Comparing Launches: Google Oceans vs. Encyclopedia of Life

eolEarlier this week Google launched Google Oceans as a part of Google Earth 5.0.  Google did many things well with this launch but the two I’d like to look at are “Launch when Ready” and “Be Ready for Launch.”  Another life science project, the Encyclopedia of Life, launched about two years ago and its instructive to compare these two launches.

Launch when Ready: Immediately following the announcement of Google Oceans, the Google Earth 5.0 software was made available for download on Google’s site.  Jornalists, bloggers, reviewers and just curious customers could download and begin taking a “plunge into the oceans of the world.” And while the product will expand over time as more people add addition ocean related content, on day-one there was lots and lots of content to look at.  I’m sure there were many happy experiences that day that began to build positive feelings about Google Oceans and reinforce the Google Earth brand.

In contrast, when the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) launched back in February of 2008 there was hardly any content available.  One article wrote “The version of the encyclopedia to be introduced Thursday is far from the finished product, Edwards warned. ‘It’s going to be rough,’ he said. ‘We’re releasing early to get feedback from people.’  And while there were technically 30,000 species listed, there were only 24 detailed fully written pages on launch day.

And while the site proved immensely popular (The encyclopedia’s Web site logged 11.5 million hits over 5½ hours) nowadays on a typical day there are just over 6,000 people who look at the site.  I’d guess that the initial lack of content was one factor for today’s low traffic.

And while the EOL claimed at launch they were targeting the scientific communiuty their launch reached a dream list of consumer publications.  Consumers saw, tried and developed impressions.  And we all know first impressions are lasting impressions.

Be Ready for Launch: When Google Oceans launched there were no reports of download problems. Everyone who wanted to try it probably had a good experience.

When the Encyclopedia of Life launched, FoxNews.com titled its article “Huge Online ‘Encyclopedia of Life’ Crashes Even Before Launch.”  (A similar thing happend to the search engine Cuil earlier this year after a New York times article.)

What’s interesting (scary?) is a quote from an EOL executive: We’ve been overwhelmed by traffic.  We’re thrilled.”  Thrilled?  How many people tried to access the site that day, got slow or no results and never came back?

I understand how hard and expensive it can be to gear up for peak demand but if a comapny is going to spend marketing and PR dollars to reach the masses they need to be ready for the masses to respond.  You only make a first impression once.