The Power of Admitting Wrong and Building Data Content Loops: Lessons from Rich Barton


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 18, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Admitting Wrong and Building Data Content Loops: Lessons from Rich Barton


In the fast-paced world of consumer tech, Rich Barton stands out as a visionary founder who has repeatedly achieved success. With three consumer companies worth over a billion dollars under his belt, including Expedia, Zillow, and Glassdoor, Barton's playbook for success is highly regarded. However, the strategies behind his accomplishments, particularly his approach to catalyzing compounding loops and dominating search, are not widely understood. This article explores how Barton's companies leverage data content loops to disrupt incumbents, create common knowledge, and ultimately own the demand side of their respective industries.

Building Data Content Loops: Empowering Consumers and Creating Common Knowledge:

Barton's companies operate on the principle of "power to the people." Instead of hoarding information, they prioritize transparency and empower consumers by making once-private conversations public. This approach fosters trust and creates a network effect, as more individuals contribute to platforms like Glassdoor, making it a trusted resource for job seekers. The virtuous loops of common knowledge drive demand and give Barton's companies a competitive edge.

The Dominance of Search:

One of the key channels for user acquisition in Barton's companies is search. By owning the top spot in search results, these companies can organically drive significant demand at a low cost. This strategy also allows them to acquire additional sites, ensuring dominance in subsequent search results. Compared to companies relying heavily on paid acquisition, Barton's companies benefit from a more cost-effective user acquisition model.

Owning Demand: A Compounding Loop:

The ultimate goal of Barton's "Data Content Loops + SEO" strategy is to own the demand side of an industry. By becoming a trusted brand and destination, Barton's companies create a compounding loop that strengthens with scale. Zillow, for example, experienced a surge of a million people seeking to explore their Zestimate feature within the first day of its launch. This demand-side network effect solidifies their market position and increases trust among users.

The Art of Admitting You're Wrong:

In a society that often stigmatizes mistakes, admitting one's wrongness can be challenging. However, embracing fallibility and acknowledging errors can lead to personal growth and improved reputation. The psychological concept of cognitive dissonance explains our resistance to admitting wrongness, as we tend to reject new information or create alternative beliefs to maintain cognitive harmony. Overcoming this fear of rejection and embracing the ability to say "I was wrong" is a valuable skill.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Common Knowledge: Instead of hoarding information, consider how sharing knowledge can create a network effect and benefit both consumers and businesses.
  • 2. Prioritize Search and Organic Acquisition: Explore strategies to improve search engine rankings and leverage organic acquisition channels to drive demand at a lower cost.
  • 3. Embrace Fallibility and Learn from Mistakes: Normalizing the idea of being wrong can lead to personal growth, improved reputation, and more effective decision-making. Embrace the skill of admitting mistakes without excuses.


Rich Barton's success in the consumer tech industry stems from a combination of building data content loops, empowering consumers, and dominating search. By prioritizing transparency, creating common knowledge, and owning the demand side of their industries, Barton's companies have achieved remarkable growth. Moreover, understanding the power of admitting wrongness and learning from mistakes can lead to personal and professional growth. Embracing these principles and taking actionable steps can pave the way for success in the ever-evolving consumer tech landscape.

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