With Groupon's stock doing its 50% sale and capital for all but LivingSocial, what happens to the hundreds of "clones?" They get jobs. But not just any jobs, not if this industry is to succeed.
Those who ran clone sites have some incredibly valuable operating expertise. Think of the first people to start search businesses in 2001. That's where the deal industry is today. The daily deal / consumer deals / transactional advertising / online to offline or whatever we want to call this industry just feels bigger and more advanced than it is.
Strong revenues, lots of media attention, and huge piles of cash thrown at it don't make an industry, though. What any space needs is talent who understand the dynamics involved. It needs a community and the chance to become a profession. Search works because it is a community and today, it is a profession. Every company large and small needs search, and every company either has its own in-house search expert(s) or works with a third-party offering the same.
Search works even though the distribution is highly consolidated. The deal space is no different. if there are only a handful of large players, along with several highly specialized players, that is not a negative. That alone can support a robust ecosystem, but again, the potential won't be realized unless the profession develops. The mission of every clone should not be to compete with Groupon and LivingSocial but to see that Groupon and LivingSocial succeed. They should be the search agencies and the in-house search of the deal space. They should be the ones who help businesses large and small understand and execute on their deal strategy. Besides, an expert in the deal space will make a lot more money helping companies than they will trying to be their own deal site.