Is Knol *really* the great Wikipedia-killler?

Doc Searls is the first to echo some of my initial (private) scepticism about Google’s Wikipedia rival, Knol.

Knol "aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics".or as Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan calls it, "Wikipedia with moderation."

Knol permits anyone to author a page about a particular topic. While each article or ‘knol’ defaults to a ‘moderated’ setting, this can be changed to closed, preventing anyone else from authoring it.

This struck me as odd from the outset. I personally wouldn’t place too much trust in anything that was authored, put online then closed to revisions or third party intervention. That’s simply advertorial.

The power of Wikipedia, as David Weinberger has pointed out previously, is not necessarily the articles themselves – it is the social knowledge that is embedded in both the article and its discussion page. Wikipedia is trustworthy because it isn’t authoried by an authority rather, by many conflicting authorities.

But I presume Google knows this already as Knol is a shrewd business move. How smart a move remains to be seen.

Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel circulated an internal memo which highlighted some of the ‘operating rules’ for Knol. These include:

  • Each article can list its “Affiliation” – a move intended to flag conflicts  of interest.
  • There is a significant emphasis on authors and their authority. For example authors are asked verify their name using mobile phone or credit card details
  • Google (apparently) has a team in place watching for spam, while links are no-follow in an attempt to prevent SEO spam.

But despite these worthy measures, it already looks as if the spammers are setting to work.

Going back to Doc Searl’s initial foray into the Knol-iverse, he writes that that a big chunk of the search results search for ‘hair’ were, in his words, “commercial gaming”.

More specifically he highlighted a clear example where Knol’s guidelines were being (or at least appeared to be being breached):

“The top result is for this article on hair loss, by Rob E. Angelino, Founder Hairlab center for hair restoration. Or so it says at the top. At the bottom it says "Copyright © 2005-2007 United Global Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved".

Not sure how that squares with Knol’s defaulted Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, but it’s significant that Mr. Angelino also has collaboration closed on the document. You can do that with Knol. It also says here that Mr. Angelino is "Founder and CEO of United Global Media Group Inc." and "currently the CEO of The Beauty TV Network". Mr. Angelino has a total of six knols, including one each for the Beauty Channel, BeautyTV and The Beauty Network.”

And there’s my concern made real. I just don’t get the point of Knol. It is just one quick and easy algorithm away from a spammers’ paradise. But even despite Google’s best attempts to keep Knol spam free. I still don’t see the point. And perhaps that’s because there isn’t one.

The big hype around Knol has been that it is Google’s Wikipedia-killer. But, as Doc points out, Knol isn’t a rival to Wikipedia at all. It doesn’t come close or even compare.

And maybe Google knows that which is why they (or someone) has positioned it as such.

Technorati tags: Knol, Doc Searls, Wikipedia, Spam

Thoughts on Havas Media Lab’s The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context

I downloaded Havas Media Lab’s latest strategy paper, The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context, a few weeks back but only got around to reading it last night.

And what a nice little strategy paper it is too. It’s fair to say it is more of a thought starter than a fully fleshed out document which tells businesses and investors how they can adapt to the ‘new economics of consumption’ – but that’s what Havas’ clients pay for I suppose.

The authors’ (I presume Umair Haque must be in there somewhere) argument is that business models based in user-generated content are failing. This failure is based on the idea that value doesn’t reside within user-generated content, but in fact within user-generated context.

To illustrate the point, Havas suggests:

The vast majority of blog posts are context for newspaper articles. Connected consumers on MySpace spend much of their time discussing and connecting with bands … consumers aren’t creating content: they’re creating content for goods.


it’s by letting connected consumers contextualise content that tsunamis of new value can be unlocked (just ask Google)

In conclusion, Havas pulls out three general observations that reinforce how context is very different from content.

  1. Context is not really ‘generated’ in the sense of simple creation, but evolves in a more complex way, often linked to specific cultural references that can often make no sense to outside audiences.
  2. Context is not produced by single users, but only emerges when the views and information produced by users is aggregated.
  3. The production of context does not open up direct competition with existing content producers – e.g. the advertising industry

I really like the paper and its challenge to conventional thought about socal media and UG content, however I think we need to put some its ideas into a wider framework.

For example, based on an analysis of Techmeme Havas argues that the most talked about and viewed content online is produced by professional content producers e.g. Techcrunch, CNET, New York Times, while amateur users produce context.

While I absolutely agree with their overall argument, the strategy paper does seem to ignore the fact that non-professional content producers exist… and produce compelling content.

And if we accept that there is professional and less professional content being produced online how does this fit into the idea that connected consumers produce solely context, rather than content?

Technorati tags: Havas Media Lab, Umair Haque, user generated context, digital strategy

“Terror outrage: BRITNEY, ANGELINA and OBAMA all unaffected as hundreds die in SEXY agony”

The story I blogged last week – and followed up by Shane Richmond – about UK newspapers using SEO to boost their online readerships continues to rumble on.

The Guardian‘s Neil McIntosh adds his perspective to the debate and links to the most amazing piece by Guardian columnist, Charlie Brooker, who highlights the inanity in what is, to most of us digital types, common sense. It also contains possible my favourote non-headline of all time as used in the title of this post (hopefully it’ll bring me some extra traffic too).

Brooker’s piece also neatly provides the tail to this story. What began life in the once-acerbic satirical magazine, Private Eye, has now itself become satirised by one of the UK’s leading satirists after one-time collaborator, Chris Morris.

Technorati tags: SEO, Daily Telegraph, Charlie Brooker’s SEO – Shane Richmond responds

I posted earlier this week about a story in  Private Eye about ensuring their news stories are chock full of realtime SEO key word goodness.

Well, I asked the Telegraph’s Communities Editor, Shane Richmond, if he could enlighten us any further and he has kindly posted his response on his Telegraph blog.

What Shane says makes total sense and (perhaps unlike the ultra traditional Eye) I see no reason why media outlets shouldn’t optimise their content.

In keeping with this idea, Shane provides a great insight into what other UK newspapers are doing – or reportedly doing. Shane writes:

"we’re [] far from unusual. As far as I know, staff at the Times get an email telling them what search terms are bringing people to their site, the Guardian, it’s rumoured, has begun training staff on SEO and the Mail has recently hired an SEO manager."

Intersting times indeed.

Technorati tags:, Shane Richmond, SEO, Newspapers

Telegraph’s web traffic chasing secrets revealed by Private Eye

One of the few paper publications I still buy (jndeed subscribe to) is Private Eye, the UK’s only satirical magazine.

In this fortnight’s ‘Street of Shame’ (the section exposing the often shallow hypocrisy of the media) there’s an interesting insight into how the Daily Telegraph achieves such high online traffic:

According to Eye:

"news hacks are sent a memo three or four times a day from the website boffins listing the top subjects being searched in the last few hours on Google. They are then exepected to write stories accordingly and/or get as many of those key words into the first par of their story."

Of course, most Private Eye material needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and to the ultra-traditional Eye journalists basing stores on digital consumer demand is a terrible thing. It is also the cause of the Telegraph’s growing obsession with celebrity and news-lite entertainment stories.

But that’s unfair, as the Telegraph has made some significant and well-thought out investments in the digital space under editor, Will Lewis. For example it was the first UK newspaper to reorganise its enwsroom to recognise the primacy of the web in the news cycle.

I wonder if the Telegraph’s blogger Shane Richmond has anything to add to the Eye’s story. Shane?

PROs take note: the battle for Google visability begins on 5th May

Another busy working week means another 3,000 unread feeds and so I came across this news story in a magazine (yes, I know! Crazy huh).

Personally I think the stroy is of huge importance to the PROs and posing quite a significant threat to the industry. That said, I haven’t yet seen the story in PR Week or on other UK blogs (bearing in mind I haven;t read many feeds this past week!).

According to Marketing, from 5th May Google plans to open up its keyword bidding allowing anyone to bid for keywords, effectively letting your clompetitors buy up – or at leastpush up the cost – of your company’s, clients or brands keywords.

From that date forward, Google’s "trademark complaint investigations will no longer monitor or restrict keywords for ads served to users in the UK and Ireland."

The reason for the change, Google’s UK Director, Matt Brittin, argues  is

"to give users greater choices to help them make
informed decisions."

"Advertisers are accustomed to the fact
that users searching for their trademarked terms as part of a phrase
may see ads from competitors."

Interestingly, the argument against this move in the article comes from digital agency, Equi=Media. One of their directors, Gavin Sinden, tells Brand Republic, that Google is trying "to increase bid values and volume of bids on a huge range of

He also wanrs advertisers that "you could type in a search for a particular
brand and be confronted with nothing but a sea of competitors

SHOCK. HORROR! It seems the ad industry is running scared because they’re further losing the ability to own and/or control space within Google.

Personally I believe this change will offers those within the PR industry who place value on real, genuine engagement with customers major opportunities. Ensuring clients secure high search rankings on the back of quality service and content will become all the more improtant. It is in this that PR delivers real, strateguic value rather than the ‘quick fixes’ of digital marketing and advertising.

Technorati tags: Google, adwords, search marketing, PR, public relations, digital marketing, digital advertising

Steve Rubel says search is broken…

Very little time to post at the moment but a quick note about a good post from Steve Rubel who recently opined that search is broken… and I would have to agree with him.

In a nutshell, search, as we know it, trawls traditional (web 1.0) content very efficiently – as it always has. But now the sheer volume and complexity of user-generated content across – and within – a range of different platforms is challenging the effectiveness of traditional search algorithms.

As Steve says:

"We need a secure, opt-in web version of Google Desktop that can find
all the bits we generate online, even if they are behind walls."

The interesting thing here is that while we evangelise the fundamental changes technology is bringing to the way we do business and organise our companies; knowledge and information, we often overlook some of the key tools we use everyday.

Search is pretty much the cornerstone of our daily web-activity… but like everything else is being out-paced by the sheer speed of technological development.

Technorati tags: Search, Steve Rubel, Web 2.0, Technology