Almost anyone that has been around the web for awhile has heard of About.com and Wikipedia. One relies on hired experts to generate content about a variety of topics while the other one relies on volunteers to do the same. Online marketing guru Seth Godin announced plans for a new site dubbed Squidoo at Web 2.0 last week.
The idea is generating a lot of buzz in the blog world, with most of them touting it as a good and necessary idea. Basically, anyone that wants to can set up a "lens" which is a portal page on a specific topic that leads to all the best pages about that topic. Writers are motivated by revenue share and their passion for the topic.
"We're beginning to see the backlash of one-size-fits-all search," Godin told ClickZ News. "There's a real desire to deliver something like what we're doing. Lenses as an idea will survive, whatever happens to Squidoo. This idea of boiling it down and giving people not everything, but just what they need, has a rightful place at the table when people search.
Godin describes Squidoo in the SquidBlog as being:
"a guide (like about.com) and a reference (like wikipedia.com). It's a place for personal expression (like typepad.com) and an open platform for real people (like del.ico.us)".
That all sounds well and good, but I see many, many potential issues with this.
First off, if it's like all of those things, why wouldn't I just use all those things? Yes, I know that I'm now supposed to be able to get all of these things in one place, but can I really? About.com (where I used to work) started off with plans that sound much like those for Squidoo, but eventually shifted into generating content themselves to generate more revenue. Wikipedia has managed to become an outstanding resource because of (in spite of?) so many human editors, but it's not really a starting point on the web as most of the links are internal.
Second, there's the ginormous potential for spammers to come in and take over the place. If anyone can create a lens and people are actually encouraged to create lenses about their own sites and blogs, what's the motivation to create a great resource rather than just a landing page that feeds people through to your own site? One of the huge issues with search engine marketing and spam was the proliferation of landing pages and doorway pages that popped in to the engine as a way to generate more links through to a web site. From the sounds of it, there's the potential that Squidoo could end up as nothing more than a well marketed network of these pages. Godin surely has some type of plan in place for dealing with this potential for abuse, but I haven't seen it yet.
Third, what happens where there are 20 pages on a single topic, 50 pages,1,000 pages? Aren't you right back where you started with search engines and having to sort through a zillion pages to find out which ones are the best? Only now you're sorting through pages to get to the page you actually want? The unique value of a human-edited topical link page tends to go away when you don't know which human to trust. Plus, the whole idea would have sort of morphed into, umm, blogs? You might as well go back to Google or Yahoo! and see where they point you.
Overall, while blogger comments from those within the industry have been strikingly positive, the reaction from their readers has skewed more to the cynical side of things. As one blog reader comments:
All I got from Seth's ebook is that Squidoo is a "personal page" web hosting service, that Seth, a great marketer, is trying to sell us as the "next big thing". But the emperor has no clothes
I've got to say that right now, I see his point. Part of me wonders if this is an example of people liking the creator of the idea more than the idea itself and if that's what accounts for all of the buzz. In theory, Squidoo sound like a great idea, but in reality, it is really just hype? On the other hand, I found a comment from someone else that said:
Doesn't matter. Google has never been.
Another fine point. On the web, it isn't always about coming up with a brand new idea, or even a unique twist on an idea, it's simply about finding a way to get more people to check out your idea than the ones that already existed. If there's anyone online that can pull this off right now, it's likely Seth Godin.
Interested writers can apply to be part of the beta program at the Squidoo site.
October 12, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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