappy and alternative — a refreshingly human, down-to-earth free-for-all where no one’s trying to sell you junk … or sell you as the product, yourself. The question, of course, is whether that vision can actually compete in the very crowded, very stagnant market of daily deals.
“How come every time something simple gets popular, people want to make it more complicated? And less fun?” Rutledge asks.
Maybe he’s forgotten from his pre-windfall days, but there’s usually one big reason: the bills.