The market for genealogy products and services is expected to grow to around $12Bn per annum by 2027, driven to no small degree by the applications of DNA analysis. While I don’t think I’m in a position to question the exact number, it does seem like a reasonable growth from its current position.
The market has many players providing services to end-users such as Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage, and several major DNA testing labs that have grown to support them. It has reached a significant level of maturity.
However, as I have been preaching for the last two years, I believe that there is a subtle underlying change taking place, and that so far the industry has not recognised what is happening and where their future lies.
It is inconceivable to me that the companies that offer genealogy subscription services will not add personal history services to their portfolios.
The question of where we come from and who were our ancestors has been roundly answered, and the DNA test provides an interesting corollary to the record-based data provided by the genealogy vendors. Having satisfied their curiosity about the events before them, people will become more interested in the consideration of how they will be remembered. I think of this change from the past to the future and being the move from family history to personal history.
So if the market for family history is worth $12Bn by 2027, how much is the market for personal history worth? While I don’t have enough data to come up with an equivalent number, I do have some thoughts on the subject.
Revenue in the genealogy business is based on subscriptions to family history companies and discrete products like DNA tests or personalised research.
I’ve run a subscription business. Your #1 objective is to stop customer churn, i.e. customers leaving your service. You have to do as much as you can to ensure customer satisfaction. If the opportunity to offer a new service occurs, you offer it to the customer, especially if that service has the potential for a revenue uptick. It is inconceivable to me that the companies that offer genealogy subscription services will not add personal history services to their portfolios. It will only take one of the larger players to take the first step and all of the others will attempt to follow suit. Of course, the problem with this approach is that none of them currently have the tools to create personal histories for their subscribers, but I’ll set that aside as a challenge that they have to face, knowing that it might result in some consolidation of the market.
So what about the DNA test, the golden goose of genealogy? Well the goose hasn’t stopped laying, but it’s certainly slowed down a little. Demand for DNA testing has slowed as the hard core family historians have already been served.
However, I believe that the true potential of DNA testing lies in the present and not in the past. Getting a DNA test to find out your long term ethnicity and roots is definitely interesting, but getting a DNA test because it could help you live longer is a whole new proposition, yet that is the basis of the science of pharmacogenomics.
To summarise, the future of DNA testing has very little to do with the past.
So I could make the argument that some proportion of the $12Bn/year genealogy revenue will be down to personal histories and their impact on subscriptions and DNA testing, but the fact is that none of the currently available market research has considered personal histories, so whatever revenue they offer, it will be on top of the $12Bn.
You can see how you could look at the genealogy business to draw parallels for the revenue streams of the personal history business, but there is a bigger stream to consider that does not have a parallel.
From its inception, LifeStories has been about solving two problems. The first was to give people the tools to create their own LifeStory, and our Studio application does that. The second was to create a structure for all our customers to persist those LifeStories long into the future. That is going along here behind the scenes, but generically you could refer to it as an archive subscription, funded through trust. It’s the unique revenue stream for personal histories and we intend to be the leading provider in the market as it emerges.
It would be easy for me to make a baseless claim that the market for personal history will exceed that of family history, but I believe that it will happen at some point, the question is when? As the current generation documents its family history in detail, there’s less for the next generation to do. The heavy lifting has already been done, so there’s likely to be a natural decline in people looking back in time. As I said earlier, I believe that the major genealogy companies will embrace personal histories as their next logical step, but the ratio of personal to family revenue will only go in one direction.